To Judge or Not to Judge

1 Corinthians 5

1 Corinthians 5 12

We are going to take a look today at 1 Corinthians 5.

Paul has talked a lot up until now about how immature and unwise the Corinthians are, and we start to see here what he is talking about.  There is some really weird sexual immorality going on in the church at Corinth, and they were bragging about it. Paul is very critical of this and tells them “I have already passed judgment in the name of our Lord Jesus on the one who has been doing this”.  Because they have accepted Jesus they should have his wisdom and the Holy Spirit guiding their lives and they should know that these things are wrong, and therefore have no excuse in allowing this to go on.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”’ 1 Corinthians 5:12-13

Paul clarifies though, that he is not judging their culture, which finds this practice acceptable, but he can judge them because they have committed themselves to a higher standard and are falling short.  Many Christians today need to be reminded of this. We need to hold other Christians to the standard that Christ has set. It may make us uncomfortable, but if we see sin in the Church it is our responsibility to help fix it.  Confronting people is not easy, but if we love them then we will want them to be right with God.

On the other side we cannot judge the sins of non-believers because they have not committed themselves to Christ, and they do not understand that what they do is sinful.  It is not our place to judge the sin in the world, but it is our job to spread the good news that Jesus died for our sins, and then we can let the Holy Spirit convict that person of their sin, and hope that they make the right decision.  If we start by judging them for their sins we will only push them away, and that will not help the Kingdom to grow. We can see a widespread rejection of Christianity in our culture today partly because of a cultural backlash towards Christians that openly judge non-Christians.  So let us remember that our message is one of life and hope, not judgement and condemnation.

 

Thanks for reading,

Chris Mattison

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Lukewarm Caterpillars

2 Corinthians 5_17

A few weeks ago, we got to experience an up-close view of a bit of a twist on the classic caterpillar to butterfly spiritual analogy. Maybe you’ve heard the classic version in youth group, Bible School, or a devotion book….the idea that we are all new creations if we are Christians. That we start as these creepy, crawly, fuzzy little beings and then as a gift of God, through faith in Christ….voila….we are made completely new into creations of beauty and wonder like a butterfly.

Thanks to our friend, Terri Tschaenn, and her milkweed stash….we have gotten to watch this truly amazing experience of God’s creation several times, and it hasn’t gotten old yet. We’ve gotten to feed those adorably cute little caterpillars as they grow at amazing rates each day. We’ve watched the miraculous chrysalis formation, and we’ve gotten to hold brand new monarch butterflies on our pinky fingers before they fly off. It is amazing. It is beautiful. And, it certainly is representative of the hope of new life and transformation God tells us about in 2 Corinthians 5:17.

But. . .does every caterpillar turn into a butterfly? Hmmm.

Terri told us the unfortunate story of one of her baby caterpillars that accidentally met a predator while she was trying to keep it safe in her school classroom….and….chomp. All gone. No butterfly.  And, recently, we watched our caterpillar which we had been watching grow for several weeks, for some unknown reason, never develop his chrysalis at all. Instead, he slowly wasted away and died. It was rather depressing to watch. He had eaten milkweed like all the rest, had gotten to full size, and had looked “just right” to us from the surface. But, inside….something was wrong. He never experienced the stage of transformation. And, instead of achieving beauty and new life, he died a caterpillar. It is common. It is sad. And, it is also certainly representative of what God tells us about in scripture whether or not it makes for as many Sunday School craft ideas on Pinterest.

The Bible warns us about the Christians who look like Christians, but who haven’t experienced a transformation through repentance and faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ. These Christians are lukewarm. Just like the caterpillars who die, they lack something inside. But mind you, these aren’t atheist caterpillars or caterpillars who don’t go to church. These are Christian caterpillars. Ones who look just like us. Ones who go to church with us. Maybe us. They haven’t achieved the transformation of repentance and faith in Christ which leads to obedience. And their demise if they don’t repent? “I will spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:16, NASV).

Truth can hurt, but it matters. It matters because God and Jesus love us. And true love includes speaking honestly and intentionally. It also matters because unless we repent, at the judgment day, we do not become “butterflies” to live eternally with God and his son Jesus in the kingdom of God. The alternative to that option is death. Today, we live in a world telling us that almost any belief imaginable is “Christian”, and it can get quite confusing as we seek to be on the narrow road and not in the lukewarm masses. It requires diligent searching of scripture and faithful prayer on our parts. We cannot rely alone on our teachers, our families, our churches, and traditions of men. We must not just believe “in” God and Jesus, but know what they say and apply those words to our lives. So, if we find ourselves lukewarm and amongst lukewarm believers. . .what does Jesus say to us?

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:19-21, NASV).

Let’s seek and pray to be more than lukewarm this week and to be victorious in Christ.

-Jennifer Koryta Hall

 

 

My Highlighter Went a Bit Crazy

Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 36

Hello Everyone!

Wow, what a great chapter!  If you’re anything like me you probably highlighted a third of the verses for today!  Because there was so much I really enjoyed about this chapter I wanted to share just a few thoughts for the verses I liked the best.  I strongly encourage you to be an active reader for this chapter… sit down with a highlighter (or hop on your Bible App!) and highlight the verses you feel really speak to you today!

Vs. 4 and 10- I like these verses in combination because one sets up the other.  Verse 4 is explaining yet again that the previous sacrifices could not atone for the sins of the Hebrews or for us for that matter.  Verse 10 is just a great reminder that God sent his Son, and through Jesus’ sacrifice we have been made holy.  The author is again and again trying to drill into the reader’s head that JESUS is the one who saves.  It is JESUS who can atone for the sins of the world, and there is no more need for sacrifices.

Vs 14 and 18 – Again, I think these verses pair together wonderfully!  Sometimes I think the author may be repeating himself one too many times, but then I remember the original purpose for the letter.  These people were being told about a dramatic life style change, the author can’t reiterate enough the new deal!  Jesus made one sacrifice, and because of it there was no more need for them to sacrifice animals anymore.

And from here on is where my highlighter went a bit crazy…

Vs. 22-23 – What powerful language!  We have full assurance that our faith will cleanse us from a guilty conscience and wash us with pure water.  We need to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, because He is faithful!  If you were looking for a faith booster today, this is it friends!  We have a faithful God, and by having faith in Him we know that we can become pure.  What a wonderful reminder of His love and power.

Vs 24-25 – Application verses for the day!  As a body of Christ, we are called to spur one another on toward love and good deeds, to continue to have fellowship with one another, and to encourage one another as the Day of Jesus’ return draws closer.  It’s almost as if this verse is calling you to attend an amazing COG event like Family Camp or FUEL….    So let’s put these verses in action a bit; How can you spur on a brother or sister towards love and good deeds today?  Are you going to best encourage them through a kind note, through a coffee date, by helping them clear out their garage, doing a Bible study?  There are so many ways we can show God’s love to our Christian family, pick one and try it out this week!

Vs. 26-27 and 31 – These verses are a little hard to swallow.  Deliberately choosing to continue in a path of sin will lead to raging fire that consumes God’s enemies.  I’m not going to sugar coat this at all.  By making a conscious decision to live in sin after knowing truth, you are becoming an enemy of God and should fearfully expect judgement.  Notice how it specifically mentions “after knowing truth”.  Especially for those who grew up in the church like myself, we know truth and we have been taught what sin is.  I fully recognize that this can make daily living more complicated, and according to this verse, more dangerous for our salvation.  As verse 31 states, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of a living God.”  We should only live in fear of judgement day if we are consciously choosing sin in our life.  I think it is ok to let that fear motivate you sometimes!  If you’re struggling with decisions in your life, maybe you need a little fear to keep yourself in check!

Vs. 36-37 – After those previous verses this verse is a nice reminder as to why we choose righteous living.  It is so that we can receive what has been promised!  I think the author intentionally uses the word ‘persevere’ in this verse because they recognize that it is something we have to work at, and that doesn’t come naturally.  If you read the few verses before this you see that the author is describing suffering, so the language of persevere makes sense here.  Thankfully, we are not suffering in prison as was mentioned, but we certainly have daily sufferings that make it hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But if you move on to read verse 37 you see that in just a little while, Jesus will return and he will not delay.  We can handle our present sufferings because we know that someday soon Jesus will return and we will receive that promise!

And finally, Vs. 39 – We belong not to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.  We have a heritage.  We have a family and a foundation.  It’s easy to feel alone at work, school, or maybe even in your own family.  But through Jesus, we have a sense of belonging.  And we are on the winning side!

I think each of these verses could’ve been pulled into a mini sermon today, but I tried to keep it short… I promise!  I hope today some of my thoughts got you reflecting and thinking on God’s word.  I also hope that you found some encouragement in the truth that we hold to, especially if you are in a season of persevering.  I love being a part of this body of Christ, and I hope you feel our history and the fellowship we have!  Life is so much easier when you have people to live it with that can encourage you in your walk of faith.  Today, seek those people out!  Or, be that person to a member who needs some encouragement!

Have a great day brothers and sisters!

Sarah Blanchard

 

Different Prophet; Same Message

Zephaniah

Zephaniah-3_17

Friday, April 21

The job description of a prophet doesn’t vary much. Speak the words God has given you. Usually these words and utterances are judgement and wrath, Zephaniah follows the same pattern. Something worth mentioning is the name Zephaniah provides in verse one: “Zephaniah son of Cushi”. Cushi in Hebrew has meaning and connotations of African descent. In other words, Zephaniah may have an african heritage and we may have a book written by an African.

Zephaniah is believed to have been proclaimed and written between 630-620 BCE to the residents of Judah concerning Judah’s judgement and her enemies judgement. We have seen a common thread in all the minor prophets we’ve looked at this week: God holds all evil, wickedness, and injustice accountable whether it’s done by his own people or people of foreign nations. God is impartial. Chapter one contains God’s judgement on his own people. Chapter two is judgment pronounced on many of Judah’s enemies and chapter three is a mixture of judgement with the promise of a remnant being left who will love the true God with their heart, mind, soul, and body and God will dwell with them.

The minor prophets, I would say, are the most neglected books in the Bible. Though their historical contexts and their way of life is completely foreign to the modern Christian, the promises and principles communicated by God through prophets are ones that apply to us today. Injustice, oppression, apathy, disobedience, and so on are things we see and deal with in our lives. God speaks to us about these things in the minor prophets.

-Jacob Rohrer

(Photo Credit: https://worshipwithscripture.com/tag/zephaniah-317/ by Kelli Wommack)

Goody-Two-Shoes Gets It, Too

Amos 1-3

susan amos.png

Thursday, April 13

In a couple of days, we’ll dig in to just who Amos was and why he was writing.  But as we start reading his book, I’m wondering if the same thing that stood out to me also stands out to you.

The book begins with God giving Amos a list of places He’s about to bring judgement on.  My Bible labels this section “Judgement on Israel’s Neighbors”.  He goes through Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab..and so on.

This scene reminds me of being in a class where the teacher is scolding some students for misbehavior.  The goody-two-shoes in the class is sitting there watching it unfold with a smug look on her face, watching her classmates get taken down a notch.  That’s Israel.

But then the teacher turns and points at her.  Miss Perfect herself.

Midway through chapter 2 we see God turn to Israel.  And through the end of chapter 3 He is telling her what for.

Interestingly, He says this:

“You only have I chosen
    of all the families of the earth;
therefore I will punish you
    for all your sins.”

That sounds contradictory, doesn’t it?  I’ve chosen you therefore I will punish you?

It reminds me of Hebrews 12 where we’re told that God disciplines those He loves.  Proverbs 3:12 speaks the same wisdom.

Come back tomorrow to see what else God has to say as he disciplines His chosen Israel.

-Susan Landry

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gumdrops and Kittens…or Not?

Joel

joel.png

Wednesday, April 12

Let’s be honest, when God sent prophets to His people, they didn’t come with messages of gumdrops and kittens.  Joel is no different.

  • For the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
  • Let all who live in the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming. It is close at hand—
  • The day of the Lord is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?

God’s judgement is no joke.  But (thankfully) He is also a kind and compassionate Father.

Joel 2:13 says,

Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate

Living in a different culture, we miss some of the meaning here.  Have you ever been so angry that you threw something (or wanted to)?  It’s kind of the same idea.  Grief so overwhelming that you pull at your hair, your clothes…you are beside yourself.  In Jewish culture, tearing one’s garments was a common outward sign of tremendous grief.

But here, Joel is calling for more than an outward sign.  He’s telling the people that God wants an inward change more than….

….more than going forward on ‘decision night’

….more than posting a touching quote on Facebook

….more than acting holy around your parents and church friends

Our Father is merciful and kind, but he cannot tolerate sin.  Like most prophets, Joel gives two options:  Repent or Reap the Consequences.

-Susan Landry

 

Who Will Stand in the Gap?

Ezekiel 22-23

ezekiel 22

Saturday, March 25

Throughout Ezekiel there are certain themes that keep circling back around: God’s judgment against Jerusalem, Israel’s unfaithfulness to God.  In today’s reading we see another very graphic depiction of Israel’s immorality.  This time, it’s the northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judah.  They are likened to two sisters who prostitute themselves.  They again perform lewd acts shaming themselves before their neighbors.  It’s very sad, indeed.

God searches for someone to help:  “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”  God could find no one righteous to fill the gap and act as the mediator between God and His people.

We know the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ and God’s Kingdom.  One day, Jesus would stand in the gap to keep God from destroying the earth.  Jesus on the cross fills the gap between a holy God and a sinful people.

I hope that these devotions from Ezekiel will help you to see some important truths with greater clarity.  God loves His people very much.  God wants His people to be faithful and obedient.   Some are and some aren’t.  When His people are unfaithful, God brings calamity and judgment, in order to turn people’s hearts back to Him.  It’s not the judgment that ultimately turn hearts, but it’s the fact that despite all of our wicked acts that deserve punishment, God is faithful to His promises and His steadfast love remains.  Ultimately, its God’s mercy that leads us to repentance.  May you know His love and His mercy through Jesus Christ, the man who did stand in the Gap for us.

-Jeff Fletcher