Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 98 Fortress of Faith – Part 2

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.”

Paul has called us to stay alert, to be watchful over our relationship with God, with others and ourselves. We must be honest and truthful with God, with others and with ourselves as we watch against the appearance of sin, the occasion to sin and the temptation to sin. We are to watch and pray as Jesus taught us, “Lead us not into temptation.” Paul also called us to be steadfast in the faith dealing with where we are standing, how we are standing and why we are standing. To stand fast involves keeping the ranks, not to be disorderly but determined to keep the ranks unbroken as we stand together. We are standing on the Word of God because we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus. We are called to stand up for God, on the word of God, and with the saints of God, “Together we stand and divided we fall.” Now Paul calls us to:

  • Show up 

The cultural allusion here is of an experienced soldier in the first century, and a picture of courage gained from being proven on the battlefield. This phrase literally translates Act like men, my modern-day translation would go like this “suck it up, stop whining and start winning”. Today we waste our time whining about the good old days, we lament the past while losing the present.  To act like a man means to accept responsibility, step up to the plate and stay there. Men, I don’t care what the culture says, we are needed and it’s time to rise up and fight for our families. When we abandon our post the family fails, you are a soldier of Christ, so stand up, show up and suck it up. Holding the line, stand firm in the faith takes courage, which is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it, Martin Luther King, Jr said “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.” Christian courage is the willingness to say and do the right thing for an eternal cause regardless of the earthly cost. We are in a war and we will be attacked so don’t get offended, it’s not about your rights it’s about the Redeemer. Unfortunately, today we seem to care more about our rights than doing what is right. We must develop a warfare mentality, in this fight we need fortitude so we can be focused, firm and fixed. When you are attacked, don’t flinch or fall back, maintain your ground, resist what is wrong with right and hold the line of holiness. Be brave, don’t break, stare fear in the face let your battle cry be “bring it” because this fight has already been won. The enemy may wound you, but he won’t win, death has been defeated and you have been delivered. Focus on the finished work of Christ, stand on the foundation of faith where fear fails. We have courage because even though they crucified Christ on the cross He rose to roll away the barrier. Today instead of courage we have cowards because we have traded our courage for comfort; we crave the convenient carefree life. We live in a fantasy world where we fool ourselves into thinking we can have an enemy and an easy life. Courage comes because of conflict not comfort, convenience and a care free life. Having trained the church and our children to pursue the American dream we are now living in its nightmare. Christ calls us to raise warriors that resist the world not revel in it.  We need both physical and emotional courage to face the pain, hardship, and threat of death, as we respond rightly in the face of popular opposition, shaming and scorn. This admonition to be courageous speaks soundly to the Corinthian cultural pluralism and ours, Paul is telling us to resist the rip tide of cultural currents. The call to be men of courage spiritually would have been unpopular even unacceptable behavior in first century Corinth. It could have meant a loss of stature in society, a loss of jobs and economic opportunity, the loss of friends and yet Paul wants them to stand on the standard that God has set. He is telling them they know the truth, and now they must live the truth and that takes courage in our culture. Spiritual steadfastness demands courageous application of the truth, unfettered support for the standard of what is spiritually true. If we truly believe the bible, then we are called to bold opposition to what we know is false instead of bowing. Today the question facing the church is this, will we be courageous enough to confront the controversy of our culture?

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Pandemic Perspective – Part 97 Fortress of Faith – Part 1

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And do everything with love.

In the middle of Paul’s final greetings he inserts a short but profound statement of instruction to Christians: Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. In these few brief words, Paul states a fitting conclusion for everything he has written to them so far. Paul’s brief words paint a powerful picture for Christians who desire to stand and serve the Savior. Paul’s advice, inspired by God, is especially meaningful for us today as we experience the attack against Christianity. When it comes to our faith we must: 

  • Stay Alert

The literal translation is watch, to pay careful attention, it is a one-word imperative. In the context of all that Paul has told them to do, his final word of caution is to be spiritually on guard. The church in Corinth had a host of problems from spiritual immaturity and misunderstanding to a tolerance of sin. This led to division and factions in the church, causing arguments and strife that weakened and threatened to destroy it. This led to relational retaliation as Christians sued other Christians in civil court, the ruin of relationships as people living in sexual sin, gluttony and drunkenness and righteous relationships as people took pride in their spiritual gifts. Paul reminded them to be on their guard spiritually because he did not want them to treat merely the symptoms, but to cure the cause. He wanted them to wake up and pay attention to their spiritual lives, to be spiritually watchful instead of spiritually ignorant. The Corinthians were caught up in their devotion to a culture of competing philosophies instead of the firm foundation of faith, devotion to the one true God, as opposed to the spiritual pluralism that was socially acceptable. Their apathy and lack of spiritual watchfulness was the foundation of the Corinthian church’s sinful condition. Spiritual indifference and spiritual ignorance were the root of relational problems in Corinth. Jesus did not save us from sin only to slumber and snore, it is not enough to merely know the facts we need to know the Father. Being spiritually aware means seeing the Savior, His care, protection and love for us His children. Today the church is stumbling around asleep and unless this simple one-word instruction is followed, everything Paul has taught will have no effect. Will we follow Paul’s advice and have hearts that are awake and alert? Today are you spiritually aware? In a whirling world of worry, filled with the terrible tornados of turmoil have you internalized the spiritual truths about God’s care and protection? Do you remember and recall His promises in the face of uncertainty? 

  • Stand fast 

The call for the church at Corinth and for Christians today is to stand fast, to persevere, and to not deviate in their faith and trust. As Paul tells them to stand firm in the truth, he is reminding them of the Redeemer and everything that has been revealed. The call is to stand firm in all that Christ is and all that He represents. Like the Corinthians 2000 years later we live in a culture in which truth is regarded as relative. Our society scoffs at the concept of objective, unyielding spiritual truth, so we live in a day dedicated to spiritual and ethical pluralism. Today we worry that the world is worse, yet as we look back time has moved technology but truth, like the tide, just ebbs and flows. The same environment that existed in the Corinthian culture can creep in when we accept social teaching over spiritual truth. Today we must stand fast against the social storm of stupidity that rages all around us. This world like a magician cloaks its agenda with the tricks of tolerance and progressive thinking. Today we call sin a choice yet we choke anyone who does not agree, this is not choice it’s a charade. We celebrate tolerance for sin but when it comes to the Savior the agenda has not changed, the world still chants crucify. Don’t be fooled by the mists and magic of our modern world it only offers one choice, comply or die. We talk about progressive thinking believing we can move man forward using technology instead of truth. We believe that if we relabeled the can we change its contents, this isn’t progressive its pride.  If man can save himself then where is the proof? Today instead of proof we have more problems. Today the tide has not turned its just come in a little further and like a soldier facing the onslaught we are called to stand fast. We many get bruise, but we will not break, because sin cannot sink the ship of salvation. Yet instead of contending for the faith the world observes us fumbling as we fight among ourselves. Sometimes it seems that the gospel message of salvation, a relationship with God, is secondary to the desire to win doctrinal debates. Today we are tempted to trust in technology but its truth that triumphs. If we are to be the witnesses God wants us to be then we must follow Paul’s admonition to stand firm in the faith. Are you standing or succumbing in the struggle?