July 7, 2012

Practical Christianity

In as early as the ministry of the Apostle Paul, some Christians acted as if they were not even changed by the power of God. There were divisions among them as they bragged over which leader they followed. Today, a similar problem exists in that some boast they listen only to this radio preacher or will only attend churches of that denomination. To this partisan thinking, Paul gives the following rebuke. 
I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. (1 Corinthians 3:2–9)
These early believers (and those who do the same thing now) were living in the sinfulness of their old natures. Instead of being filling with the Holy Spirit, they were filled with themselves and a sinful need to make a good impression. To this, my devotional reading says that “as Christians, our business is not to build quickly, but to build upon a right foundation and in a right spirit.” 

For those who know Christ, life is more than mere competition. As we serve the Lord in the church, and even as we do anything at all, it is not about being done first or even about working better than anyone else works. It is not about who gets the most acclaim or the bigger applause, but about working patiently as God directs, and in harmony with others in the Body of Christ. 

A church pianist and another person played duets on Sunday morning. The pianist noticed the organist was constantly and rapidly flipping pages in her music book. She said, “I finally realized that she was striving to find the songs before I did. It became a distraction to me and seemed so silly.”

Whether a “silly” competition or something more serious, such “merely human” actions are what the Bible calls “works of the flesh” and “worldly.” Anything that seeks inordinate personal comfort, or “more, bigger, better” than others, or is built on human pride also falls into this category. If I want to be a better teacher than anyone else, or get more recognition than I do, or glory in complements without glorifying the Lord, then I am “behaving in a human way” instead of building my life on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:10–11)
Paul adds to this by describing the judgment seat of Christ where the works of Christians will be examined by fire. Some will not pass the test and be burned. In contrast, anything done in the will of God and by the power God gives will be rewarded. This is not a test for salvation, but a test for how I live my Christian life.

Foundation building is for Christian service, but also for everyday life. Will I be like Jesus? Will I do as He asks and do it as He directs? Will I glorify Him? Or will I walk in my old way of “me, me, me”? 

I want my life to count for God, to have some impact on eternity, yet I cannot achieve that unless I forget about what I want and do the will of God, in His way and relying on His grace and power.

Father, moving boxes and helping my hubby put together shelves in the garage may not seem like the stuff of eternal value. However, the attitudes with which I do even these mundane chores of life will either be material for a big fire or be gold and silver that will withstand Your test. For the ordinary as well as any “spiritual” challenges, I need to walk in the power of Your Spirit, doing all of it in total dependence on Your Son.

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