Unity in Diversity

1 Corinthians 127 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 12:1–11 (ESV)

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The world divides on so many things. We split on issues of race, nationality, sex, wealth, fame, power, etc. The Church is called to be different. We are called to be unified because we serve the same Lord. In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, rich or poor. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and equals.

Being equal is not the same as being the same. We do have differences. The body of Christ is made up of people who are different in race and nationality, who are different in sex, who are different in social standing, and who have different gifts and abilities. We see in our passage today that God gives different gifts to different people. These things are not for the purpose of making some more valuable than others, but for the common good of all. Let’s celebrate our differences and show the world our unity in Christ.

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The Praise of a Multitude

Revelation 196 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Revelation 19:1–8 (ESV)

1 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
2 for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

3 Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” 5 And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”

6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
8 it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

Understanding and Applying the Word

What a scene that is presented to us in today’s reading! The people of God gathered together with the heavenly host and praising the Lord as one. They praise him for his righteous judgment on evil and they praise him for his salvation. Amazing!

Regardless what is going on in the world or in our personal lives, we can be sure that the Lord reigns. His plans and purposes are being fulfilled and one day the scene we read about in Revelation 19 will be the reality for the redeemed people of God. With each passing day, I long for that day more and more.

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One People of God

Ephesians 219 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 2:11–22 (ESV)

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage, Paul reminds his readers that God’s plans and purposes are to create one united people of God. He speaks of the former division between Jew and Gentile, which he refers to as “the circumcision” and “the ununcircumcision”. In Christ, the former distinctions and separations are removed and there is “one new man in place of the two”.

The Church is the result of the union that has happened through Jesus Christ. No longer are there distinctions based on sex, social standing, race, nationality, or any other. All who belong to Jesus are the people of God. When we gather today in anticipation of the gathering of all believers in the age to come, our unity and worship should reflect the truth of what Christ has called us to be: one people joined together as the people of God.

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The Wise Seek Peace

James 318 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

James 3:13–18 (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Divisiveness in the Church, among God’s people, is never good. James calls it “earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” Titus 3:10 tells us to warn the divisive person and then have nothing more to do with him. It is a serious issue and can render a church ineffective in ministry and cause harm to the name of our Savior. By contrast, the wise and understanding are meek, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. This is what the body of Christ is called to be.

Much of the fighting that takes place in churches is over minor things that we should be able to find room to disagree on. Yes, we should stand against false teaching and unrepentant sin, but we must not make every small thing into a big thing. Beware the person who thinks everything is of equal importance and is ready to go to war to defend every fine detail. The fighting will never cease because you will never have full agreement in every matter. And the fighting will soon consume you.

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The Importance of Teachers

Ephesians 413 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Ephesians 4:11–16 (ESV)

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Christians are meant to grow. We are meant to grow into the fullness of Christ. This may seem like a tall order, but God has not left us to do this all alone. He has given us his word, his Spirit, his people, and teachers (i.e. pastors and teachers). We read here that the role of pastors and teachers is to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood.” The role of our church leaders is to help us grow to Christian maturity through teaching.

Many have a mindset that all a believer needs is a Bible. I understand the reason for this way of thinking. After all, God’s word is sufficient and we do not want to become reliant on others to tell us what that word means. We should read and study it for ourselves. This is absolutely true! However, God has not called us to live autonomously as his people. We are called to live in community as the Church. And God has gifted fellow believers within the Church in unique ways. Some he has given the ability to teach his word to others and we would be unwise to disregard those who God has given us for our benefit. To do so would be to stunt our growth or maybe even wander off in the wrong direction. We need each other and we need the teachers God has given us so we can grow into the likeness of our Savior.

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God Is in the Silence

silhouette of woman standing near body of water

Photo by Dương Nhân on Pexels.com

 

Reading the Word

1 Kings 19:9–18 (ESV)

9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Elijah thought he was the only one left. He thought he was the only one who still followed God in his day and that all hope was lost. But God had a lesson for Elijah. God had Elijah stand on the mountain. As he stood there, several things took place. There was a great and powerful wind that came along. Then there was an earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire. Surely, God’s presence was in those awesome displays of power! But “the Lord was not in” the wind, the earthquake, or the fire. Instead, there came the sound of a low whisper, or a “thin silence” in some translations. God was in the silence. And as God spoke to Elijah from the silence, he assured him that he was not alone. There were seven thousand others who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

As we go through our lives, we may often wonder where God is or what he is doing. Is he doing anything? But we can be assured that God is at work even when we cannot see it. God is working in the silence. We can also be assured that, even though we may feel alone in the battle, God has a people and he is using them for his glory. We are not alone. If you feel alone and wonder if God is doing anything in your situation, know he is there in the silence and know that you are not alone. There are many of us who serve the Lord.

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Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?

Luke 245–6 [widescreen]

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today is the center of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ was crucified and buried, but rose again from the dead. It is the Resurrection that validates all that Jesus said and did. It is the Resurrection that assures us of who the one true God is. It is the Resurrection that gives us hope of eternal life in a new world without sin and all of its consequences. Read the words of Luke 24:1-12 and praise our great God for all he has done!

Reading the Word

Luke 24:1–12 (ESV)

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

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A Chosen People

1 Peter 29 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Peter 2:9–10 (ESV)

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Understanding and Applying the Word

All who belong to Jesus Christ have a responsibility in the world. We are to take the message of Jesus Christ to the world. We are a people set aside to proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light. We are God’s people. We are the ones who have received mercy and we have the good news that God stands ready to forgive all who will repent and trust in Jesus Christ.

Our Christian faith is not meant to remain a private experience. It is meant to be proclaimed to a lost and sinful world. This is how we heard the gospel message and this is how others will hear it. We must tell them. We have a great and merciful God. Let’s tell the whole world about him!

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The Need for Unity

Psalm 1331 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

1 Corinthians 1:10–17 (ESV)

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Unity among Christians is so important. It is important if there is to be spiritual growth within the church. And it is important if the church is to have an effective ministry to a lost world. Unfortunately, division is a common reality in our churches and it happens for many reasons.

In Corinth, one of the reasons believers were divided was over leadership. This may seem strange, but if we think about it, we see that this is still common today. In Paul’s day, they were saying, “I follow Paul” or “I follow Apollos”, etc. In our day, it is not uncommon for Christians to brag about and think that their pastor or church is superior to others. “I go to this church” and “We have this many members.” Or, “My pastor is so and so” and “My pastor is popular and writes books.” This way of thinking is divisive and hurts the work of the Church. We should be united in our love for Christ, his people, and proclaiming his good news. Let us focus on those things that unite us.

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Beware of False Teachers

Apple Education

Reading the Word

1 Timothy 4:1–5 (ESV)

1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Bible warns of false teaching in many places. In our passage for today, Paul tells us that false teaching will be a mark of the end times. He tells us that false teaching is ultimately the product of demonic influence and liars whose consciences are seared. These are people who do not care about their wrong-doing because they benefit from it in some way. Paul gives two specific examples of false teaching: forbidding marriage and requiring abstinence from food. The reason that Paul gave these two specific examples is because they were likely things that were being taught in the church in Ephesus, where this letter went.

We need to beware of any and all false teaching that may try to creep into our lives and churches. This is why training in doctrine is so vital to our Christian walk. A strong doctrinal foundation shields us from the demonic attack of false teaching. Many churches and Christians have drifted away from doctrinal training in favor of more practical lessons and sermons, but this is problematic in the long run. Doctrinal training may not seem exciting or practical at times, but it is essential for our Christian growth. What does your church do to train believers in correct doctrine?

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