Saturday, April 25, 2015

Knowldege and love

“Now concerning food sacrificed to idols: we know that ‘all of us possess knowledge.’ Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Anyone who claims to know something does not yet have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (NRSV)

As a young adult, I told my father that he was the smartest man I knew. His response to me was this: “Honey, you evidently do not know very many men.” Later, as I reflected on that conversation, I realized that his response actually reinforced my claim. Dad was a humble man and he did not possess a college degree, but his humility testified that he knew that he was loved by God.

In the scripture passage above, Paul makes a simple statement about knowledge. The greatest knowledge we can possess is know that we are known by God.

Paul says that knowledge “puffs up,” much like inflating a hot air balloon. The balloon is inflated quickly and can carry passengers quite high, but it cannot stay aloft for a long time. After all, it is air that drives the balloon upward, and air is not stable.

Love builds up, like the construction of a tall building. Buildings are solid and take a long time to build. We can ascend to great heights and actually live at the top of a tall building.

God’s love for us is the best knowledge we can possess. Knowledge of His grace should always be our testimony. This is my testimony: I know that God loves me so much that, in spite of my sin, He died for me so that I can dwell with Him forever. This knowledge is greater than any diploma I could possess.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Examples of grace

“I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church” 1 Corinthians 4:14-17 (NRSV)

The Apostle Paul had his work cut out for him. Before his conversion to Christ, Paul had been a Pharisee, and the Jewish people perceived Pharisees as teachers and examples to follow. When Paul became a Christian, it is no wonder that he often encouraged his flock to imitate himself. Setting an example for others was part of Paul’s identity.

The apostles and the original followers of Christ actually had Jesus himself to imitate, but the churches that Paul established did not have any idea who Jesus was. Paul knew that his job was to reflect Christ so that others could see Christ through Paul. When we are children, we must first learn to imitate our parents before we can learn to be successful adults. As young Christians, we need to see an example of Christ in other Christians. As we grow in Christ, we are able to rely more and more on Christ himself for our example.

God, in His marvelous wisdom, provides examples for us to follow. God allows his grace to pour through Christian leaders to bless our lives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Displaying the gift of grace

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 (NRSV)

A long time ago, my young son found a diamond ring on a beach. It was an expensive ring, but it was very dirty and caked with sand. I imagined a woman wearing the ring to the beach, taking it off so that she could apply sun tan lotion, and then forgetting to put the ring on. I imagined that when she missed the ring, she came back to the beach to look for it, but never found it. I imagined her tears when she realized she would never find it.

I thought of my imagined story when I read the scripture above. Everything we have comes from God—all of our material wealth as well as our spiritual health. For example, I often attribute my beautiful wedding band to my husband’s love for me and to his salary that allowed him to purchase the ring for me. The truth is that the ring came from God on many more levels than it did from my husband. My husband’s salary afforded the ring, but it is by God’s grace that my husband has his job. The love that my husband has for me is, at its core, from God. The gold in the ring was created by God, and the talent to form the gold came from God! I could go on and on. Everything, material and spiritual, is given to us by God in a magnificent and divine order. The most wonderful gift that God gives us is grace. It is more beautiful and valuable than the ring on the beach, or my wedding band, and—this is the most wonderful part of the gift—it can never be lost. It will always be there when we look for it. We should proudly display the gift of grace in the same way we display our treasured earthly gifts so that others can see its beauty and worth in us.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Misjudgment and grace

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me, it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God. 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (NRSV)

I have a very good friend who holds a master’s degree in public relations, and has worked for many years in grant writing and organizational development positions. Working with people, organizations, and their money requires very good communication skills, a sense of integrity, and stewardship.

My friend’s organization had somehow misplaced a check from a personal donor, and after investigation, it seemed that the check was probably destroyed before it was cashed. My friend, who has a beautiful voice—sweet and lyrical—personally went to speak with the donor to find out how the donor wished to handle this mishap.

The donor perceived my friend’s beautiful sweet voice as a manipulative technique.  The donor called the my friend's organization and claimed that my friend used her sweet voice to accuse the donor (of what, my friend does not know). I do know this: my friend’s greatest strengths are her personal communication skills, and her trustworthy, truthful character. The donor misjudged my friend completely.

The scripture passage above points to God’s grace in judgment. God will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness, and He will look at us through the blood of Christ. Paul says that we should not even judge ourselves. We can try to do the right thing, but we are not acquitted by our works. We are acquitted by grace. I admire my friend’s trustworthy character, but I am glad that she will not be judged by it. I am so glad that she will be judged by grace.

Monday, April 6, 2015

God judges us through the eyes of grace

"I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me." 1 Corinthians 4: 3-4 (NRSV)

 Each morning when I get up out of bed, I am aware that I will be judged by others. This is what drives me to shower, get dressed, and try to make myself appropriate for the activities of the day. I worry that I will fail to be the wife that I should be, the mother that I should be, the employee that I should be, or the friend that I should be.

My main goal is not to please others, although the confession in the paragraph above seems to indicate that pleasing others is the motivation to start my day. My main goal is for Christ to live in me. If this is my goal, then why should I care so much about being appropriate for the activities of the day? Why should I care if others judge me? 

Paul says that we should not care if others judge us. Paul goes on to say that we should not even judge ourselves. Judgment belongs to the Lord, and only to the Lord. The judgment that I receive from others may make me aware of my place in society, but the judgment I receive from God gives me a place in His kingdom. 

God judges us through the eyes of grace, and He sees Christ. Christ in us! I want Christ in me to be my motivation for getting dressed each morning, and making myself appropriate for the day. I need to be aware that others will judge me, but I want them to see Christ in me.