Be On Your Guard

God’s grace be yours as we hear words of powerful encouragement from the pen of the Apostle Paul today!

Paul is down to his closing thoughts as he writes his letter responding to the church in Corinth.  The messengers have come with questions and Paul has gone to great lengths to understand the issues at hand and respond with wisdom from God.  Now he shifts his attention to who his readers need to be and how they need to act as those who have heard God speak to their questions and give them new direction.

Paul says today, Be alert, stand firm in the faith, be courageous, be strong.  Do everything in love.  1 Corinthians 16:13-14

He begins with Be Alert!  Why?  Because we have already heard the dangers which are present in their midst.  God’s people in Corinth are not facing the dangers of the sword at this time!  What they are facing is far worse.  There are those who are teaching and preaching a different Gospel than Paul proclaimed.  There are those who, if they are believed, will lead people to the gates of hell itself.  The denial of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  The confusion concerning the Lord’s Supper.  The way people in the church are treating each other.  These and so many other issues Paul has addressed!  His word of warning is Be Alert!  In other words, be very observant and conscientious about your faith and take nothing for granted.  Test what is taught with the Word of God!  Keep what is pure and reject what is false! Be Alert!  You salvation depends upon it!

Paul follows this with stand firm in the faith.  Be immovable in what you believe!  To accomplish this a person must be well grounded in the Gospel.  We must know with certainty the One in whom we believe.  Jesus is the Son of God who assumed human nature into Himself and became the God/man.  As God in human flesh, He lived the perfect live, suffered and died on the cross bearing the sins of all humanity, then He was buried and on the third day He rose to life again!  This is the faith into which we have been called and in which we stand.  Any deviation is heresy and is to be promptly rejected. Stand firm – grounded in what you know and believe and never let anyone persuade you otherwise!

Be courageous is the next admonition of Paul.  What is courage but the ability to overcome fear and do what is right even when you are afraid.  It took courage for Paul, Timothy, Apollos, and so many others to proclaim Jesus in the midst of a pagan culture.

There are a couple of things we often fail to understand.  In that culture, especially in affluent cities like Corinth, there were many pagan temples where a multitude of gods were worshiped.  Each one agreed it was good to worship as many gods as possible.  No one worshiped only one god and no one proclaimed boldly and loudly that all the gods are false except for one.  That is except Christians.  Those 1st century believes had to have courage to stand against everyone else and proclaim Jesus and the only true God and Savior of the world.  

Sadly, we are returning to those days! Many today believe there are many ways to heaven and to say Jesus is the only way will bring a backlash of criticism and resentment.  Courage is needed today to boldly and loudly proclaim Jesus to our pagan world.  I say pagan world because anything we love more than God has become our god.  While we may not see temples with stone idols, we do have many people following gods of their own imaginations who need to hear the truth of Jesus.  That takes courage!

Paul then tells his readers and us to be strong!  Strength is more than the ability to lift something heavy.  Real strength is seen in the will of a person.  The determination to do what is right against all odds.  The persistence and dedication to do what is right even when it is hard.  This is what it means to have real strength.  Paul is encouraging the Corithian Christians to dig down and find the strength of will to be who God has called them to be in the world of their day.  This is a message we all need to take to heart.  We need to take our eyes off of ourselves and the situations we may be facing and look to Jesus and in Him we will find the strength to endure and even thrive for the kingdom in our world.

Paul’s final admonition is Do everything in love.  So, let me ask you this, was Jesus alert?  Did He stand firm in the faith?  Was Jesus courageous and strong?  The answer to each one of these questions is absolutely!  He was all these things!  But the foundation of His life which made all of this possible is that His heart was filled with love.  I was love in His heart which moved Jesus to enter this world to become our Savior.  Love for His Father first and foremost.  The Father was grieving the loss of His children to sin and death.  Jesus, loving His Father above all things willingly comes to into this world.  It was also love for each one of us.  While the Father lost His children to sin, Jesus is also God and our Creator.  He grieved for us as well and willing gave His life into death to rescue us from sin, death, and hell.  Love was in the heart and at the heart of all Jesus did.  Paul is encouraging us to have love at the center of who we are and allow this love to guide all that we do.  

Understand, it is not just any love!  It is the love born in the heart of God and made known to us the moment faith was born in our hearts of the Holy Spirit.  It is AGAPE love!  The love which selflessly gives up all for the sake of the one loved.  This is the heart of God the Father. This is the heart of Jesus.  This is the Spirit’s heart as He works faith in the hearts of those who are lost.  This is to be the love in our hearts which moves us to put others before ourselves and live for Jesus in the world.

May we be the blessing of God in the world and for the world!
Pastor Russ

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