Friday, April 15, 2011

1 Cor 10:31-32

"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;"

Do you take yourself too seriously?  Do you allow your own preferences and hang-ups to define how your think about and interract with others?  Do you align yourself with some and distinguish yourself from others based on disputable matters.  We all struggle with this from time to time because we fail to realize that Scripture defines only two categories of people: the saved and the unsaved (those who are members of the Body of Christ and those who are not).  This type of fragmentation was a problem throughout the New Testament and something that Paul dealt with extensively.  The context of the passage in 1 Corinthians is Paul telling the believers in Corinth not to make an issue out of eating or not eating meat when it was offered to them in the home of an unbeliever.  Jesus had already made it clear that eating meat was acceptable when He told Peter in Acts 10:13 to “kill and eat”.  Therefore, the Corinthian believers were fragmenting themselves based on faulty reasoning and as a result were making themselves distractions from the main issue which is the Gospel.  Paul fought the same battle when he excoriated Peter in his letter to the Galatians and when he rebuked the Corinthians who were dividing themselves into factions (those of Paul, Apollos, Cephas).  Paul’s message was clear in all cases: the stand that must be taken is the stand for the Gospel.  All other matters are to be withheld so as to not offend anyone for the sake of the Gospel.  God is glorified when His message is being communicated to the unbeliever and the purpose of our life is God’s glory.

What defines you? How do others identify you?  Are you identified according to the sports teams that you root for?  Are you identified according to the type of music that you listen to or the television programs or movies that you watch?  Are you identified according to your ethnic heritage?  Do you separate from people based on your particular preferences about matters that do not pertain to the Gospel?  In Paul’s letter to the Romans he states that all believers are members of the same body (the Body of Christ) and therefore individually members of one another (Romans 12:4-5).  Just prior to that he states the following: “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).  Our identicatiion is with the Body of Christ and as a result we (believers) are all united to one another.  Our membership in the Body of Christ is how we are to identify ourselves and desire for others to identify us.  When we align ourselves with something other than the Body of Christ we are elevating our basis for distinction above God’s and therefore exalting ourselves beyond what we ever ought.

Remove the distractions that stand in the way of your ability to talk to unbelievers about Jesus Christ.  Before you ever convince an unbeliever to root for the same sports team, or buy the same car, or eat the same type of foods you need to spend your energy (of course through the power of God the Holy Spirit) convincing them that they need to accept what Jesus Christ did at the cross on their behalf.  This does not mean that you pound them over the head with the Gospel.  What it does mean is that your focus needs to be on the furtherance of the Gospel and you must take great care not to be a stumbling block by making an issue out of something that is not.  Be a witness for the Gospel in your life.  Live in a manner that manifests your position in Jesus Christ.  Make it impossible for you to be identified by anything else other than your relationship with Jesus Christ.  We don’t lack for an example on how to do this. Read Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  Is there any doubt what his priority is?  Here is how Paul describes his mental attitude while in prison: “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear (Philippians 1:12-14).  If your priority is the progress of the Gospel you will draw near to God and He will draw near to you.

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