by Tyler Gipe

An Imperfect Home for a Perfect Savior

“And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.” Luke 2:16-17

Christmas is in 12 days, which means we are in the thick of the Christmas season right now and everything that comes along with it. Shopping for presents, getting our travel plans together and worrying about how we’re going to handle family drama is swirling around us, and all we can do at this point is hope and pray it all works out. Maybe we’re dealing with that sinking feeling in our stomachs we often get during Christmas time where we feel depressed or anxious about our current situation. Maybe we’re frustrated because our lives seem to be falling apart and it feels like God doesn’t notice.

The Proof of the Gospel

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” 1 Corinthians 15:3b-8

The revelation of who Jesus was and what He accomplished was not disclosed to one person only, but to hundreds. Paul was even so bold as to publish specific names of people in order that they would all be able to corroborate each other’s testimonies. He was not appealing to some vague or strange group of people, but to real people who had nothing to gain from claiming they had seen the resurrected Christ. Not only did they have nothing to gain, but also everything to lose. In fact, some would go on to lose everything, even their own lives, as a result of their testimony.

The Church Universe

“For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

When Paul declared we “have all been made to drink into one Spirit,” the Greek verb he used for “drink” was also used in his day to describe irrigation. The implication here is that when we drink into the one Spirit, He enters our innermost being and begins to work in us much like water in the ground of a garden. A church is like a garden. We all need the same water to remain alive, but just because we live off of the same water doesn’t mean we are all meant to produce the same food.

Come Together

“For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” 1 Corinthians 11:26

I believe the last part of this verse is a neglected part of communion. Oftentimes during communion we focus only on Christ’s death and resurrection, and we don’t bring attention to His promise to return to rule and reign and redeem all of creation. Communion is also referred to as the ‘remembrance meal’. Of course during communion we are to look back and remember what Christ did for us at His first coming, but we are also to look forward and remember that He is coming again. We will not need to partake of communion forever. There will come a day when we no longer have a remembrance meal because we will be in the eternal presence of Jesus Christ Himself!

Stepping Stones

“I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:33

In his commentary on 1 Corinthians 10, Paul Barnett wrote, “Paul wants fellow-Christians to be stepping stones to faith in the God of Israel and His Son, the Messiah Jesus. Under no circumstances does he want Christians to be stumbling blocks to faith.”

For Edification

“Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” 1 Corinthians 8:1b

We know from Paul’s other writings that he wasn’t opposed to knowledge. He appreciated good theology as much as the next person, but he was aware of its limitations. Knowledge is only part of God’s plan, it isn’t everything. If we make knowledge everything, it becomes dangerous because of how it puffs us up and potentially leads to destruction. Isn’t this what happened with the first sin in the garden? Rather than being content with their loving and peaceful relationship with God, Adam and Eve were deceived into thinking they could have even more if they ate the fruit and became like God themselves. As a result their unbroken fellowship with God was cut off and death entered the world.

Housecleaning

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles - that a man has his father’s wife! In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” 1 Corinthians 5:1; 4-5

It truly is a shame Paul gets a bad rap nowadays. So many attempt to pit him against Jesus, claiming he was harsh and legalistic while Jesus was compassionate and grace-filled. One area where Paul could be labeled as particularly harsh is in the passage above, but once you look past the surface of what Paul is instructing and see his heart, you discover how similar what he taught was to what Jesus taught. For this Sunday’s devotional I would encourage you to read “The Parable of the Lost Son” from Luke 15 in order to figure out why Paul said what he said in the passage above.

God's Building

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

We know the apostle Paul was a preacher at heart because he loved a good illustration. In the passage leading up to the verse above, Paul compared himself and Apollos to farmers and builders, and the church in Corinth to a field and a building. It’s one illustration after another, but all of these illustrations seemed to culminate into the statement: “You are the temple of God.” Somehow it feels Paul is no longer speaking figuratively, but literally.

The Main Thing

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:1-2

In an era of endless books, podcasts, blogs, YouTube videos and lectures, there is an innumerable amount of fascinating stories and theories out there for our consumption. They can be entertaining, thought-provoking, and even challenging, but at the end of the day, how many of these resources address our greatest needs? The question then becomes, if they aren’t addressing our greatest needs, what good are they on their own?

The Whole Armor of God

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil." Ephesians 6:11

Have you ever considered how long our enemy, the devil, has been in existence? Unlike any person in history, he’s been able to study how humans act and think over thousands of years. Considering his main goal since the beginning has been to destroy people and keep them from fellowship with God, he continues to use his knowledge of human behavior and weakness to accomplish it. He knows better than anyone that the key to our downfall is not to come at us with a full frontal attack, rather it’s to find areas in our lives where we are vulnerable to temptation and to attack us there. It could be greed, lust, jealousy, pride, power or popularity.

Godly Parenting

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

That’s it. That’s all Paul has to say to parents in his entire letter to the Ephesians. If you’re anything like me - a parent who is often overwhelmed, anxious, confused and scared - then you’re wondering the same thing I am: “Really? That’s all you have for me Paul? For all the questions I have, for all the wisdom and strength I need, this is all the instruction I get?”

Carpe Diem

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” Ephesians 5:15-17

Paul’s instruction to “see then that you walk circumspectly” is also translated “be very careful” or “pay careful attention, then, to how you live.” Paul is urging us to take a moment and consider how we live and why we make the decisions we make. Unlike what the world encourages, we aren’t to get caught up in the moment and simply do whatever feels right. The days are evil, so if we’re not careful we’ll end up giving our energy and time to temporary pleasures which will leave us empty and frustrated.

Life as a New Man

“Put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:24

In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds his readers that when they received salvation, they were given new life. The old man that was governed by deceitful lusts was gone, and was replaced by a new man governed by the truth of Jesus Christ. In the verse above, Paul claims this new man “was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” Does this remind you of Genesis 1 where it says God originally created the first man, Adam, in His image and likeness?

The Prayer Request

“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.” Ephesians 3:14, 18-19a

John Stott wrote, “One of the best ways to discover a Christians’ chief anxieties and ambitions is to study the content of his prayers and the intensity with which he prays them. Prayer expresses desire.” The above prayer from Paul takes place at a crucial transition in his letter to the Ephesians. In the first three chapters he has been discussing some pretty dense doctrine, and he will spend the rest of the letter teaching us how to apply that doctrine to our lives. So before he gets into the application, he prays the believers in Ephesus would comprehend the overwhelming love of Christ.

A New Society

“For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.” Ephesians 2:14

Equality seems to be the most relevant issue today. It’s at the forefront of our society’s mind and is causing a lot of dispute because we’re desperately trying to figure out what it looks like and how to obtain it. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize we were given the answer nearly 2,000 years ago. At a time when inequality was leaps and bounds worse than it is now, Paul declared Christ Himself “is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”

Death to Life

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

In order that we might fully appreciate who we now are in Christ, Paul bluntly describes how terrible the situation was we used to be in. Oftentimes I feel we lose the full gravity of what Christ accomplished for us. Perhaps we think we used to be bad people and Jesus made us better, or we were struggling and Jesus came along and helped us. Even some of the metaphors we use in many of our worship songs seem to be insufficient. Although I adore the song “Amazing Grace” and would never disagree with the lyrics, I feel famous phrases like “I once was lost but now am found” or “T’was blind but now I see” don’t quite get across exactly what Jesus did for us.

Doctrine to Doxology

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

In the verse above, Paul uses some form of the Greek word for “eulogy” three times. Although most of us think of a eulogy as a short speech praising someone at their funeral, the word more generally means “to praise, to bless, to bestow special favor upon.” In it’s most basic sense it means “good word.” The purpose of this verse is to setup all that Paul is about to declare in the next 12 verses.

God's Compassionate Sovereignty

“The Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry?’” Jonah 4:4

In a surprise turn of events, we find out in Jonah 4 that rather than celebrating the repentance and salvation of the city of Nineveh, Jonah was displeased and angry. The reason for his anger was God not only did something he didn’t understand, but also something he didn’t like. God forgave and saved the wicked city of Nineveh, the enemy of Israel.

God's Irresistible Salvation

“Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly.” Jonah 2:1

After hearing complete silence from Jonah during his rebellious descent in chapter one, we finally hear his voice in chapter two. All it took was a storm so threatening it made a bunch of sailors lose their minds, and a fish so big it was able to swallow and house Jonah for three days and three nights. But at last, due to the circumstances God ordained, the prophet was back in communication with Him.