Foolish, Weak and Despised.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ESV

The division taking place within the church at Corinth was based on pride. They were boastfully claiming, “‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ’” (1 Corinthians 1:12 ESV). They were each seeing themselves as somehow better or more spiritual because of who they followed. They were even bragging about who had baptized them, claiming to have been baptized in their name. Which had led Paul to say, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name” (1 Corinthians 1:14-15 ESV). Even those who were claiming to follow Christ were emphasizing His teaching more than His role as Messiah. They had become followers of men and adherents of their particular teachings, rather than followers of the very one whose death had made their salvation possible. 

So Paul felt compelled to remind them of pre-conversion state. For the most part, none of them had been wise, wealthy or powerful. They had not been from the upper crust of society. They weren’t known for their intelligence and erudition. Their influence and power had been minimal. In fact, Paul flatly states that they had been foolish, weak and despised. Not exactly a flattering assessment. But Paul’s objective was to get them to see the “foolish” nature of their salvation, not stroke their egos. There had been nothing about them that warranted what God had done for them. Even from an worldly perspective, they had not been deserving of God’s amazing grace and mercy. They had not been the brightest and best, the richest and wisest, the movers and shakers of society. When Jesus ministered on the earth, it was not from among the wealthy, wise and powerful that His disciples had come. They had been lowly fishermen, tax collectors and common men. Those that had followed Him during His three years of earthly ministry had been, for the most part, from the peasant class. And this trend had continued long after Christ’s resurrection. Paul reminded them, “God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28 NLT).

None of them had cause for boasting. They had done nothing to deserve their salvation. And their pride over who it was that they followed was misplaced. Later on in this same letter, Paul will tell them, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV). It was only as Paul displayed Christ-likeness that they were to emulate his life. It wasn’t supposed to be about Paul, but about the Christ-like character he displayed. Paul wanted them to remember that their status as children of God had been the work of God. It had been God who had called them, which is why Paul tells them, “consider your calling.” The Greek word Paul used was βλέπω (blepō) and it means, “to turn the thoughts or direct the mind to a thing, to consider, contemplate, to look at, to weigh carefully, examine” (“G991 – blepō – Strong’s Greek Lexicon (KJV).” Blue Letter Bible). Paul wanted them to take a long, hard look at their calling by God. So he reminds them three times:

God chose what is foolish…

God chose what is weak…

 God chose what is low and despised…

God chose. It was His doing. Not based on any merit or worth on the ones chosen, but solely based on His divine mercy and grace. And Paul reminds them that it was “because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV). Not because of themselves and not because of Paul, Cephas or Apollos. Those men had been nothing more than instruments in the hands of God. It had been God who had made it possible for the believers in Corinth to have a relationship with Jesus. And it had been Jesus who had revealed to them the wisdom of God. By His death on the cross, Jesus had opened up the way for men to enjoy righteousness, sanctification and redemption. With His death on the cross, Jesus had taken on the sins of mankind. Those who place their faith in Christ have had their sins imputed to Him and His righteousness imputed to them. They now stand before God as righteous because of Christ. And they are going through the process of sanctification, their ongoing transformation into the likeness of Christ, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. And ultimately, they will enjoy their final redemption or release from the power of sin in their lives, when God glorifies them.

There is no man who can make these things possible. No human teacher can provide us with righteousness before God. No pastor can transform us into the likeness of Christ. No evangelist or theologian can make our glorification possible. These things are all the work of God, just as our salvation was. He called. He chose. He justified. He is sanctifying. And He will redeem. So if we are going to boast, we need to boast in God. We need to brag about all that He has done, is doing and will do in the future. He made our salvation possible. He has made our daily sanctification obtainable. And He will one day accomplish the seemingly impossible: our glorification. We owe it all to Him.

 

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Ephesians 5:15-20

A Matter of Control.

Ephesians 5:15-20

Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit. – Ephesians 5:18 NLT

In these closing verses of chapter 5, Paul is continuing his encouragement of the believers in Ephesus that they might life lives that are markedly different from the way they used to live. He wants them to be distinct and different from the world around them. He wants them to imitate God and to live lives filled with love, following the example of Christ Himself. He warns them to “carefully determine what pleases the Lord” and to “take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness” (Ephesians 5:10-11 NLT). They are to live as people of the light, influencing others and exposing the darkness around them.

But how were they supposed to pull this off? What would make this kind of life possible? Paul warned them to be careful about how they conducted their daily lives, and to make sure they lived wisely and not like fools. But it all sounds so impossible. So Paul gives them the only possible way to live the lives they’ve been called to live. And he uses a very interesting comparison to make his point. After all this talk about light and darkness, Paul uses the imagery of drunkenness to illustrate the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. I don’t think he wrote these words because the believers in Ephesus were struggling with drunkenness. He used this imagery because it was one with which they were all familiar. They had all seen the affects of alcohol and knew from first-hand experience what drunkenness looked like. So Paul used this very down-to-earth analogy to help them understand that the Christ-life required submission to a power outside of themselves. It was all about control. Paul makes a direct comparison between being drunk and being filled.

drunk = filled

To be drunk with wine is to be controlled by or under the influence of wine. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by or under the influence of the Spirit. Control has to do with submission to someone or something else. It is to submit to the influence of another. In the case of alcohol, to become drunk is to place yourself under its influence and control. When drunk, people say things they normally wouldn’t say. They do things they wouldn’t normally do. They allow themselves to be controlled by a substance that influences their behavior and their thinking. So Paul says, rather than allow yourself to be drunk with and controlled by wine, you should be filled with the Spirit. He wants them to live controlled by the Spirit, not their own sinful flesh. Over in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you (Romans 8:9 NLT). It is a matter of control. As believers, we are to live under the influence of the Spirit of God. And when Paul writes, “if you have the Spirit of God living in you,” he is not questioning their salvation. He is making a point about a positional truth. They DID have the Spirit living within them, so they should have been living under His influence. Just like a drunk person can’t help but be influenced by alcohol, a believer can’t help but be influenced by the Spirit of God. For Paul, the power of the Spirit in the life of the believer was non-negotiable and non-debatable.

And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. – Romans 8:10-11 NLT

Therefore, dear brothers and sisters,you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. – Romans 8:12-13 NLT

We have a power available to us that is beyond our wildest imaginations. It is the very same power that raised Jesus back to life after having been dead for three days. That power resides within us and is available to us. It is designed to control and empower us. The Spirit of God is to fill us and flow from us, influencing our thoughts and actions. He makes it possible for you to “make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” (Ephesians 5:16 NLT). He allows you to “understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT).

But we must choose to live under His influence. Just as we can choose to get drunk with wine, we can choose to be filled with the Spirit by submitting to Him on a daily basis. We must seek Him. We must desire Him. We must obey Him. We must live under the influence of the Spirit of God if we want to have an influence in this world. And it’s all about submission and control.

Father, You have given me all the power I need to live the life You’ve called me to live. But it requires that I live under the Spirit’s influence and control. I must learn to continually live in His power and not mine. I must submit to His will instead of mine. I want Him to influence everything I say and do. Show me how to live filled by the Spirit, completely submitted to His control. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 10d

The Pleasure and Pain of Parenting.

“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.” – Proverbs 10:1 NLT

Parenting is hard work. It is not for the feint of heart or the weak of back. It requires incredible energy and fortitude, limitless endurance, boundless courage, and a certain degree of blind faith. Raising children is a huge responsibility that can intimidate the bravest of souls. It can make the strong weak in the knees and turn the most confident of men into sniveling, teary-eyed basket cases. But all the same, there is nothing more gratifying than to watch your children grow and mature, making the most of the gifts and abilities God has given them. It is a blessing to pour into their lives and see God use you in His grand scheme to mold them into the likeness of His Son. It does not always go well or even quite like you had imagined or dreamed. There are setbacks and heartaches along the way. Children have a mind and a will of their own, and their not afraid to use either one. They can be loving and frustrating. They can warm our hearts and try our patience. They can bring a smile to our faces and a tear to our eye – all within just a few minutes time span.

It seems that Solomon knew well the joys and sorrows of parenting. He talked about it a lot. And he dealt regularly with the topic of the foolish child. Here in verse one of Proverbs 10 he describes two different children. One is wise and the other is foolish. He says the wise child brings joy to his father. He makes him proud. But a foolish child makes his mother sad. He brings her to her knees in prayer and despair. The specific Hebrew word Solomon uses for fool is kecîyl and it means fool, stupid fellow or dullard. This is a very specific kind of fool. He is not talking about the simple fool, that child-like fool who, because of his young age, doesn’t know how to make good choices and lacks good judgment. No, Solomon is describing that individual who is stubborn, arrogant, and set in his or her ways. They reject the discipline of their parents and all authorities in their lives. They seem determined to make wrong choices. They are sensual fools, driven by their passions and obsessed with immediate gratification. They can’t deny themselves anything and lack the common sense to know better. These kind of children don’t just happen, they get this way over time. They are that innocent, young boy who one day turns out to be that insolent, rebellious teenager whose parents barely recognize him. He is lazy, unreliable, unteachable, and will ultimately be destroyed for his lack of common sense (Proverbs 10:21). They actually enjoy doing wrong (Proverbs 10:23), and make light of sin (Proverbs 10:10). What mother wouldn’t cry over a child like that?

So how do we keep our children from becoming sensual fools? The easy answer is that we expose them to the wisdom of God. We teach them the truth of God’s Word. We model what it means to fear God and honor Him with our actions. But in the end, their is no guarantee that our children will turn out perfectly. Proverb 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” But that is not a promise. It is a proverb or wise saying. It is not a guarantee from God that our children will turn out well if we do out part. There are too many examples of train-wrecked lives to prove that not true. It is a calling to do our part as parents. We have a God-given responsibility to teach our children well, to point them to Christ and to model Christlikeness in front of them. But when it is all said and done, they each have a will of their own. They will each have to develop a faith of their own. They may make wrong choices. They may choose a different path. They may become a sensual fool and bring tears to the eyes of their mother. We can’t make godly children. Only God can do that. So with all our effort at parenting, we must never forget that we need God’s help. He alone can make our children wise. He alone can keep them on the right path. It is their relationship with God through Jesus Christ that will make them wise, not us. We have a part to play, but it is ultimately up to God. Turn them over to Him early in their lives. Place them in His hands for safe keeping. Do your job. Love on them. Teach them. Discipline them. But entrust them to God for their future well-being.

Father, thank You that I am not alone in this parenting thing. You have always been there for me. Any good in my children is totally due to You. I praise You for Your faithfulness to my family. You have each of my kids in Your hands. You will see them through. You have a plan for each of them and that plan will be perfectly fulfilled. Help me to trust You as I play my role as a father in their lives. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 1b

The Call of the Wise.

How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” – Proverbs 1:22-23 NLT

In these verses, God, personified as wisdom, calls out to mankind, inviting them to come to Him for wisdom. He specifically targets two different types of fool: The simple fool and the scorning fool. They represent two different extremes in foolish behavior. The simple fool is someone who, like a child, lacks basic common sense. They don’t know right from wrong and are prone to make unwise choices because they just don’t know any better. The scorning fool is further down the road in their foolish behavior and have learned to despise all authority in their lives. They actually enjoy their foolish behavior, defend it and reject anyone who tries to convict them about it. They mock those who would counsel them to change. They refuse to accept correction and visually disdain anyone who attempts to point them in the right direction. They “relish” their mocking.

The answer for both of these individuals is the same. They need God in their lives. They need to listen to His counsel and apply His principles to their lives. The simple fool needs to wake up and realize that he is simpleminded. He is an easy target for the enemy and has a tendency to have a simplified outlook on life. That’s perfectly acceptable for a small child, but there comes a time when we are to grow out of our childish ways. The scorning fool actually enjoys his mocking ways. He has convinced himself that he is right and everyone else, including God, is wrong. They both hate knowledge. They prefer life as it is, doing what is right in their own eyes. But God calls out to them, offering to share His heart with them. He offers wisdom in place of foolishness. Life in place of a slow march toward death.

But in spite of God’s patient, persistent calls, they have refused to come. They paid no attention. They ignored His advice. They reject the correction He offered. So God warns them” “So I will laugh when you are in trouble. I will mock you when disaster overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you” (Proverbs 1:26-17 NLT). There will come a time when they frantically search for God and cry out to Him for help, but they will not find Him. Why? Because they did not want what He had to offer. They hated knowledge and chose not to fear Him (Proverbs 1:29). They rejected His advice and ignored His loving correction. So God will allow them to “eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes” (Proverbs 1:31 NLT). We’ve all seen it happen. Perhaps we’ve seen it happen to ourselves. We’ve allowed our foolishness to result in pain and disappointment, all because we refused to accept God’s offer of wisdom. We have refused to admit out need for Him. He reminds us that “all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm” (Proverbs 1:33 NLT). God cries out daily to all of us who struggle with being simpleminded and scornful. He pleads with us to listen to His wisdom. He offers us His heart. But too often we insist on being simpleminded and relish our own mocking. How long will we continue? How long until we listen? How long until we learn?

Father, You are all the wisdom I need in this world. You have all I need to live this life and yet I so often prefer my own foolishness over Your wisdom. I choose to live unwisely and then wonder why I suffer so much hurt and heartache because of the foolish things I end up doing. Open my eyes and help me see that it is YOU I need. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 13b

Choose Your Friends Wisely.

“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” – Proverbs 13:20 NLT

What if you were to read the Proverbs as if our heavenly Father was writing these words specifically to us as His children? Consider the possibility that these are not really the words of Solomon to his son, but the counsel of God to His people. And they are far more than just simple maxims for life, but the divine advice of a wise and all-knowing God who is trying to equip His children to live life in this world. God knows there are two types of people in this world: Those who seek after Him and benefit from that relationship by gaining wisdom, knowledge, understanding, insight and common sense; and those who reject Him, living their lives as if He doesn’t exist and attempting to navigate life on their own wits and wherewithal.

God seems to be telling us to choose our friends carefully because they will have a tremendous influence on our lives. Those with whom we choose to spend our lives will end up impacting our lives in a dramatic manner – either positively or negatively. So choose wisely. In fact, God tells us that if we walk with the wise we will become more wise. The Hebrew word for walk is halak, and it can mean “to live your life.” It is as if God is saying, “If you want to increase in wisdom, as you go about your daily life, associate with wise people who love God.” Who we choose to surround ourselves with will play a major part in whether we end up more godly or less. This is not a command to completely disassociate ourselves from ungodly people, but to recognize that there is a potential danger in making them the primary relationships in our lives. But I really think that God is warning us to stay away from those who claim to be Christ-followers but who live like fools, ignoring the wisdom of God and choosing to live as if He doesn’t really exist. These people are a real danger to our faith walk. They appear to be like-minded, going to church and going through the motions of religious activity. But for all intents and purposes, they live as if God doesn’t exist. They ignore His Word, they refuse to listen to His commands, they love the world more than they do Him, and they rely on the wisdom of this world more than they do the wisdom available through an intimate relationship with God the Father. The danger of surrounding ourselves with these kinds of “fools” is that we feel safe. They make us feel comfortable. They say all the right things. They go to church. They pray. They may even go to Bible study with us. But in the end, they are pretenders. They talk a good game, but don’t walk the talk. They will slowly and subtly lull us into a sense of spiritual complacency. God warns us, “Associate with fools and get in trouble.” These people are a bad influence. They want all the blessings that God has to offer, but are to lazy to seek them (Proverbs 13:4, 11). They leave behind a wake of shame and disgrace from their actions (Proverbs 13:5). They are too proud to take advice (Proverbs 13:10, 13, 18). They are dangerously impulsive and lack discernment (Proverbs 13:16). They never see their hopes and dreams come about because they refuse to turn from evil (Proverbs 13:12, 19). They seemed plagued by trouble (Proverbs 13:21).

Why would you associate with people like this? Because they seem pleasant enough. They are good-natured, fun-loving, easy-going, and lower the bar of expectation so that you feel good about yourself. They don’t challenge you, correct you, push you, inspire you, or encourage you to greater things. They are content to live in spiritual mediocrity. But if you choose to surround yourself with the wise, you will inherently grow wiser. The wise are those who love God and who humbly live their lives in dependence upon Him. They are not perfect, but simply driven to know God better and better. They realize they can’t live the Christian life without Him. These kind of people inspire us, encourage us, uphold us, and sometimes even admonish us. They refuse to accept second-best from us. They are the ones who are growing in their knowledge of the Word. They pray for us. They confess sin to us. They are humble, selfless, kind, encouraging, inspiring, and sometimes even intimidating. But when we’re around them, we can’t help but want more out of life. So who have you surrounded yourself with? What kind of people are having the greatest impact and influence on your life? Choose your friends wisely.

Father, thank You for placing wise, godly friends in my life. Continue to help me select my friends carefully. They will play a significant role in helping me stay steady and on course as I live my life in this fallen world. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org