1 Corinthians Chapter 15–What Stands Out

“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,…”1 Corinthians 15:1.

As I read chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians, I reflected on why Paul would need to remind Christians of the gospel –a message he had already delivered to them. The answer is in a quote often attributed to Martin Luther:

We need to hear the Gospel every day, because we forget it every day.” 

Yes, how quickly we forget the good news. It’s drowned out by the world in so many ways. In the last talk on Via de Cristo weekends, we learn that there are two ways we can forget the gospel.

1. We start to believe that we are something.

This most often happens when things are going well for us. We are prospering, so we must be “good” people, right? We are in control, making the right decisions, we can take care of ourselves. In this case, we are forgetting that we are tainted with original sin, and eventually that sin will get the better of us. (Guess what, the sin of pride already has!)

2. We believe that we are nothing.

In this case, because of something or some things that we have done, we are not worthy of God’s love. The Holy One could never save the likes of us! Our sin is simply unforgivable. In this case, we are failing to trust God or believe in His Word.

Paul was “apt to teach” — one of the qualities needed by every Pastor. And he had just one thing to preach, over and over:

 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2

You and I still need to hear this every day.

Sin Consciousness– Why We Need It

We can’t be in Christ without sin consciousness. In other words, we need to understand that we can’t save ourselves — we need a savior. As an example of this, in our last class on union with Christ, we looked at the life of the apostle, Paul. Paul had every reason to trust in his own ability to keep the law. Here’s how he describes himself in the third chapter of Philippians:

  1. He had the right pedigree –an Israelite, a member of the tribe of Benjamin
  2. He was outstanding in his performance — a Pharisee, faultless in righteousness
  3. He had been strictly raised and trained in all the Hebrew rituals — circumcised on the eighth day, and so on

He had no sin consciousness at all — and many of us have the same mindset. Although we profess our belief in Christ, we believe we are “good” people, raised in the church, who have never sinned in any significant way. We don’t want to accept the fact that our sinful nature makes it impossible to obey God.

We see in chapter 7 of the book of Romans that the sin of covetousness was the one that got Paul’s attention. (Perhaps his encounter with Stephen led his to covet the grace Stephen displayed.) He realized that the law was given, not so that he could become righteous, but to help him recognize his sin for what it was. He puts it this way:

“Did that which is good then (the law), become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful.” Romans 7:13

Finally accepting his inability to do good, he is able to turn to Christ. He became a man in Christ who found that nothing was more valuable to him than knowing Jesus and being united to him. As he says,

“… I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death … ” Philippians 3:8-10a

Are you sin conscious? If not, the season of Lent is a good time to ponder this.

For more about sin see:

Why to Avoid Sin

Sin and Grace

More About Sin

What’s Your Superpower?

What’s your superpower? I hear people ask one another this question sometimes. The answer usually has to do with a talent, or passion. Something we really enjoy or are able to do well.

As Christians, we have a different sort of superpower– through our union with Christ, we have received the Holy Spirit. In the gospel of John, as Jesus is preparing for his crucifixion, He tells the disciples that although He will be leaving them:

“… the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:26

Paul experienced this power because he said:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-4

This power is not just for spiritual giants like Paul. In the book of Romans we are told,

“... those who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God…. The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:14 & 16

This month I’ve been reading a devotional book written by Andrew Murray called Like Christ. I’m going to close this post with a quote about how the power of the Holy Spirit can work in our lives.

“O Christian, have a great reverence for the work of the Spirit who dwells within you. Believe in God’s power, which works in you through the Spirit, to conform you to Chrit’s life and image moment by moment. Be occupied with Jesus and His life, in the full assurance that the Holy Spirit knows, in deep quiet, to fulfill his office of communicating Jesus to you. That life is, simultaneously, your example and your strength. Remember that the fullness of the Spirit is yours in Jesus. It is a real gift which you accept and hold in faith, even when you do not feel its presence, and on which you count to work in you all that you need.”

You and I have the Holy Spirit — we don’t need any other superpower!

For more about the Holy Spirit see these posts:

The Holy Spirit and the Church

Who is the Holy Spirit?

Spiritual Gifts from the Holy Spirit

Is Union with Christ a Process?

This month I’m discussing our union with Christ, and I’m also studying this with a group at our church. It’s a concept that’s hard to grasp, at least for me. Today I asked my husband (a pastor), is union with Christ a process? According to him, the answer is yes and no.

In our baptism we are united with Christ in his death and resurrection. That is an accomplished fact. However, union with Christ doesn’t mean we are Christ. We still retain our individual traits and unfortunately, our individual sinful nature. That there is always a conflict — the new person who is “in Christ” and the old nature we inherited from Adam. As the Apostle Paul bemoaned:

“Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.  What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:22-25

Union with Christ cannot be separated from our sanctification, and that is a process. Some Christian denominations believe it is possible to reach complete sanctification during this earthly life. Most do not. Like Paul, we’ll struggle every day to overcome our sinful nature. However, as people who are “in Christ” the victory is already ours. We have already been released from the penalty of sin, and in time, in our glorified bodies, we’ll be released from the presence of sin. Until then, we rest in His power over sin. Amen. Lord, let it be so.

For more about sanctification see:

Trust God’s Process

Keep in Step with the Spirit

Deeper by Dane C. Orland — Book Review

How Do You Describe Your Faith?

Recently our weekday Bible study held the first class on the topic of union with Christ. We listened to a video lecture by Sinclair Ferguson, a Scottish theologian who is known in Reformed circles for his writing and teaching. He asked this question: How do you describe your faith? Most of us would answer by giving our denomination — Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, etc.– or maybe we would just say “Christian.”

In the early church, few believers would have responded this way. At that time Christian was a derogatory term. Instead, they might have called themselves “followers of the Way” or as Paul describes himself, “a man in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 12:2). Paul actually uses this phrase, or others similar to it (in the Lord, or in Him) more than 80 times in his letters. It’s obvious that being “in Christ” cannot be separated from the rest of Church doctrine — it is, in fact, the background of everything else Paul has to say.

We are in Christ, and Christ is in us. This is called the mystical union between Christ and every believer. Simply put, it’s a way of understanding and speaking about how we share in the life and death of Christ. All the spiritual blessings we receive are due to our union with Him.

For more about faith see:

Faith In God by Kevin McFadden –Book Review

What My Faith Means to Me

What is Faith? (according to Martin Luther)

More About Sin

In a previous post I shared a quote about sin from my devotional. Here’s another. The author is W. C. Gannett (1840-1923), a Unitarian minister:

“Yes, this sin which has sent me weary-hearted to bed and desperate in heart to morning work, that has made my plans miscarry until I am a coward, that cuts me off from prayer, that robs the sky of blueness and the earth of spring-time, and the air of freshness, and human faces of friendliness,–this blasting sin which perhaps has made my bed in hell for so long, –-this can be conquered. I do not say annihilated, but better than that, conquered, captured and transformed into a friend: so that I at last shall say, ‘My temptation has become my strength! for to the very fight with it I owe my force.'”

It reminds me of some of the things Paul tells us in his letters:

“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Sin can separate us from Christ, but it doesn’t have to! When we rely upon God to resist temptation, we become stronger, and closer to Him– and when we fail, we remember that we are clothed in His righteousness.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

The Good Old Days?

After reading chapters 6 & 7 of Ecclesiastes, this is what stood out for me:

“Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”  Ecclesiastes 7:10”

It seems that I hear many people my age bemoaning the present, and longing for the past.  Things were better then;  people were more courteous;  more people went to church;  children were not so spoiled, and so on. Some of these things may be true, but bad things are always going on (I talked about this in a previous post– Hoping for Something New?. It also depends upon your particular situation and perspective.  For example, somebody recently who is a bit older than I am said she grew up in the best of times — however, if you were a person of color during that era, you probably wouldn’t look back on those days so fondly.  Jim Crow laws, segregation, and discrimination were widespread.

God calls us to look forward, not back.  When He punished His Old Testament people by exiling them to Babylon, they were told by the prophet Jeremiah:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” Jeremiah 29:5-7


In other words, make the best of things in the place and time where God has placed you.  He has work for you to do. Stop complaining and concentrate on being a blessing to others.

In the New Testament Paul echoes the same sentiment:

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14

Yearning for the good old days is not helpful or God-pleasing.  It is not wise.  It is not even realistic!  Instead  look forward to the future God has prepared for you.




For more posts about the book of Ecclesiastes see:

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

Two Are Better Than One

Being a Biblical Christian

This is from the 2nd sermon my husband gave on having a biblical worldview.

Two things are important if we are to be biblical Christians.  First, we must understand and admit to the total sovereignty of God over His whole creation –including us.  Far to many people don’t do that.  I contend that one of the main reasons for our failure to admit God’s rule over our lives is our sinful desire to deny the truth of election  (see         –in other words, we want to believe we have some part to play in our salvation and having convinced ourselves of that, we then begin to think that if I’m in control of my salvation because I’ve made a decision for Christ, then I also have the right to determine which parts of Scripture I’m going to follow and what I can ignore or deny.

While few people express themselves that clearly, study after study has shown that is precisely how many who call themselves Christians think and act.  I want to turn our attention to the 12th chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  Romans 12:1-2

Paul doesn’t begin with an order to people, because he expects Christians to want to live their lives in a holy and acceptable way.  Luther says of this verse:

“For he who does it (presents his life this way) not willingly, solely as a result of admonition, he is no Christian.”

In other words, Paul is speaking here to believers and he is saying that he knows this is how you want to live — as a living sacrifice.  You do not do it out of some desire to appear good to the world, or to earn credit with God, you offer yourself as a sacrifice because God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall be saved.

The Apostle then shows us what it means in our day to day lives — we won’t conform to the world, but we will be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

To be continued …..

For more on sacrificial living see:

Living Sacrifice

What is a God Pleasing Sacrifice?

Be Transformed


Look Three Ways

Back in November, while visiting family in Myrtle Beach, my husband and I attended a small Presbyterian church.  The week we were there, one of their Elders gave a short temple talk about communion.  He made the very valid point that we most often understand the Lord’s Supper as a time to reflect upon our relationship with God.  After all, Jesus told his disciples:

“Do this in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24

It’s appropriate to look up as we drink the bread and wine, giving thanks to the one who made us and saved us.


He went on to explain that before partaking, it is also essential to look within ourselves.  The apostle Paul told the Corinthian church:

 “Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon himself.”  1 Corinthians 11:28-29

Lutherans also consider this a necessary part of the communion service.  At our church, the Pastor reads a pretty detailed explanation of “what we should believe and do.”  (see Examine Yourself). So, this Elder concluded we should “look both ways” during communion — up and in.

That’s right as far as it goes.  However, I believe we actually need to look three ways– up, in and around.  The Lord’s Supper is a community event, which binds us not only to God, but to one another.  In the same chapter of Corinthians already referenced, Paul reprimands the congregation because they are communing without regard for the needs of their fellow members.

“When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.  For in eating, one goes ahead with his own meal.  One goes hungry, another gets drunk.”  1 Corinthians 11:20-21

Paul makes it clear that this meal involves the entire body, an experience which promotes unity with God and with each other.  We are not to simply satisfy ourselves.

“So then my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another … so that when you come together it will not be for judgement.” 1 Corinthians 11:33-34

When you come together at the table, examine yourself.  Look all three ways — up, down and around. It’s the sign of the cross.

For more about communion see:

Clarity about Communion

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 1

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 2

God’s Victory Through the Sacrament of Communion, part 3






A Thorn in the Flesh

Do you have a thorn in the flesh?  I alluded to mine in a previous post — I have trouble sleeping.  When I don’t sleep well, I’m irritable, cranky, and find it hard to focus.  I often don’t accomplish all the tasks I had planned for the day.  My daily practices of exercise, devotional reading and journaling become chores.

The apostle, Paul, had a problem like this, too.  He describes it in 2 Corinthians 12:7:

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

We’re not sure what Paul’s illness or disability was, although some have suggested he had poor eyesight (he was described as squinting).  Whatever, it was, it bothered him, and he reports that he prayed a number of times for God to remove it, without avail.

I, too have prayed and tried every suggested remedy I can. I’ve read the books and followed the dos and don’ts.  I’ve tried herbal remedies and OTC sleep aids;  deep breathing and relaxation techniques.  Nothing works consistently.  My doctor’s conclusion is —  it’s simply age-related and something I’ll have to learn to live with.

According to Paul there are a couple of reasons God may allow us to suffer from such small annoyances.  The first was already mentioned in the verse above:

  • To keep us from becoming conceited

We are all too prone to take credit for our good works, becoming puffed up and vain.  The second reason is related and expressed in the verse that follows:

  • “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

In other words, we need to learn to depend upon God.  Whatever we accomplish is only possible through abiding in Christ.  He is the vine and we are the branches.  Any strength that we have comes from Him.  When we find ourselves in a position of weakness, we realize that.

So, give thanks for everything during this month of Thanksgiving, even your aches and pains and weaknesses.  God is at work, and you can lean on Him.

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9b-10