Sunday, 28 September 2014

New Life, New Lifestyle 3 - 1 Cor 5:1 - 8 and 1 Cor 6:12 - 20 - Part 2

We have to ask are these lines of morality just about our sexual behaviour? Churches can seem so pre-occupied with sexual sins, do they become blind to other issues? Does God have different 'levels' of sin?

New Life, New Lifestyle 3 - 1 Cor 5:1 - 8 and 1 Cor 6:12 - 20 - Part 1

Any group standing for a cause will inevitably have to sanction one of their own if a member's behaviour contradicts that cause. The Corinthians had such a case, and an extreme one at that. The bottom line is that our behaviour matters - if we are no different to those around us then we show no obvious signs that we have been saved from anything, and we set no contrast to society.

[IN] Is God calling you to greater purity?

Challenge: Name one area of your life to 'live better' going forward

Friday, 19 September 2014

New Life, New Lifestyle 2 - 1 Cor 10:23 - 11:1

We all know the pressure to conform - people or things vying for our attention. The problem is of course that things done wrong leave us entangled, caught up, potentially in lifelong patterns that we cannot break. We end up like a puppet on a string.

The good news is that Jesus can set us free. Free to say no, free to be who we are truly intended to be. This freedom is a wonderful thing, theoretically it gives us the right to do anything, but as Paul says not everything is helpful - either to ourselves or those around us.

There are some things we obviously will want to steer clear of. Yet there might well be 'grey areas', or things that are more subtle. A mobile phone is good to use ... but do we end up letting our technology control our lives? Maybe some things we have to intentionally abstain from because they are an issue for someone we are with. That 'helpful to others' aspect can be more important than we might think.

So our freedom comes with responsibility, a choice to avoid things unhelpful, to be discerning of things that might affect us, and to deliberately self-limit for the good of others. In crude terms this all means setting ourselves 'rules', either individually or maybe as a family or group to help ourselves live better together.

Such rules are not imposed from on high, but us limiting our own freedom to enable ourselves and others to thrive.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

New Life, New Lifestyle 1 - 1 Cor 5:9 - 13 and 2 Cor 5:1 - 10

There is a clear call in Paul's letters for Christians to live differently. That immediately triggers questions and tensions of how we do this while remaining in the fallen world around us.

The 2 Corinthians 5 passage sets the backdrop: we live in anticipation of our resurrected-at-home-with-the-Lord bodies, but meanwhile we must live out our lives in the current world. The resurrection is made possible by the work of Christ - God's action in our lives. As believers we have responded to God's love initiative, literally falling in love with Him which initiates a desire to please Him. So having been born into new life with God, we now pursue a new lifestyle.

This lifestyle sets an example for others, especially as we show natural concern for friends in their own situations. Yet we should not be surprised if genuine offers of help are not always welcome, since our example may simultaneously be leading our friends to realise the broken-ness of their own lives. Our lives are therefore a contrast to the world, shedding light on it rather than simply conforming. Whereas others hide, we can live 'real life' because in Christ we can face our own personal regrets, know forgiveness, and move forward.

This is not just an individual effort, but something we do in Christian community. This inevitably leads to questions of what ongoing behaviour is acceptable in that community - the 1 Corinthians 5 passage speaks into this. To follow Christ, to live differently, will doubtless mean giving some things up, not simply going with the flow of others. Not easy, but part of the demands of staying close to Christ.

In a culture where almost 'anything goes', the challenge is to be distinctive, and to do that in a way that is positive. Growing closer to Christ helps us understand who we really are, which enables us to be true to ourselves and God's desires for us rather than being pulled any which way. This is not about laws or rules but being free to live for Christ - that growing desire to please Him.

Hence this week the key question and challenge:
Key Qn: [UP] Are you living to please Him?
Key Challenge: Name one area of your life to 'live better' going forward

Yet note the 1 Corinthians passage makes clear that it is not for us to judge non-believers who embrace every and anything around. To be distinctive is not to be pointing the finger, nor simply isolating ourselves! Paul actually advocates a 2-standard system: one applied to non-believers, and then higher requirements within the Christian community.

We stand now, and will be raised some day with new bodies, because of Christ's work in us. How are we living up to that right now, and going forward?

[UP] Are you living to please Him?

Challenge: Name one area of your life to 'live better' going forward