August 8, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 9)

Submitted by Kaitlyn L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

In v. 19, Apostle Paul not only reemphasizes the fact that he is free but also talks about his efforts to make himself a servant.  How did these two seemingly mutually exclusive ideas co-exist in Apostle Paul’s—and in every believer’s—life?

Every Christian is both free from all men and also a servant of all men.  We are free in the sense that we are not under the control or dominion of any person, our worth and security does not come from the approval or acknowledgment of men, our value is not based on what others think of us or our usefulness.  Our identity is completely secure as God’s beloved children and we have the noblest calling as Christ’s ambassador.  But we are also a servant to all because the fact that we possess the saving knowledge of the gospel in the context of a world full of people who never heard of the gospel or were never persuaded of its relevance in their lives, means we have an obligation to the people around us to share this gospel with them.  The fact that others have sacrificed so that the gospel could come into our lives, the fact that we didn’t do anything to deserve it, means we have an obligation to pass this gospel onto others in the same way.  So as a Christian, we are not bound to others out of a sense of insecurity or dependency, because we want to get something from them or we need something from them, but we are bound to others because the message of the gospel that has come to us need to flow through us, and we see each person as someone that God has entrusted to us to share the gospel with.

Think about the difficulties of adjusting to others.  Why did Apostle Paul do it?  How much is evangelism central to my life as was the case for Apostle Paul?

Adjusting to others is difficult.  Even in my closest relationships, with my spouse, with my close friends, with my child, I find it difficult to adjust to them, accommodate them.  And honestly it can be challenging and at times difficult to build relationship with others and really care for them.  But Apostle Paul became all things to all men, not because he was a gregarious person who liked to socialize, not because these people could offer anything to him, not even because they were particularly lovable/likable people, but because he had a galvanizing conviction that these people need to hear the gospel. He felt a deep sense of obligation and responsibility, as someone entrusted with bringing them the gospel.

There are moments in my life when this sense of entrustment and my personal responsibility to non-believers is very clear (when I’m taking the time to fully process how God is speaking to me through DT and events in my life).  But there are other times when even in the midst of engaging in ministry, I become more focused on tasks and my heart gets crowded out so that I have little room for people.

I need to recognize this task-oriented mentality and smallness of my heart. I need to keep praying for eyes to see people as part of either the procession of life or procession of death. I need to keep asking God for a heart that is genuinely broken over people who are being tormented by sin.  As I have many opportunities to be Christ’s ambassador, I need to not be satisfied merely doing the tasks I’m assigned but to rather ask God to cultivate my sense of being entrusted with the gospel and to deepen my sense of obligation to others.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

What does it mean to “discipline my body and keep it under control?”  Why is this absolutely necessary in Christian life and is there evidence of this in my life?

To discipline my body and keep it under control means to have control over my body rather than being controlled by my fleshly desires for comfort, ease, etc.  The fact that this requires “discipline” and not just one time decision means that it is a habit, a way of life that I need to adopt and keep working on.

This is absolutely necessary in Christian life because Christian life is hard: to resist the old sins, fight against old strongholds/habits that I picked up before I was Christian. It’s not easy to stand my ground against the voices of the world that tells me to look out for myself, that preaches a “normal” way of life, that suggests all kind of fears/anxieties. It’s tough to push through my laziness, self-preservation, awkwardness, fear of rejection, etc. to connect with and love another person.  The only way to do these hard things is to take steps of obedience even though my natural self would rather choose the easier, more passive path.  Therefore I need to keep pushing myself to develop a disciplined way of life to live out this life that Christ called me to live.

Though I still have a huge way to go, I do see evidence of this in my life. I resist temptations to seek trivial escapes and distractions. I push my body to keep up my spiritual disciplines so I can be nourished by the Word of God, to physically serve, to cook, clean, pack bins. I push myself to not give into my fatigue at the end of a day, to muster up energy to be pleasant, to engage in conversation, to be interested in someone else instead of being passive. I push myself to be generous with my resources and energy instead of giving into my fear and selfishness. I push myself to take risks with people, to approach a stranger to engage in conversation, to bring up spiritual topics, to talk honestly about conflicts in my relationships. I push against my pride to ask questions and admit it when I don’t know something, to admit mistakes, to confess some embarrassing/shameful sins, to share honestly, to try something new/difficult and risk failure and looking foolish.  It’s still a struggle but I see that as I obeyed in small steps God has been faithful and He has given me growth in these areas.

In what ways is Christian life similar to a race? What wrong view of “grace” and Christian life does this challenge?

Christian life is similar to a race in that it’s hard; we have to push ourselves and push through fatigue, discomfort, difficulty.  It is like a race in that it requires a singular focus – you can’t run a race casually while trying to do other things.  So in Christian life you can’t try to live out what God’s called you to while trying to be all sorts of other things.   Christian life is like a race where time is ticking–life is short, death is certain.  We are racing against time in this short life we have to live all out for God. Christian life is like a race in that it’s ending well that matters. Often we start out so gung-ho but as life becomes more complicated and we hit some bumps along the way: our sins and failures, things get exposed about our character, life/ministry doesn’t turn out as we expect, we grow complacent, we lose our spiritual fervor. As a result, some Christians seem to drop out of the race.  And so it is how we finish that really matters.

This is so different from a wrong view of “grace” where people think that once we are saved, that’s the end, God is happy that we are Christians and we just coast along.  This is incorrect because God seeks to sanctify us in this life and to make us as Christ-like. God seeks to use us to advance his kingdom which requires hard work.

In what ways do the people of this world run aimlessly?

There are people in this world who run aimlessly in obvious ways—not having have a goal in life, going from one fad to another, chasing after one gadget after another, etc.  Then there are also others who on the surface don’t seem so aimless. They are ambitious people who are pursuing their dreams zealously, whether it’s dreams of careers, wealth, success, marriage, or romance.  But even then, many of them, realize later that their goals are disappointing and elusive.  Ultimately what people they sought after did not bring them meaning and happiness, and they become disillusioned. As the Bible warns, we are not going to find any purpose this fallen world apart from God.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for reminding me again of my identity as free from all and servant to all.  I confess there are many ways that I am not free and I still look to people for my worth and security.  Please help me to return again to the truth that I am a completely wretched sinner before you, freely and completely saved by grace and undeservingly been given my calling.  Please help me to root myself in the gospel again so that I would not look to people and look to myself to try to be more than who I am.  Please also help me to really own this identity as servant to all, to remember why I do what I do, because of the preciousness of the gospel and the great need of those who don’t know you.

Thank you also for the reminder of the race that I am in, that I have a singular goal of reaching Christ and finishing well.  Help me not to be distracted, to become fuzzy about what this life is about. Please refresh and help me to focus my life so that I would run with perseverance, self-discipline, and with joy.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Andrew I. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 9:19-23

  • In v. 19, Apostle Paul not only reemphasizes the fact that he is free but also talks about his efforts to make himself a servant.  How did these two seemingly mutually exclusive ideas co-exist in Apostle Paul’s—and in every believer’s—life?

Apostle Paul was confident in his freedom in Christ, yet he restricted this freedom and limited what he did so that others wouldn’t be stumbled and that they may be won over to the Gospel. The very identity of a servant is that his life was to be “restricted” in the service of his master. He didn’t do anything unless it is for his master’s best interest. Apostle Paul conducted his life in this way throughout his ministry in the early church. He “restricted” himself to the best interest of others around him. He was always aware of how others would respond to the actions he was free to choose from. If any of his actions hindered their spiritual growth or the work of the Gospel in their lives, he abstained from them. In 1 Corinthians 8, he spoke about one way that he makes himself a “servant” to others is by restricting what he is willing to eat. He won’t eat meat sacrificed to idols, even though his conscience would be clear if he did so, because he knew that some “weak” brothers may be stumbled by it. As believers, we should use this same principle as we conduct ourselves among non-believers in the “gray” areas of life. There are some things in this world that are not morally wrong and that we could consider to be within our freedom to be able to do. Yet, if a non-Christian or even a Christian saw us participating in it and it would cause someone to stumble, to think less of God and Christianity, or hinder the work of the Gospel in some way, then we as believers should not do them.

Think about the difficulties of adjusting to others.  Why did Apostle Paul do it?  How much is evangelism central to my life as was the case for Apostle Paul?

Adjusting to the lives of those around Apostle Paul must have been difficult for him because for starters he needed to be keenly aware of those around him in order to be able to adjust his life to them. He would constantly need to find out about their background, their spiritual maturity, what they valued/considered important, etc. and then adjust his life accordingly. It takes work to find out and remember these sorts of things. Secondly, there must have been so many different people around him with different things he needed to adjust to (e.g. “Jews”, “those under the law”, “those outside the law”, “weak”) and it would have been challenging to make sure that he conducted his life in a way that is winsome to all people.

Apostle Paul was willing to endure all of these “for the sake of the gospel” and so that others maybe we won over to Christ. The price that he had to pay was nothing compared to the treasure of someone’s salvation. He was willing to endure all of this and become a servant to all people because he wanted others to share in the blessing of the Gospel and be saved. He says, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” He is willing to do all of this so that some of the people he interacted with around him might be saved. He knew that not everyone would respond and be saved, but for that “some” that might respond, he was willing to do all of this.

Apostle Paul conducted his entire life as a means to evangelize to others. Early on in my Christian life, I used to believe that “evangelism” was like some task or event that I did. It wasn’t something that was central in my life. I thought that evangelism was limited to doing things like going to the campus to meet students, flyering to people to invite them to our meetings, teaching them Course 101, having spiritual conversations with them, etc. And while these things are ways that I can evangelize to others around me, more and more I’ve come to learn over the years that my entire life is a means to evangelize to others. People that I am reaching out to and ministering to look at my entire life and see the life that I live as they consider the claims of Christianity. And as I hear different people’s testimonies and how they became Christians, it wasn’t just the presentation of the Gospel that caused them to accept Christ but it was also witnessing lives of people living out the truths of the Gospel that compelled people to take that step of faith. And so my entire life becomes a way that I can evangelize to others. And this makes things more challenging for me as it means that everything I do needs to convey values of the Bible, truths of the Gospel, and beliefs of Christianity. This means following the example of Apostle Paul and adjusting my life to those around me and “becoming all things to all men” so that they may be saved.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

What does it mean to “discipline my body and keep it under control?”  Why is this absolutely necessary in Christian life and is there evidence of this in my life?

To “discipline my body and keep it under control” means to not be a person who gives in to the desires of the flesh but to be master over it. Galatians 5:16-17 says, “the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit” and this is why I need to “discipline my body and keep it under control.” The natural desires and appetites of the flesh are sinful and so I cannot give into what my body desires. I need to master it and be in control. And one way, as Romans 6:13 says is by “[presenting myself] to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and [my] members to God as instruments for righteousness.” I cannot be passive about this issue or else I’ll end up giving into my sinful desires. I need to be proactive about this and present myself to God daily so that I can be his instrument of righteousness. One physical example is waking up early in the morning and keeping up the spiritual disciplines of daily devotion and prayer even though my body may want to sleep in after a long weekend or a previous late night. Another example is by being a person who reflects and thinks through things, digs at the root of different issues and sins. So much of me just wants to move on in life and not have to think or process different things because of what may potentially be revealed about me. Or I want to avoid the difficulty figuring out the “why” behind something I said, did, or thought in a particular situation. But I need to discipline myself and do the work of journaling, reflecting, confessing, and repenting as I see the different sin issues that are revealed. I cannot give into mental laziness. And one final area is in my emotions. Caring about and considering others’ needs has always been difficult for me. Because my natural instinct is to be selfish, self-centered and just think about myself. But I cannot give into these sinful emotions and I need to open my life up to others’ needs and love them. Becoming a person of love is hard, but this is what God has called me to do and so I need to discipline myself in this way.

In what ways is Christian life similar to a race? What wrong view of “grace” and Christian life does this challenge?

Christian life is similar to a race in that there is a start and a finish line and the journey between those two points can be difficult and challenging. It requires disciplining the body to finish the race because there is a prize/goal at the end. I recently ran a half-marathon with others at our church and it gave me perspective towards this analogy of Christian life to a race. You start off the race and at first things seem not too bad. The body doesn’t complain for the first couple of miles because things are simple and the same can be true of Christian life. Later on in the race, there are hills and uneven paths that make the journey hard and difficult and the body starts to complain because it wants to give up. But knowing that there is a finish line kept me going. There will be challenges in Christian life, in the area of personal sanctification and other difficulties and challenges that come up that may cause me to want to give up. But I can endure because I know what that there will be an end with heaven to look forward to. In addition, there were people that were cheering us on in the race that gave encouragement and energy during the race which brought to life the verse in Hebrews 12:1 about the great cloud of witnesses watching how I am running my race. Then there were water stations throughout the race that reenergized me so I could continue running. And similarly there will be times of encouragement in Christian life that help me to continue to live my Christian life. In these ways, Christian life is similar to running a race but one key difference is that we run the race of faith not for personal glory but for God’s glory. I want to live my life in a way that God will say to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The analogy of Christian life to a race corrects a wrong view of “grace” in that some may think that because of grace, we no longer have to do anything. God saved us from our sins by His grace and that’s it, we no longer have to do anything because we have salvation. But this is wrong. To partly analogize it to the race, “grace” is like having the entrance fee paid for by God and I no longer have to pay that cost and am allowed to enter the race for free. But just because the entrance fee has been paid for doesn’t mean that I can just do whatever during the race and just walk around, go in the wrong direction, rest for as long as I want, etc. Rather, it ought to compel me to want to run the race even harder because the price was paid for me. Someone sacrificed dearly so that I could enter the race and I ought to honor that gift by running the race hard and make that person proud. It would be wrong to interpret “grace” as a license to not do anything as a Christian. God’s grace does not give us an excuse to run aimlessly or in lazy manner, but in fact it compels us to run the race harder and to live a life that honors God and what He has done for us.

In what ways do the people of this world run aimlessly?

People in this world run aimlessly in life because they don’t consider the end in mind. They don’t want to think about death and answering the difficult question about what happens after death. It seems so illogical that people would live their lives without thinking about what happens at the end. It’s like trying to put the pieces of a puzzle together without knowing what the final picture looks like. But they do this because they want to live their lives as they please. Knowing the end would make demands on their lives that they live a certain way. But many people don’t want that restriction and so they end up living “aimlessly.” One way that people do this is by living according to their appetites and desires. Whatever their flesh desires, they go for it. They do whatever as long as it makes them feel good, regardless of the consequences. They don’t think about what could happen in the long-term if they continue indulging in these things. Some manifestations of this are various addictions to things like video gaming, smoking, internet suffering, watching T/movies, doing drugs, gambling, etc. Another way people “run aimlessly” is by pursuing things that they think will make them happy in the immediate future but not for any bigger, over-arching purpose. Once they attain that short-term goal, then they need to find something else to strive for. I think about the “Race of a Lifetime” skit and how that captures this tragic approach to life so well. People live out their lives in a similar way and they ends up living “aimless” lives.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please remind me that I live my Christian life as one running a race and that I ought to discipline my body and run in such a way that I may obtain the prize of Your glory at the end. I want to be able to live my life like Apostle Paul and to hear from You at the finish line, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I know that my body is sinful and that there is so much of me that rebels against how You want me to live. I pray that I may daily offer it up to You to purify so that you may use it as an instrument of righteousness in this world. One way that I want to be used by You in this world is to be able to share the message of the Gospel with others and win over others to Christ. Help me to live my life in a manner that exemplifies the truth of the Gospel message. I want to use my entire life as a means to evangelize and to show the impact the Gospel has had on my life and the redemptive work You have done in me. In Jesus Name, Amen

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