Self-Denial and Service – 5-27-22

Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?” 1 Corinthians 9:7 NKJV

RELATIONSHIP:

Do you already have a relationship with a powerful God who cares about your every need because He loves you? Did you know my God can communicate with you and protect you – He has a plan for you to prosper if you just submit to His will and let His plan play out in your life!!! God wants a relationship with you and has already made a plan for your life. He loves you so much He sent His son to this world, to die as a sacrifice for your sins and rise from death with victory over sin and the ability to have a personal relationship with you.

Do you want to know truth? Be able to discern lies? Know how to figure it all out in these confusing times and have peace? The Bible says Jesus is the truth. I have experienced it and it has changed my life. I was once a hot mess of sin, promiscuity, drug and alcohol use and so much more. But I was lost and when I could not find my way, or find a truth, I numbed it with bad choses. When I found Jesus, and truth – I found peace and deliverance from those things.

If you want a relationship with God without truth you will get the counterfeit, hypocritical Christianity that has kept some of you away for too long. You need truth and relationship. You need to be honest with yourself and God (including honest repentance) and God will reveal truth to you. It becomes the two way, interaction that your relationship with God is built on. This is why Jesus is called the truth, because he is our only way to the Father. 

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 NIV
Here is a prayer for you to pray:
Jesus, I believe you are the way, the truth, the life, and the only way to the Father. I believe you are the son of God, you came to Earth and lived. That you died on the cross as a sacrifice for my sins, and rose again so that I may be saved from my sins and be able to get to know you. I declare: Jesus, you are Lord!
Therefore, I confess that I am a sinner and I ask that you forgive me of my sins and come into my life. Help me to turn away from my sins and transform me into what you have lovingly created me to be. Help me through a real personal relationship grow and accept your will for my life – that I may live in your blessings. Please walk with me, and talk with me – I accept a relationship with you and with our Father God, through you. In the name of Jesus I pray ~ Amen

BIBLE READING:

Dear Heavenly Father – Please give us the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of who you are, who Jesus is, and who the Holy Spirit is. Open the eyes of our understanding, please, so we may know the hope of our calling and the vast sovereignty and power of the grace of the cross. Please do not let us miss out on what you want and need from us today. Lord, I pray that your word prepares us and not scares us! We forbid the works and influences of fear over your word and our sound mind. And please keep us and bless us and shine your face upon us and pour out grace over us and give us peace! Thank you! – In Jesus name we pray, Amen

Today’s reading is the Book of First Corinthians chapter 9 (embedded below for your convenience in the NKJV). 

A Pattern of Self-Denial

9 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the [a]seal of my apostleship in the Lord.

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no [b]right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along [c]a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?

Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?

Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.

15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel [d]of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

Serving All Men

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; 20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the [e]law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without [f]law toward God, but under [g]law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became [h]as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Striving for a Crown

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may [i]obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize [j]is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Corinthians 9:2 certification
  2. 1 Corinthians 9:4 authority
  3. 1 Corinthians 9:5 Lit. a sistera wife
  4. 1 Corinthians 9:18 NU omits of Christ
  5. 1 Corinthians 9:20 NU adds though not being myself under the law
  6. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU God’s law
  7. 1 Corinthians 9:21 NU Christ’s law
  8. 1 Corinthians 9:22 NU omits as
  9. 1 Corinthians 9:24 win
  10. 1 Corinthians 9:25 exercises self-control

MEMORY VERSE CHALLENGE:

John 20:31 “but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

STUDY/DEVOTIONAL:

With a more clear mind, and heart still saddened by the events in Texas – let us try to focus on the passage at hand: self-denial and service.  Paul writes in defense of his apostleship. Again we do not know what exactly he is responding to, if anything. And what is with a title like ‘Apostle’ anyway?

Yesterday’s reading about being careful of other’s conscience very smoothly leads to today’s reading if we did not separate things with chapters and verses. More than defending himself – what if Paul is writing using himself as an example of this love and care for other’s where they are in conscience and in their walk with Jesus?
But regardless of why Paul is writing it – we have layers and layers of things we can take away from this chapter.

1 Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.”

Establishing authority under Christ in a calling with a title is important both for man to understand as well as we know the spirit world is in an authority structure and they respond only to higher ranking authorities, by title. So, quite literally Paul is taking authority over any principalities and powers disrupting his church. (And how lovely, that in the middle of corrections, Paul calls then his fruit – they have been fruitful.)

My defense to those who examine me is this: Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles, the brothers of the Lord, and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working? Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?”

Here you see where this thought carried over from yesterday and is building on it. Paul’s hypothetical questions about rights to eat or not to eat, to marry or stay single which we understand because of yesterday’s discussion. Today he expands it to cover service to the Lord and if Paul is entitled to a day off.

But let’s look closer at verse 7. I do not believe anyone after Paul is called to be an apostle. The Bible literally says he is the last Apostle. But the Bible says we will be called to be pastors, missionaries, evangelists, prophets, teachers, deacons, so on and so forth… down to the general Christian population. Yes, the general Christian population is called to share the good news and to have signs and wonders follow them. So verse 7 is our hope and encouragement. Sometimes we look at our task and it seems too big for us and we wonder why God asked us to do it. Even witnessing and sharing Jesus is a big ask when we first learn of this calling. If we do not know how to yet, it can be scary.  
So here is our hope: No one goes to war on their own expense. – God asked you to do it he will provide the money, the provisions and the training!
Here is more hope: If you plant it, you get to eat of the fruit. In 1980 I dragged a school mate to church with me. Her whole family is saved and she is a beautiful godly woman. 42 years later, I am still eating of the fruit with a friendship which edifies me.
More hope: If you care for a flock you get milk. Each one of these represents God’s provision in meeting needs – but this last one shows God is often more than we need and he does exceedingly abundant – flocks do not just give milk, for drinking, butter and cheese. Flocks give fiber for clothing and meat for eating.
God takes good care of his children who answer the call. No matter how small or big the call is.

Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope.”

Paul points out this isn’t a new idea – Paul shows where in the scriptures he has pulled it from.  And it is another verse that is so strong in grace and hope: That we shall NOT be restrained in our calling. And sometimes we feel it, some sort of restraint. Often it is fear and demonic. Give no place to the devil. Partake rather in hope – God will not hold you back.
It seems funny for me to say, since for the first 3 years of returning to God I felt God say: “SHUT UP!” I felt God did not want me to pray down the fire, use the anointing burning within me, or speak out in testimony. And when I did, people could not hear me. Their responses to be were strange and proof they did not hear – and I have witnesses, friends who heard. However Jesus had a waiting period where he said it was not yet time. Paul had a few years alone with Jesus to learn and grow. I too have a time of God rebuilding my foundations and securing my walk. I was an ox eager to go tread out the grain and practiced in my pen. I thought I was restrained – but I wasn’t even out of my pen yet and over to the job sight. Once on the job – God does not restrain you.

11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?”

Sowing and reaping. It applies to the spirit, to the finances and to anything. I know many people who sow spiritual things to people and reap finances. Pastors, church administrators, and even laymen writing books and teaching classes which they charge for. I have been told often to charge for these studies. And that would be the only way God will move me from living miracle to miracle, to living in the overflow.
Jesus said, Freely you receive so freely give. And here Paul is showing he was due a payment by the principles of sowing and reaping, but he did not take one. He gives freely as Jesus said. Now, it is NOT wrong for pastors to be paid, or others. But for Paul and for me – our ministry is not our provider, God is.

12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? Nevertheless we have not used this right, but endure all things lest we hinder the gospel of Christ. 13 Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar? 14 Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel.”

This is interesting, and a fine line of understanding. Because verse 12 shows others did take payments. But for Paul it would hinder God’s work. Paul describes his work as holy and an offering – further saying he eats from it – meaning God provides. If you preach the gospel, you should live by it. Which certainly sounds like a pastor should not take a salary, but it is Biblical. So with this fine line as to when to take of the harvest and when not to. Honestly, I couldn’t ask you al to pay me for my studies – God pays me well with rich insights and epiphanies.

15 But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that it should be done so to me; for it would be better for me to die than that anyone should make my boasting void. 16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 For if I do this willingly, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have been entrusted with a stewardship. 18 What is my reward then? That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.”

Paul can boast – not meaning bragging or pride. Paul can have clear conscience that he gives without thought of restitution – preaches without tickling ears for a better gift offering. Paul can say he preaches because of his love for Christ and souls – not from duty to a calling. Paul’s eyes are on heaven and he strives to make God happy – only God.

19 For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more;”

Paul is literally preaching some of the core principles of Christianity straight from Jesus. First he reminds us to apply reaping and sowing to every area of our lives and that God provides enough and then some. Now we are onto Jesus’s lesson about humility and being a servant to all.

20 and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; 21 to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; 22 to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.”

I once heard a guy explain this as – you need to lie and fake it to be like others. No. I do not need to lie and tell someone who had an abortion that I also had one in order to reach her. BUT I can pull form my own life and similar feelings and when my son’s father and I discussed aborting our son. (Maybe that is a bad example because he did all the talking and all I said was no.) But I can relate to despair and grieving a future I planned and the inability to see how and if everything was going to be ok.  I can understand the lie and how women are vulnerable during that time and why they buy it.

24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.”

In high school I played sports. And long distance running was one of them. Coach would tell us what places he wanted us to finish in, in order for the team as a whole to win. So sometimes side by side with my own team mate, she needed a higher placing for her state standing and I was ok, and he wanted her to come in in front of me. So as soon as I saw the finish I kicked it in. Meaning I started sprinting with every last bit of effort. I figured she would too. But she didn’t. So I had to slow down, in order to let her place – for the good of the team and her state standing. I asked her why she did not kick it in and she said she didn’t have to. Paul is saying we have to kick it in. There is NO ONE going to let us place.
The truth is we do not all get participation prizes in this race. Now I am sure Paul already took first place. But I still intend to place! I can also strive for MVP. Who knows, maybe someday I will beat Paul’s time.

26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

Good stuff. I mean we all fall and slip up. I tell you all so we can learn together – but how does someone who is fallible remain un-hypocritical? Discipline, self-denial, and serving others in humility are goals we run for. None of us are perfect, and this is how we can become all things to all people.

How is today Friday already?! Glory to God!
Join us over the weekend for some weekend wisdom reading from Psalms, presented without discussion. And then we’ll come back to 1 Corinthians on Monday! Even though in the USA it is a holiday, we will still have a reading with discussion. God before holidays.

***

Thank you for reading in 2022 – a Year of Wisdom and Salvation
May the God of peace keep you and bless you. May you stay focused on Christ and covered in grace.
Maranatha ~ Come Lord Jesus!

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