Claiming to be friends with the Apostle Paul might be a bit of an exaggeration. But I’ve been reading so much of what he has written in my life that it seems like we’re friends, especially because so much of his instruction and advice seem to be aimed directly at me.
Today, I read part of one of his letters to the church at Corinth and was struck by some of his powerful words. They aren’t powerful in the sense that he described something new. They were powerful in helping me to realign myself with the values of Jesus and the Bible. He convicted and challenged me with what true freedom should look like for a Follower of Jesus. It was too good to keep to myself, so I’m sharing it here with you today.
A few notes:
I believe that if Paul were around today, he’d definitely be using social media like blogs. It would make sharing these words of wisdom much easier than all the hand copied scrolls.
I am thankful that through college and graduate school I have had training in Greek and Hebrew, the original languages much of the Bible was written in. Now, I am no expert or linguistic scholar. And I realize that most people who read this probably aren’t either. So when I spend time reading the Bible devotionally, I do what I recommend other people doing: I read passages from several translations. So, some of these quotes are being offered from multiple translations of the same passage. I do this because each communicates in a different way the point Paul was making. Remember, he wrote in everyday language, not some holy, lofty, academic vernacular that only the social elite could understand. It only makes sense then that we should also seek to read and understand his words in the clearest way possible for the average “man on the street” today too.
So, without further ado, here are some powerful words from my friend Paul on True Freedom.
We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.
Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.
Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, the defeated, the demoralized—whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ—but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it!
I’m flexible, adaptable, and able to do and be whatever is needed for all kinds of people so that in the end I can use every means at my disposal to offer them salvation. I do it all for the gospel and for the hope that I may participate with everyone who is blessed by the proclamation of the good news.
If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it.
“You’re standing there, all confident; then, from nowhere, “Duck!!!” – too late, you’re flat on your face. All these dark things that suck you in just prove you’re human. God’s not gone AWOL. He won’t let them turn up the magnetic force of temptation past your personal capacity. You’ll be getting drawn in, and he’ll make sure there’s a door within arm’s reach for you to step out of the pressure and keep your integrity. You’ve just got to use it!”
You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.
Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.
There’s a slogan often quoted on matters like this: “All things are permitted.” Yes, but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permitted,” they say. Yes, but not all things build up and strengthen others in the body. We should stop looking out for our own interests and instead focus on the people living and breathing around us.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.
Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first. In other words, adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. Remember: Though He was in the form of God, He chose not to cling to equality with God;
But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new; a servant in form and a man indeed. The very likeness of humanity, He humbled Himself, obedient to death—a merciless death on the cross!
Photo: Copyright All rights reserved by Skydive Madrid • http://www.flickr.com/photos/81554027@N08/7920015296/in/pool-10101457@N00/