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Paul’s guiding context: build up the church

March 11, 2024

Daily Scripture

Romans 14:17-20, 1 Corinthians 14:12, 26, Ephesians 1:22-23

Romans 14
17 God’s kingdom isn’t about eating food and drinking but about righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever serves Christ this way pleases God and gets human approval.
19 So let’s strive for the things that bring peace and the things that build each other up. 20 Don’t destroy what God has done because of food.

1 Corinthians 14
12 The same holds true for you: since you are ambitious for spiritual gifts, use your ambition to try to work toward being the best at building up the church.

26 What is the outcome of this, brothers and sisters? When you meet together, each one has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. All these things must be done to build up the church.

Ephesians 1
22 God put everything under Christ’s feet and made him head of everything in the church, 23 which is his body. His body, the church, is the fullness of Christ, who fills everything in every way.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Serious Bible students know the truth of the saying, “A text without a context is a pretext.” This week we study some parts of Paul’s letters that perplex us, make us uncomfortable or seem out of harmony even with Paul’s own message in other places. We need to begin by understanding the larger context of Paul’s ministry and letters. Paul’s driving passion, reflected in today’s readings, was to establish and build up the very young Christian church he was committed to spreading throughout the Roman Empire.

  • We rarely argue about holy days or food’s “holiness.” It may feel easy to live out Romans 14:17. But we DO differ, often strongly, about many other topics! Paul said, “Don’t destroy what God has done because of food [or any other secondary subject].” Most of Paul’s “perplexing” passages, we find, urged people to avoid damaging the church in some particular circumstance. Did that, like including a woman taken in adultery or a thief on a cross, weaken or strengthen the church?
  • Perplexing passages lead some readers to just give up on the Bible, even on God’s kingdom. But the full context of any confusing passage is the Bible’s big story about God’s mission to restore our broken world to God’s wholeness by self-giving love. “The reformers recognized that some scriptures were confusing or raised legitimate questions. These scriptures were to be interpreted in the light of the clearer texts.” * How can you not let the puzzles obscure the clear good news?

Lord God, only you are wise enough to judge each person’s mind and heart. Help me release the urge to judge others, and instead to seek to show all people your peace and love. Amen.

GPS Insights

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood

Mindy LaHood serves as a Worship Experience Specialist at The Church of the Resurrection. She loves all things related to worship and enjoys working with our talented team of staff and volunteers. One of her favorite things to read about and study are stained glass windows, and she considers herself very blessed to work and worship in a place with such a magnificent window.

2024 is the year I reach the age of 50, and just saying it out loud brings a sense of apprehension. As the new year began, I made a deliberate decision to turn 2024 into a year of accomplishment, embracing new experiences, prioritizing health, and deepening my faith. While these aspirations are commendable in themselves, I soon realized the importance of choosing a specific focus to achieve these goals. I settled on the word “FREEDOM” as my guiding theme for the year, asking God to uncover any areas in my life, even ones I may be oblivious to, that hinder true freedom in Christ.

Two months into this journey, I’ve come to appreciate that the pursuit of freedom is not a one-year endeavor. Rather, it’s an ongoing process that extends beyond arbitrary timelines. Despite the extended duration, I find peace in the valuable self-discoveries and the profound insights into God’s purpose for me during this time.

Often, we fall into the trap of believing that overcoming a specific sin or achieving a personal goal will grant us freedom. We set milestones like eating better, exercising, budgeting, or excelling at work, anticipating that freedom will follow. However, this mindset puts us in a perpetual cycle of always striving for freedom without truly experiencing freedom. What I’m realizing is that the freedom offered through Christ is not contingent on achieving these milestones. It is accessible in the midst of my struggles, thanks to Christ’s sacrifice.

In Galatians 5:1, Paul reminds us, “Christ has set us free for freedom. Therefore, stand firm and don’t submit to the bondage of slavery again.” The problem with thinking I can achieve freedom by overcoming a sin or accomplishing something big puts me at the center instead of Christ. Relying on personal achievements for freedom distorts my focus. True freedom is found in Christ, and redirecting my focus toward Him allows me to experience freedom in the midst of all that I’m working to overcome or achieve.

This shift in perspective doesn’t negate the importance of self-improvement or goal-setting. Instead, it underscores the notion that these endeavors should glorify Christ, not merely serve as a means to experience freedom. By acknowledging Christ’s grace, love, and sacrifice, I realize that I am already free.

Yet, breaking free from bondage can be scary. The comfort of familiarity often makes pursuing freedom in Christ feel risky. Living freely in Him demands sacrifice and a redirection of our hearts, a process not as easy as it sounds.

We are studying the hard and perplexing passages of Paul. One I struggled with when I was younger is Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die gain.” I now grasp the essence of Paul’s passion. Living is about embracing the freedom Christ has given us and using our lives to glorify Him daily. Death, in Paul’s view, signifies gaining eternal life with the One who secured our freedom on the cross.

My journey to identify and break free from areas of captivity is still new and ongoing. It’s not always smooth or enjoyable, but I am convinced of its worthiness. My prayer is not only for God to reveal these areas but also to instill within me a passion for Christ and His Church, mirroring Paul’s sentiment, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die gain.”

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Adam Hamilton, Making Sense of the Bible: Rediscovering the Power of Scripture Today (pp. 295-296). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.