Becoming a Christian is one thing, but what does it look like to live as one? (Especially once you throw other people into the mix.) Paul paints a picture of unity among believers. There is the familiar list of vices to avoid and virtues to foster, but these behaviors are motivated and empowered by Christ and our response to His sacrificial love. Thankfulness, peace, and harmony - those sounds pretty good. Of course, my fantasy football team is still going to crush yours.
1. Does this vision of a unified Church seem realistic? Why does it fall apart in practice?
2. Do you feel like one of God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved? How might it affect your life if that truth would sink in a little more fully?
Challenge: Unity. Today is about unity. Make a special effort to focus on Christ’s love for you so you can seek peace with those around you today. (Even if they are still wrong.)
A good Jew works hard to follow the Law. This outward appearance of righteousness does not make you right with God, but it was a strong social pressure for Peter, Paul, and the other early Christians that grew up in the Jewish tradition. Peter (Cephas) caved to that pressure in this case, even though he understood he was only justified by faith in Christ. Eating kosher, or avoiding non-Jews didn’t get him anywhere. Paul, being Paul, called him out and tried to set things right.
1. Why do you think this was such an important issue for the early Church?
2. What do you think about events like this which show the struggles and failures of people in the early church? Is it encouraging? Discouraging?
Challenge: Consider your social circles. You may interact differently with certain groups, but are you living your beliefs consistently around everyone? See if you can identify an area where you’ve let yourself become trapped by social pressure, and let your freedom in Christ shine a little more.
We’ve heard it said many times that we are the body of Christ. We aren’t Jesus clones. Each person has their own strengths and role to fill. This passage underscores how important it is for people to respect each function within the body, and support each other as we serve as the hands and feet… and clavicle of Christ.
1. Are there specific roles within the Church that seem more or less important or glorified than others? Write down some examples.
2. Verse 31 connects the idea of striving to do great things for God with a caution in the next section to do so only in love. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3) Why is this so important?
Challenge: Consider your Spiritual gifts. Do you know what they are? Are you putting them to use? Take a step today toward actively using your gifts for the Church body.
The scriptures are full of commands from God. Do this. Don’t do that. So many details! While there is a lot of wisdom to be found among those details, sometimes we can lose the point along the way. It is refreshing to hear Jesus cut through the clutter with some clear priorities. Love God with everything you are, and love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing to it, right?
1. What does it look like to love God?
2. Does loving others feel like work at times? Where do you struggle with loving others?
Challenge: Our neighbors may be everyone on earth, but that is overwhelming. List some people around you who you can directly show love to. Pray over this list, and ask for God to show you ways to love these people this week.
God gave Moses the Ten Commandments during Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Scripture records these and many other rules. They help us understand how we relate to God, and how to treat people around us. In this passage, Paul simplifies all those interpersonal “Thou shalt nots” into one rule. A golden rule, perhaps, is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Because of our relationship with God and the salvation He provides, we can afford to be generous.
1. Do you think a guiding principle like the golden rule is useful or too vague to try to live by?
2. How do you feel about having a debt of love you can never fully repay?
Challenge: Write down a few things that you did for yourself today. Did you grab a coffee, clean up a mess, take a break, etc.? See if any of the items you wrote down would be appreciated by someone else, and give them a try.
As was discussed in the July sermon series, there are all kinds of reasons for churches to fight or split. We have differences in opinions because God made each of us unique and gave each of us a brain to use. He doesn’t ask us to all think alike when we are saved. He does however command us to love Him and love others. Since He commands this of everyone who follows Him, we should make conscious effort to reach out to other believers and work together to make a difference in the world.
1. Do you have relationships with other believers outside of Hillcrest?
2. If so, what could you do together that would make a difference in the world? If you don’t have any relationships with other believers outside of Hillcrest, how could you meet people and cultivate those relationships?
Challenge: With another believer, find a way to make a difference in someone else’s life.
Jesus died for all of us (regardless of religion) so we could have a relationship with Him. Because of our common belief in Him and his resurrection, we become one Body and should work together for the good of all. A body is made up of many parts and each has its own purpose. The same is true for the body of Christ. We all have talents and gifts and those should be used to benefit the kingdom.
1. What spiritual gifts/talents has He given you?
2. How could those be used to benefit the kingdom?
Challenge: If you are not presently utilizing your gifts at church, research how you could begin doing so. Talk to Pastor Doug, Pastor Brian, or one of the elders so you can begin making a difference in the kingdom.
Everyone has heard the saying, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But how many of us follow that? It is easy to gossip, complain, or criticize. Kind words will encourage or uplift an individual and, who knows, possibly be the light in their day. Let’s all try to be that light for someone today.
Challenge: Speak kindly to the individual you identified above.
In society today, as well as back in Jesus’s time, it is easy to become wrapped up in yourself and be selfish. In this passage, Jesus reminds us that like Him, we are all called to be servants. You can make a difference in at least one person’s life when you choose to be a servant without considering “what’s in it for me.”
Challenge: Pick one of the individuals or situations noted above and be a servant to them today.
For most of us, we could be considered among the richest individuals that walk the planet because we have a roof over our heads, cars to drive, jobs that pay the bills, food on the table, and clothing to wear. There are others in the world who have a daily struggle to meet just the basic needs of life. In this passage, we are called to help those brothers and sisters out. For some of us, this might be sacrificing that Starbucks or Caribou coffee, lunch at your favorite restaurant, or the latest movie at the theatre. Considering all that we have, is it too much to ask to sacrifice something like the above in order to help a brother or sister in Christ?
1. Where do you currently give today?
2. Is God calling you to give more? If so, where or for what?
Challenge: Take steps to begin giving in one of the areas you identified above.
This devotional is written every week by Hillcrest members.
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