The Most Excellent Way

“And now I will show you the most excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:31 (NIV)

What is the most excellent way to live life? The New Living Translation describes it as “a way of life that is best of all.” Many are settling for the good life. But why settle for a good life, or even a better life, if you can have the best life of all? In his letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote to a conflicted church. Divisions and disagreements were disrupting their fellowship. Some were projecting a superior attitude as being more spiritual than others because of their spiritual gifts or unique roles in the church. It was obvious that they were missing the most excellent way. So, in the middle of his teaching regarding the gifts of the Spirit, Paul made a profound statement about a way of life that is best of all. It would trump the greatest gifts anyone had or could give, or the greatest service anyone may offer. It’s what they needed if they were to thrive, and what we need desperately today if we are to really come alive! Paul devotes the entire thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians to it. It is love – the kind of love that God has lavished on us through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. When you read this description of love, you understand why Paul called it the most excellent way. One commentator put it like this, “Great faith, acts of dedication or sacrifice, and miracle-working power have little effect without love. Love makes our actions and gifts useful. Although people have different gifts, love is available to everyone.” Study 1 Corinthians 13 today and ask God to fill you with His love so that you may experience a way of life that is best of all!

 

Overcoming Temptation, Part 3

“Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!” Psalm 119:5 (NLT)

Does this express your heart cry as well? “Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!” Now there’s a desire I can relate to in my walk with Christ. It’s the longing of my heart to consistently reflect God’s will and ways in all my actions; but, like the psalmist, I too often fall short. Temptations crowd into my life like unwelcomed intruders seeking to control my attitude and conform me to this world. The struggle within is fought in the battleground of my mind. Thankfully, the psalmist continues with helpful insight on how our actions can consistently reflect God’s decrees with power to overcome temptation. In verse 9 of this chapter, he asks and answers a common question when living in an immoral world. How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” If I’m to consistently reflect God’s ways, I must know and obey God’s Word. In verse 11 he says, I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” One translation uses the word “treasured” for hidden. When we treasure God’s Word and hide it in our hearts, we have a formable weapon against temptation. In fact, the New Testament refers to God’s Word as the Sword of the Spirit in the arsenal that God equips the Christian with in our conflict with Satan. (Ephesians 6:17) Jesus used the weapon of God’s Word against Satan in the temptations He faced. Three times, the tempter tried to lure Jesus into temptation by following his lead and, three times, Jesus responded, “It is written ….” (Matthew 4) What a model to follow in our struggles with sin and temptation. If your desire is for your actions to consistently reflect God’s decrees, you must know what those decrees are and treasure them in your heart. It’s the truth you know that sets you free! Don’t let the enemy keep you in the dark. The psalmist found victory through the power of God’s revealed Word. He says, Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalms 119:105 (NLT)

Overcoming Temptation-Part 2

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” Matthew 26:41 (NIV)

To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Anticipating that temptations would come, Jesus prepares us so we may overcome them – and not be overcome by them. Watch – keep a vigilant guard, stay alert to your surroundings. The normal state of affairs for the Christ follower is spiritual warfare, and Satan uses temptations as part of his arsenal of weapons against believers. He appeals to our selfish appetites and desires. The body wants what the body wants – and is often in conflict with the desires of the spirit. “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Watch where you’re going. Watch what you’re doing. Watch what you’re thinking so that you will not fall into temptation. Watching is the defensive position. There’s an offensive position that we’ve been given as well – the power of prayer. Prayer gives us full access to the throne of grace where we obtain mercy and find help in time of need! Here’s a great promise to claim in prayer when you see temptation coming at you.

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

Wow! We’ve been given direct access to the very throne of God through our High Priest, Jesus Christ, who understands exactly what we’re going through and is standing ready to help us when we call! In fact, your prayer is like a 911 call to heaven when you face temptation. I like the way the Amplified Bible describes the response time that Jesus promises in Hebrews 2:18,“For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].”

Overcoming Temptation

“When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13b

Temptation – we all deal with it, sometimes better than others if you’re like me. Temptations can leave you feeling battered and overwhelmed at times, even trapped. The good news is that you are not alone in the temptations you struggle with. Even Jesus faced temptations. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus “understands our weaknesses since He had the same temptations we do, though He never once gave way to them and sinned.” Because God clothed Himself with our humanity, He subjected Himself to the same trials and temptations that we face. He understands. He cares. And, He is able to deliver us through the temptations we face! Hebrews 2:18 says, “For since He Himself has now been through suffering and temptation, He knows what it is like when we suffer and are tempted, and He is wonderfully able to help us.” How does He help us overcome temptation? Our passage today gives us some practical insight:

* “The temptations you face in your life are no different from what others experience.” (You’re not alone, so don’t feel like you’ve been singled out. Others have resisted the same temptations, and so can you.)

* “God is faithful; He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand.” (Even when tempting you, Satan must have permission as to how much he may tempt you. See Job 1 and 2.)

* “When you are tempted, (God) will show you a way out so that you can endure.” (Look for the way out. Run for it!)

Learning

“Learn from Me.” Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

A disciple is a learner. We learn best by association. That was the classroom for Jesus’ disciples. They learned from Him through their association with Him. Their classroom was life. They observed how Jesus lived in relationship with His Father. He showed them how to live, how to pray, how to be men as God intended man to be. Seminars, conferences and bible study classes are wonderful, but the greatest truths you will learn will always be in your association with Christ. That’s why the first invitation in this passage is “Come to me …” in verse 28. When we come to Christ, we begin learning the unforced rhythms of grace. I love the way The Message paraphrases this passage:

“Walk with Me and work with Me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Jesus is more than a teacher. Oswald Chambers said, “If Jesus Christ is a Teacher only, then all He can do is to tantalize me by erecting a standard I cannot attain. What is the use of presenting me with an ideal I cannot possibly come near? I am happier without knowing it. … I must know Jesus Christ as Savior before His teaching has any meaning for me other than that of an ideal which leads to despair. But when I am born again of the Spirit of God, I know that Jesus Christ did not come to teach only: He came to make me what He teaches I should be.” Have you come to Jesus Christ like that? You’ll never learn from Him how to live freely and lightly until you do.