Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation (Psalm 42:5). Notice that this call to worship comes from David, to David. It is David confronting his own doubting, discouraged heart with the truth of who God is.
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:11). How much do your worldly friends really love you? Movie or music stars you look up to? The employer who wants you to devote your life to climbing the corporate ladder? The cars, gadgets, carpet, or designer outfits you spend so much time dreaming about or delighting in?
My beloved, flee from idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). Idols have a way of disappointing those who trust them. Because only God is God, everyone and anything that we put before God will fail us. Nothing and no one is as strong and faithful and good as God.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:4). There is a theological point to make from this verse, because Paul is thanking God for his grace to believers. As he does continually in his letters, Paul is reminding the saints at Corinth that their faith, and their faithfulness, is by God’s grace and through Jesus Christ. Yet there is also a personal point not to be missed in this passage:
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered (Luke 2:1). What powerful truth and what precious comfort are contained in this familiar verse! Here we see that God’s purposes are perfectly and promptly completed. Did you think that kings, or presidents, or dictators make history? No! They are but instruments in the hand of the eternal and purposeful God. Hundreds of years before, God had spoken through the prophet Micah saying:
Although we often think and talk about God being good, loving — and even wrathful — the truth is that God is also supremely, perfectly, and always happy. One of the best modern equivalents for the idea of “blessedness” in the Greek language is “happy.”
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4). The great sin of the city of Babel is not tower-building, or unified labor toward a societal goal. The sin of Babel is the sin of seeking independence from God.
You became an example to all the believers … [because] the word of the Lord sounded forth from you (1 Thessalonians 1:7-8). What is the church of Jesus Christ supposed to look like? There are many different descriptions given in Scripture, and many different saints and congregations held up as examples to follow.
Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; make melody to our God on the lyre! (Psalm 147:7). In this season of Thanksgiving, it is helpful to consider what “thanksgiving” specifically is, in biblical terms. And in this verse we see at least three crucial elements to godly gratitude. First, thanksgiving above all involves communication with God.
Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). We have no idea how deeply damaging the unconfessed sin in our life is. But we also cannot imagine how powerful and wise God’s forgiveness and cleansing will be.
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle written to straighten out a church with a host of serious problems. Yet as such it is helpful and enlightening and inspiring to see how Paul the theologian addresses his deep, rich theology to specific, messy, practical issues as Paul the pastor.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28). What a sweeping, staggering claim this is! And yet Paul says we can know for certain that all the details of our lives are working together for our good, as believers in Jesus Christ. How do we know this?
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men (1 Corinthians 1:23-25).
Puritan pastor Richard Baxter took an old Latin phrase and popularized it in his day, in English. It is simple, but profound: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” Why was Baxter so concerned to see Christians publicly, charitably, doctrinally unified? Baxter, writing in 17th century England about the evil effects of division in the church, made this observation: