The Christian life involves both freedom and discipline. In 1 Corinthians Paul’s priorities were to live his life according to God's truth and love, along with bringing other people into an encounter and relationship with Jesus Christ.
In the book of Corinthians, Paul provides several important principles for ministry and service.
1)Find common ground with those you connect with2) Avoid a know-it-all attitude3) Make others feel accepted4) Be sensitive to the needs and concerns of others5) Treat others in an attitude - bearing Christ's love6) Relationship with Christ is intertwined with relationships in the body in how we ought to treat others from a Christ centered attitude7) Be courageous to stand in God's truth8) God's love is our guiding principle in our relationships9) Share what Christ has done in our own lives
These principles are just as valid for us today as they were for Paul. Paul modeled this new way of life in bearing witness to the power of Christ to be the change agent who radically called him and who radically calls us to living according to godly principles instead of selfish ones.
1 Corinthians 9:24 "Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So, I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others, I myself might be disqualified."
Paul uses 'running a race' and athleticism to illustrate the Christian life takes hard work, self-denial, and sometimes grueling preparation.
Christians are likened to training as athletes train: setting goals, pursuing these goals, practicing daily, staying on course, enduring pain, suffering, hardship and continuing to train in spite of difficulties, setbacks, discouragement, disappointment or weakness, etc.
The Christian of necessity practices the essential disciplines of their faith; Bible study, worship, and prayer (individually and corporately) as this help to equip us to run this spiritual race with vigor and stamina.
The disciplines are not what give us life, it is Christ life in us whose life sustains us, who energizes His Spirit in us and who calls us to this higher standard. Christ is our divine nature where we begin to learn it is, He whose love changes our inner attitudes according to godly values, mores, and conduct.
To train in this new way of being as a Christian we must enter diligently, to nurture our relationship with Christ, as preeminent and above any other relationship. Our spiritual progress depends on guarding, protecting, and cultivating our personal intimate fellowship with Christ as the core of our entire being and as our main focus each day.
Whom we are becoming flows outwardly - as a result- as a by-product - of abiding in deeply interconnecting, communing, daily and throughout the day in the life of Christ as our life - allowing His life to pass through us - manifesting His righteousness in our everyday world.
When we have as our primary goal in life to please God, self-denial is an automatic desire that results from this God-consciousness being developed in us. We find this letting go process enhances His Spirit in us and we discover learning this art of daily surrendering - all we are not - bit by bit, little by little - to the Holy One becomes our passion!
When Paul writes he might be disqualified in this race, he did not mean he would lose his salvation. The intent of his writing was that he could lose the high honor and privilege of telling others about Christ if he misapplied God's truth and love in his lifestyle.
Paul was trying to convey to the Corinthian body of believers and this is a relevant message for us to hear today, it is really easy to tell others how to live (or to be tempted to be prescriptive with another) and then not take our own advice.
We must be careful to practice what we preach, doing what we say and following through with what we promise.
We choose each day how we respond to others. We choose each day whether to step into God's grace in our relationships or whether we react from our flesh tendencies.
We choose each day whether we say 'YES' to Christ or ‘Yes’ to the world's way of relating.
We choose each day whether we are picking up the cross of Christ and filtering everything we see, hear and do in Holy Spirit discernment, or whether we are serving other voices.
In professing Christ as the One we adhere to in following holiness, compassion, caring, and truly loving as our lifestyle flows results in His life becoming our sole source of life.
We must learn to say 'NO' to our own flesh wanting and in this we deny selfish goals, we set aside self-serving ambitions and we bring all our failings, all our weaknesses and all our human faults to the cross each day; submitting, yielding, and surrendering them to the Holy Christ.
This, friends, is the hard work and willing determination we put into practice each day if we profess to be Christians. This is our high calling to honor, to represent and to model Christ in all we think, do and say.
For out of our heart flow Christ’s righteousness, peace and joy, even in the midst of heartache, agony and the suffering we face in this world.
It is when we enter into embracing suffering by God's grace, we discover Christ is all power, Christ is all wisdom, and that Christ is our supplied life!
Spiritual maturity comes with hardships, difficulties, uncertainties and the unknown, but in this flux of walking out our faith in the midst of real-life suffering, Christ becomes our sufficiency of all we require, need and could possibly hope for in this world.
We will never be perfect while living on this earth, but we aim towards the high goal of running this race by the empowerment Christ has infused in us, who has provided and fully equipped us with all we need to live the Christian faith.
God chose to place His most loved, precious and holy son, Jesus, inside our human flawed vessels to bring glory to Himself.
Yes, we walk in the tattered frame of our humanity carrying the divinity of Christ within us - touching and igniting souls in His love.
Thankful God does not leave us to our own devices, for He continually changes, transforms and molds His holiness into our humanness - tenderly forming us into godly image bearers. We are learning that letting go of our resistant self become our necessary process in becoming seekers of Christ and Christ alone as our God!
This is where our hope for each day's tasks lie. It is in Christ and in Christ alone we become His kingdom bound people; choosing to 'run the race set' before us as our daily intention!