“Whether Awake Or Asleep” (1 Thessalonians 4: 16 – 17, HCSB) by Carley Evans

“The Day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 2) We do not know the day or the time, just as we do not know when the thief comes to rob our home. We are able to prepare for the thief, but we can not read his mind; we can not determine the day or the hour he will arrive. So is the Day of the Lord.

“We who are alive at the Lord’s coming will certainly have no advantage over those who have fallen asleep.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 15) Both the dead and those who remain alive will be equally surprised, equally delighted.

For the dead will rise first, and those alive will join with “them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and so we will always be with the Lord.”

“Stay awake and be serious.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 7) “For God does not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who dies for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we live together with Him.” (1 Thessalonians 5: 9 – 10)

“Who Is To Condemn?” (Psalm 56: 4, HCSB) by Carley Evans

“What can man do to me?” asks the psalmist. “If God is for [me], who can be against [me]? He who does not spare His own Son but gives Him up for us all, how does He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8: 31 – 33, ESV)

“I do not fear.” I do not fear because I praise the Word of God. I do not fear because I trust God. (Psalm 56: 4) I do not fear because I am of the elect, those whose names are written from eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

And “[God Himself] records my wanderings. Puts my tears in [His] bottle. Are they not in [His] records?” (Psalm 56: 8, HCSB) “[He] delivers me from death, even my feet from stumbling, to walk before [Him] in the light of life.” (Psalm 56: 13, HCSB)

“He…graciously gives [me] all things.” (Romans 8: 32, ESV) Therefore, “what can man do to me?” (Psalm 56: 4) “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the One who dies — more than that, who is raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for [me],” for us. (Romans 8: 34, ESV)

“Alive To God” (Romans 6: 21, HCSB) by Carley Evans

What fruit? asks Paul. What sort of fruit did you produce “when you were slaves of sin?” (Romans 6: 20) You produced the fruit of death is his answer. “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6: 23) This fruit of sin and death is fruit of which you are now ashamed. And, “just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.” (Romans 6: 19) After all, says Paul, “you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God” so that now “your fruit…results in sanctification — and the end is eternal life.” (Romans 6: 22)

So what fruit are you producing? Jesus says a tree is known by its fruit — a bad tree is incapable of producing good fruit.

I may misunderstand fruit trees, but I believe a good tree is capable of producing fruit which goes bad — fruit on a good tree does occasionally rot and fall to the ground unfit for eating. But as a good tree grows stronger and more rooted in its soil, its fruit is more and more often good for eating.

As Paul exhorts, give your “allegiance to righteousness.” (Romans 6: 20) “Walk in a new way of life. For if we are joined with [Christ] in the likeness of His death, we are certainly also in the likeness of His resurrection.” (Romans 6: 4 – 5) Therefore “consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6: 11)

“Become All Things To All People” (Romans 12: 15, HCSB) by Carley Evans

With those who are happy, be happy alongside them. With those who are sad, be sad alongside them. With those who are rejoicing, rejoice alongside them. With those who are praying, pray alongside them.

With those who persecute you, bless them — “bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12: 14) “Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.” (Romans 12: 21)

With those who have little, share what you have. Open your home; showing hospitality. “Love must be without hypocrisy.” (Romans 12: 9)

“Be fervent in spirit; serve the Lord.” (Romans 12: 11) With those who are lost, reach out to them. “For God has imprisoned all in disobedience, so that He may have mercy on all.” (Romans 11: 32)

“Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes.” (Romans 12: 17)

Paul sets the example, saying: “Although I am a free man and not anyone’s slave, I make myself a slave to everyone, in order to win more people… I become all things to all people, so that I may by every means possible save some.” (1 Corinthians 9: 19, 22)

“That We Might Be Saved” (John 3: 17, HCSB) by Carley Evans

“For God does not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

Jesus does not come to send people to Hell, but to rescue them from Hell. He says that He does not come to judge the world, but to save it. Jesus is not a taskmaster, but a friend — the ultimate friend who knows you inside and out, who knows your weaknesses and failures, even those you do not know yourself, those you hide from others, those you deny to Him.

Jesus tells you, “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.” (John 14: 1)
“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.” (John 14: 27)

“You do not choose Me, but I choose you.” (John 15: 16)

“Judged By The Law Of Freedom” (James 1: 19, HCSB) by Carley Evans

James writes that “every generous act” comes “down from the Father of lights.” (James 1: 17) God “by His own choice” gives generously — He “gives us a new birth.” (James 1: 18)

In this new birth, James tells us to “understand this: Everyone must be quick to hear [listen], slow to speak, and slow to anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.” (James 1: 19 – 20)

Since “every perfect gift” comes from God, we must “keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (James 1: 17; 2: 8) For we are each recipients of God’s graciousness and mercy. Not one of us deserves God’s forgiveness. Why should we be angry? Why should we allow the sun to go down on our anger? How can we not forgive one another? How can we not love one another? How can we not realize that “mercy triumphs over judgment?” (James 2: 13)

“Speak and act as those who are judged by the law of freedom For judgment is without mercy to the one who does not show mercy.” (James 2: 12 – 13)

“Outdo One Another” (Romans 12: 10, ESV) by Carley Evans

Love each other, says Paul. Love each other in the same way you love your siblings — with a brotherly or sisterly affection. “Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12: 14) “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.” (Romans 12: 17)

And, he writes: “Let love be genuine.”
And, “Hold fast to what is good.”

Holding fast to the good is such a map for happiness. If you see the good in the other, then you are able to bless the other even as he curses you. If you see the good in the moment, then you will not repay evil for evil. Instead you will do what is perceived as honorable to all. Such a paradox exists in the Christian walk. We walk by faith, hoping for that which is unseen. Our hope is that good will outdo evil, that perfection will triumph over imperfection, that God will be triumphant over the evil one.

And of course God is triumphant and good does overcome evil. Perfection does overwhelm imperfection, and holiness swallows sin.

Therefore, let your love be true. Hold fast to the good. “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

“Don’t Make Your Brother Stumble” (Romans 15: 2, HCSB) by Carley Evans

If your sister or brother is weak, then you — who may be stronger — must not please yourself. Instead, you must set aside your desire to please yourself and “bear the weaknesses of those without strength.” (Romans 15: 1) You are to “please [your] neighbor for his good to build him up.”
Essentially, Paul is reminding us that even if we have faith to do a particular act, if our sister in Christ finds that act questionable or sinful, we must set aside our own conviction for a greater obligation. That obligation is not to offend our weaker sister, but to please her. When we set aside our desire in order to please our neighbor, then we build up the body of Christ rather than tear it down. We please the Lord by submitting ourselves to one another. Paul says, “Do not tear down God’s work because” an act you find “clean” “makes your brother stumble.” (Romans 14: 20, 21)

Of course, whatever you do should come from conviction — conviction which Paul strongly suggests you keep between yourself and God. Paul only warns that “everything that is not from a conviction is sin.” (Romans 14: 23) Do not doubt; have faith. Know that what you approve emerges from firm and unwavering conviction. Nevertheless, do not destroy your brother or sister’s faith because you are unwilling to set aside your conviction that you are allowed to act in a certain way.

Do not promote your freedom in Christ in a way that destroys your sister in Christ.

“As Christ Loves Us” (Galatians 5: 13, HCSB) by Carley Evans

The opportunity for the flesh of which Paul writes is primarily our tendency to “bite and devour one another” and the inevitable consequence of being “consumed by one another.” (Galatains 5: 15) Indulging the sinful nature is the opposite of love, says Paul. “For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (Galatians 5: 14)

Bitter argument and rivalry are not of the Holy Spirit, but of the sinful nature — the flesh. “Since we [who are in Christ] live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5: 25 – 26)

Instead, love one another. “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousness but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13: 4 – 8)

Therefore, Paul reminds us not to use our freedom in Christ as an excuse to consume one another in jealousy, envy, rivalry, and conceit. Let us rejoice in our freedom, loving one another as Christ first loves us.

“Boast In The Lord” (1 Corinthians 1: 10, HCSB) by Carley Evans

Boast In God’s Power (1 Corinthians 1: 10, HCSB) by Carley Evans

Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “agree in what [they] say.” He calls them to be “united with the same understanding and the same conviction.” Here are two of the most common problems in the church body — disagreement and disharmony.

One person follows Paul; another follows Peter; another follows Apollos; one is Baptist, another is Methodist; another is Lutheran — each rivals of the other in a vain pursuit of human glory.

Paul asks the key question — “Was it Paul who was crucified for you?” (1 Corinthians 1: 12) Then, he reminds the Corinthian church and us that “God chooses what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God chooses what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God chooses what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence.” (1 Corinthians 1: 27 – 29)

Boasting leads to disunity and disharmony among brothers and sisters in Christ. “The one who boasts must boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1: 30) and not in a human church group or leader. Remember! Your denomination, your church leader was not crucified for you.

Paul goes so far as to say he deliberately comes to the Corinthians with less than brilliant speech and wisdom; instead he says, “I come to you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation demonstration by the Spirit, so that you faith may not be based on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2: 3 – 5)

And here is the key to harmony and unity — “faith based on… God’s power.”