Series: 1 Corinthians
Five Closing Commands (1 Corinthians Sermon 68)
February 07, 2021 | Andrew Davis
1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Brotherly Love, Walk by Faith, Boldness & Courage
So I ask that you turn in your Bibles to the text you just heard, read by Andy, 1 Corinthians 16. We look at five closing commands. Right now, I'm listening to an audiobook, a biography of General Ulysses S. Grant, the Union General. I love listening to audiobooks. I love biographies, and this one's on General Grant. And one of the author's themes is what made him such a great general, was his ability to give sharp, clear, decisive commands that brought order out of chaos. Especially in the heat of battle, Grant was an amazingly cool commander, he was clear-headed in the malestream of wheezing bullets and exploding shells and screaming men and the undulating frenzied action of a battle, he was clear-minded at times like that. He was able to size up the need of the moment and of the position and give decisive commands that would position his army for victory. He could do this again and again.
For example, at the Battle of Shiloh, after General Grant's Army was caught by surprise and they were running, basically pell-mell, from the battlefield, Grant arrived just in time and rode all over the battlefield, assessing the need of the hour, and gave critical commands to bring order out of chaos. He did the same thing when he arrived in a different circumstance, at Chattanooga. Where the army of the Cumberland, the Union Army, was surrounded with the Confederate Army on the heights and they were being starved to death, there was no food supply.
And Grant arrived, evaluated the situation, immediately sat down at a rudimentary table, a little desk there. And started writing orders on pieces of paper and letting them fall to the ground, pell-mell and just would write more commands and they'd fall to the ground, and more commands. And when he needed something from another table, he wouldn't stand up, he would just move over in the same seated crouch and get the stuff from the other table and go back and continue to write. And when he was done, the floor was covered with these commands. He got done, he collected them, read them over, arranged them, and handed them each to the appropriate person.
Laser-focused, and the ability to give clear commands that brought order out of chaos. All the great commanders have been able to do this. Napoleon was known for this, he was keeping four secretaries going at once, just the ability to give sharp, decisive, even detailed commands. But none of these men can come close to the clarity of the Holy Spirit. Operating through the Apostle Paul, to give clear commands to God's people that are trans-cultural, that lasts in every generation all over the world, bringing order out of chaos, for us. The commands of God, these five, short, clear, sharp commands to every generation of Christian.
Look at them again, Verse 13-14, "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong and let all that you do be done in love." So these commands somewhat sum up what Paul wants to say to this dysfunctional, messed up Corinthian church. And I feel like with so many sermons I preach here in Corinthians. I think we've earned the right to say that, this was a dysfunctional messed-up church, not trying to be insulted and not trying to say we're any better, I hope we're better.
But it was dysfunctional and messed up, as we've seen across these chapters, it was written with factions and divisions. It was immature, worldly, and carnal, acting like babies, spiritually. They were yearning for the approval of the world in very inappropriate ways, they were rife with sexual immorality and even of a kind that doesn't occur among pagans. And they were unwilling to perform church discipline in those cases. They struggled with temple prostitution or dealing with going to temple prostitutes. Christians were taking other Christians to court. Because those Christians had defrauded them in business. Terrible, all around. They had improper views of marriage and of singleness. They had problems with meat sacrificed to idols at every level. They had problems with the Lord's Supper. Even the Lord's supper.
They had problems with spiritual gifts, they gave primacy to certain gifts and denigrated others, and they had a fundamental problem loving each other, they didn't love each other as they should have. Some were even saying that resurrection from the dead cannot occur, does not occur. And in all of this, they were forgetting the two reasons why God leaves all Christians on earth. The internal journey of holiness and the external journey of witnessing to a lost world, they weren't doing those things as they should have done. What a terrible mess.
That's why I call them a dysfunctional church, and yet, I think in a very wholesome way, I'm glad that they were dysfunctional. And that God the Holy Spirit addressed their dysfunctionality in a timeless way through 1 Corinthians. And it's gonna take a second epistle, 2 Corinthians, to continue to address the problems in this church.
As Paul the apostle, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit addresses these problems, he gives these five sharp clear commands, and we're gonna study them, each one of them in time. "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong and let all that you do be done in love." Let's take them one at a time.
First, be watchful. This is a call to be vigilant in the Christian life. It implies danger, even a danger that comes unawares or perhaps by stealth. It implies danger but implies other things that call for watchfulness as well. It implies waiting, persevering, and waiting. Watchfulness. The contrast, perhaps, could be sleepiness or slumber. So, a century standing watch throughout the night, during wartime, can be executed for falling asleep at his post.
Why is that? Because really, the fate of the whole army is in the hands of the centuries at night, the soldiers are vulnerable, they can be killed in their beds by an enemy that comes up by stealth, and so the centuries have to stay awake through the night, vital. So, spiritual drowsiness is a severe problem in the Christian life. A kind of fog, a spiritual fog can fill our minds and cause us to underestimate the circumstances that we're in, spiritually, and even physically. We don't really see what's happening, the circumstances right around us or in our age. A fog can come in and we can get sleepy or drowsy. And I see that I see it in my own life many times. And I see that in Christians in this church and in our time, a spiritual drowsiness that underestimates the dangers of the day.
The worldliness, the encroaching worldliness that I see more and more happening in the church, in our generation, in American Christianity. It has the effect of dulling our senses, we become not sharp anymore. And hardening our hearts, and then we can gradually tolerate, become okay with things that the Bible screams out against. So there becomes a gap between the language of sharp warning in the Bible and the way we're living and thinking about those topics. We are sleepy, drowsy. So the Bible calls on us, not just here, but in many places, to being watchful and vigilant, not drowsy.
So what are we supposed to watch for? Well, watch for Satan and his demonic cohorts. 1Peter 5:8 says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour." A number of years ago, I went on my first mission trip, 1986, to Kenya, and we went out on safari and it was pretty exciting. We were out in those cool-looking Jeeps and out there, and... We saw some exciting things. Imagine going on safari, out in a lion country, maybe in Tanzania, not that place I was at, near Nairobi. But I mean further out, out into lion country.
And you're out there and you decide you wanna sleep under the stars, you're gonna take a ground cloth and you just love... You're just away from all the light pollution, and you just love how the stars look here in Africa. Do you realize what a fool you are? Do you understand that lions are nocturnal? Do you have a sense that they might be interested in you, putting it mildly?
Well, that's a picture of how some Christians are spiritual, they're not self-controlled and alert, they don't understand that their enemy, the devil, is prowling after them, looking for someone to devour. 600-pound beast, devour, that's the image. So Paul says we ought to be... Says, "Not unaware," but I'll just say, aware of Satan's schemes. He says that in 2Corinthians 2:11, we are... "In order that Satan might not outwit us, for we are not unaware of his schemes." Think of a scheme. It's an evil plot, an evil plan, there's an intelligence, a dark intelligence to it, a combination of things that led to your demise, to your sin, they're schemes. We need to be aware of it. So watch, in reference to Satan and his demons. Jesus said to his disciples, to watch and pray.
Do you remember how he was praying in Gethsemane? Jesus was pouring out his heart in prayer, getting ready to die for us. And then, Peter, James, and John were with him, and then the other disciples were a little further off. And in Matthew 26:41, he says, "Watch and pray so that you'll not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Satan's coming at you. He's speaking specifically to Peter who was about to go through the worst night of his life. Definitely the worst night of his life, and he was unprepared. He was not prayed up, he wasn't watching and praying.
What about you? Are you watching and praying? Or are you just assuming Satan's not gonna come after you? Paul said to Timothy, "Watch your life and your doctrine closely," 1Timothy 4:16. What does that mean? Watch your lifestyle. What habits are you in? What are your patterns? What are your habits? What are you doing now, consistently? There are good habits and bad habits, are you into some bad habits? Watch it. What's happening in your life? Watch it closely and watch your doctrine closely. Are you morphing, doctrinally, in a very bad way? Are you letting worldliness affect the way you see Christian doctrine? Watch your life and your doctrine closely.
Are you drifting away from Christ? That's another image. Hebrews 2:1 says, "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away." Is there a process of drifting going on in your life where you're further away from Jesus than you were... As he said to the church of Ephesus in Revelation, "You have forsaken your first love." Do you love Jesus a little less now than you did a year ago, or five years ago? Are you drifting away? Watch yourself.
And we're supposed to watch over one another too, we're supposed to watch each other. Not just, "Am I drifting away? But, "Is he or she drifting away?" my Christian brother or sister. We're called on to do that for each other. In Hebrews 3:12 and 13, it says, "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Sin is deceitful, sin is lying to you, and it's taking you where you don't wanna go.
And the remedy there, in those verses, are the brothers and sisters that watch over one another and speak into your lives. That's why you need to be a covenant member of a healthy church with people who care enough to talk to you when they see you drifting, and they see that sin is encroaching and it's hardening your heart. You're less soft and responsive to Jesus than you used to be because sin has been lying to you, and there's that hardening process going on. Watch. We will watch over one another in brotherly love.
And then, ultimately and finally, we're supposed to watch for the second coming of Christ, we're supposed to be looking ahead to Jesus coming. There's a watchfulness in the Christian life, forward-looking. And Jesus said very plainly in Mark 13:33-37, he said, "Be on guard, be alert. You do not know when that time will come. It's like a man going away, he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with his assigned task. And he tells the one at the door to keep watch, and therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back. Whether in the evening or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. And if he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone, "Watch."
That's a sense of intense expectancy, ready at any moment for the Lord to come to you. Now, he's either gonna come and take you out of this world by death. And you do not know when that will be. Or he's going to come in the clouds and end human history, and you do not know when that will be. And you need to watch and be ready.
Secondly, stand firm in the faith. So, be watchful, the first command. Second command, stand firm in the faith. Now, this phrase, The faith, is doctrine. It's not just, stand firm in your faith or in faith, but it's stand firm in the faith, in this set of doctrines, these set of teachings that come from scripture, from the Holy Spirit, through the Bible. Stand firm on doctrine.
Now, the centerpiece of Christian doctrine is Christ and Him crucified and resurrected, that's the center of everything. Paul said, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you, except Jesus Christ and him crucified," and he definitely would add, "And resurrected." Christ crucified, Christ resurrected, that's the centerpiece of the gospel. Stand firm in that. Now, the Greek word, "Stand," here, I like, is "Stasi." So it's like driving a stake into the ground. This is a solid pillar on which you can build your life, it's not going anywhere. It's solid and secure.
I remember years ago when I was a student at MIT, and they're just building all the time, and Cambridge in the Back Bay of Boston, and they're still buildings, still going on, they're just always developing that area. And what's interesting is that that part of Boston is landfill. Back Bay, it was just water during the revolutionary war era. And so they need to drive pillars down, foundational pillars deep into the Earth, and they do this with these repetitive hydraulic hammer bangs, just bang, bang, bang. You're just hearing this all the time, a little bit annoying. But anyway, just, again and again, you're just hearing it. And why are they doing... Driving pillars down, because they're building a tall building up. So they might need to go down as far as 100 feet, down into...
So picture that. So as one of the parables says, "Dug down deep," and take the word of God and let it dig deep into your soul. Stand firm in the faith. You settle matters of Christian doctrine and you just never move from them. Not going anywhere. And you build your entire life on them. Jesus said, "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rains came down and the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, but it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock."
And the opposite is building on sand, and it's going to be destroyed. So building on Christ and on His word, and he's telling you, "Stay put here on this. Don't drift off of this." As Ephesians 4:14 says, "We will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching, and then by the cunning and craftiness of men and their deceitful scheming."
So we're not gonna be blown around like children, doctrinally. We're solid, we're secure, we're standing firm in the faith. I remember when I was a kid, one of my... Or a younger teenager, I think, at that point, one of my favorite movie was the Karate Kid. Some of you have seen that movie, some of you are like, "Boy, pastor, are you dating yourself?" I'm dated, it's who I am. But anyway, Karate Kid.
Now some of you have seen, it's this Japanese man, Mr. Miyagi, who takes a little... A young teenage boy, Daniel, Daniel Son, under his wing, to teach him karate. And one of the most important lessons he teaches him, is the lesson of stability, of being stable on your feet. And he does this by bringing him to the California coastline and he has him stand in way steep surf water, and then it's just... Surf is just pounding him while he does his karate kicks. And the idea is just, learn how to be balanced and strong on your feet.
He also takes him out to a little pond, I guess, in some little dingy, and has him stand up on the prow of that little boat, and it's kind of wobbly, and he has to learn balance, he has to learn how to be stable and balanced. And then, at one point, you see him up on a pillar, like a pier kind of pillar, a little short thing, but he's upon it, and he's standing on one foot and learning this kick. Plot spoiler, by which he wins the competition. But at any rate, he's there. I can't spoil a movie that's that old. If you haven't seen it, it's your problem. But he's up on a pillar, balanced on one foot, and then he kicks with it.
So the idea here is that we need stability. Satan is going to be just wave upon wave of attacks on your doctrinal life. New concepts coming in that challenge your doctrinal life, your Christianity, your understanding of doctrine. So be strong in the Word. You need to drink in the Word every day, be in the Word. Feed your soul in the word of God. So stand firm in the faith.
Third command, act like men. Act like men. Now, this is a fascinating Greek word. This is a literalistic translation of the Greek word. Many modern English translations go with something more like, be courageous. And in the end, I'm pretty much going to get there, but I wanna stay close to what the Greek actually says. And it's an interesting word here. There is a word, a Greek word often translated man, but less so now as we have more inclusive language on gender, but Anthropos, from which we get anthropology. And that would be just generally, usually just generally human being, human being.
But then there's another word translated man, which means man as opposed to woman, male as opposed to female, Andros. And this is that word turned into a verb. So, act like that. Act like a man. So, the KJV fascinating it says quit you like men. Isn't that great? What does that mean? Quit you like men. Well, it's in the imperatible form in Elizabethan English. So, you must acquit yourself like a man would. That's the idea, quit you like men.
So, one incredible story from church history in the year '81, '85, the 86-year-old Christian hero, Polycarp, the Bishop in Smyrna was seized, arrested, and brought in as the leader of the church at Smyrna to face trial for being Christian. And he was brought into this seething amphitheater of enemies of the population, and they were... They wanted him dead, and he was going to be questioned for his faith. And as he came in, the account says that he heard a voice from Heaven saying this, Be strong Polycarp and play the man. Be strong Polycarp and play the man. I think that would be a similar concept here.
So we need some background. We need to understand Paul's context, and then we need to understand our context to bring it across. So back then, especially in some key areas there were clearly gender-based roles. Gender-defined roles. In our age, gender itself is under direct attack, savage attack by Satan. It's remarkable in our lifetime in the last few years. The very concept of the reality of gender and what it is is being brought into question. It started earlier in the 20th century, as I traced out in Chapter 11, when I was preaching on it with feminism and then moved on into the LGBTQ range. And now we're beyond that into the issue of transgenderism, the transgender issue. Even within the last number of weeks or maybe a month or two ago, the New England Journal of Medicine questioned the validity of identifying a newborn baby's gender. It's just bizarre, the level that we're at.
Joe Biden has made opening America up more and more to transgenderism a major plank of his early presidency with his presidential edicts. Transgenderism, I believe should be seen as a form of mental illness similar to anorexia nervosa, where you have a faulty self-image that leads to devastating consequences. So, with anorexia, you've got an individual who thinks that they're overweight and therefore they just stop eating. And everyone knows what to do with anorexia, is you don't feed the delusion. You try to heal them to have a healthy view of their bodies and of themselves. But when it comes to gender dysphoria, all of society's feeding it and with devastating consequences. And so, Biden has opened up high school athletics and the military to transgender. We're in a very weird place. And Christians, I would say, Let's look on it as an opportunity, we are uniquely positioned to tell the truth, the Biblical truth about gender. It actually does matter.
It's one of the first things that it says about the human race is that we're created male and female, but the government now, it's men who identify as women and women who identify as men is a protected category, like race, worthy of intervention by the Federal Government. That's where we're at.
Now, even for some Christians sadly, there's been seepage in this area and questioning in this area, and we need to stand firm on the faith. We need to be able to say what the Bible actually says gender is. We need to be able to answer, as I've said many times before, that critical question that a 12-year-old boy would ask his dad, “Dad, what does it mean for me to be a man and not a woman?” Or for a 12-year-old girl to say to her mom, “What does it mean for me to be a woman and not a man?” What does that mean? Is there any Biblical answer to that? And yes, there is.
There are some things, the overwhelming majority of the most important things about us that are not gender-based at all, is that we're human beings, both male and female, created in the image of God, fallen into sin, redeemed through faith in the blood of Christ, and going to the same heaven and able to do amazing gifts for the glory of God. All of those things are true of both men and women. But there are differences too.
Alright, now what did Paul mean by act like a man? Act like men. What did he mean? Well, there's two possibilities, the first is that he's talking about act like a man and not like a child. So this would be basically, grow up you children, and he openly says that in Chapter 14, they are acting like children, and he tells them, and they are to stop acting like children. And he uses the same Greek word in 1 Corinthians 13, when he says, “When I was a child, I thought like a child, I talked like a child, I reasoned like a child, when I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” So it's the same thing when I became a man as opposed to a child.
So the idea is, grow up and be mature. I think that's possible, but I actually think that option two is the more likely. And act like men would be more like, act like a man in a warrior sense. In a sense of fighting battles, and that's... There are actually multiple scripture Verses that head in that direction. Men were back then warriors, who would go out to meet an invading army and meet a military threat, they would put on armor, they would go out with edged weapons, swords, and axes, and they would go out and they would stand firm on the battlefield and fight. That's what battles were like back then, it was hand-to-hand, and pure physical strength was needed. And if you got pushed to the ground by your enemy, you're probably done for. So you needed to maintain your feet, you needed to be strong, you needed to be skillful with the sword and all that, that's what it was like. And generally thought of as cruel to put women on the battlefield.
When Paul Revere rode through the sleeping Massachusetts countryside on April 15, 1775, saying, the British are coming, the British are coming in the wee hours of the morning, he was expecting men to get up out of their beds, get their rifles from over the fireplace hearth and go out and take a stand and defend their freedom. And so, they're called Minute Men. They were called unto man up, I guess, or act like men to go out and meet the enemy with valor and defend those who couldn't defend themselves, this required manly strength and manly courage.
Now, in our military context, things are very different, aren't they? With the development of military technology. I mean, just starting with guns, a child can pull the trigger and kill a man, a warrior, much bigger and stronger. Anybody could do that. If you can fly a drone and push a button, you can destroy a whole village. If you can push the right button with the right code, you can take out a whole city with an ICBM, it doesn't take any strength to do that. And so, women fighting in the military makes more sense to our age. Although it still has certain issues and a lot of pushback, but more sense than it did back in those days, in Paul's days.
So the question that's in front of me in the series of five commands, is this a command for everyone? Or is everybody needing to act like a man? Or is this just a command for men to act like men? Well, is it for everyone? Home base, no. Women aren't being told, act like a man. You could say, But my Bible says, Be courageous and women are called on to be courageous. I'll get there dear friends. Yes. But home base, it's calling on men to rise up and be men, to be leaders, and to be strong in the leadership of the church and the family. And Biblical Manhood, if you ask, “Alright, Pastor, tell me what to say to my 12-year-old son, or what should I say to my 12-year-old daughter, what is the difference?” I would bring you from manhood and womanhood to Ephesians 5, though not everyone's married to everyone, I know that, but home base for me, thinking about Biblical Manhood is Christ as a man laying down His life for the church.
And the wife responding to that Godly male leadership. And we need men that will stand up and be Christ-like servant leaders in that sense. We need a clear display of Biblical manhood. We need fathers to train their sons to lay down their lives, to lay down their lives. And have patterned after Christ. One author put it this way, for men, a man must have a battle to fight, a great mission to his life that involves and yet transcends even home and family. He must have a cause to which he is devoted even unto death, for this is written into the very fabric of his being. "That is why God created you to be his intimate ally and to join him in the great battle." So, we could see his home base as a command to men, to act like men.
There is, I think, a secondary sense that I think is worth mentioning and preaching, which comes across in most of the English translations, though not all of them, which is to be strong and courageous. And this is a command to every Christian in that regard. We are all of us soldiers in Christ's army, all of us have to Ephesians 6, Put on the full armor of God, and take our stand against the devil and his power. Every Christian has to do that male or female. That image is very strongly masculine, but no one would say that only men are to put on spiritual armor and fight, no way. All of us have to take up the shield of faith, we have to take up the sword of the spirit and we have to fight. We have spiritual battles to fight, so that we are holy and fight temptation, and that we can courageously advance the Gospel. Some of the most courageous human beings in history have been women, sisters in Christ, who have stood for Christ at the tribunal, and were willing and did lay down their lives for the Gospel. And we're gonna meet these dear sisters in Christ when we get to heaven. And so, God is commanding all of us to show that level of courage. Act like men.
The fourth command, be strengthened. The verb is passive, not be strong, so much as receive strengthening, that might be a way to look at it, be strengthened. Not something that we generate in and of ourselves, but something that we are commanded to receive. And the implication is from God, receive this strengthening. Fundamental to this is a sense of the need for ongoing strength in the Christian life. Daily life saps us. It saps our strength, it drains us. We feel less strong at the end of the day than we did at the beginning, even spiritually. Living in this world, constantly assaulted by the world, the flesh and the devil drains us. We feel weary, it's draining. And dealing with the sorrows of this life, the afflictions, the diseases, the disappointments, the pain, the emotion, saps our strength. And so, we need ongoing strength for personal holiness and for witness. And so, it's be strengthened here.
I think about Isaiah 40. Even youths grow tired and stumble, and young men stumble and fall, but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. I think that's the idea. As it says in Psalm 23, “The Lord makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.” So you just need to get quiet before the Lord, you need to meditate on some strengthening promises of God. You need to be in his presence in prayer and feel your spiritual battery get recharged. I really think that's what Sunday should be about. I'm not a Sabbatarian, but there's some restful-ness that comes on Sundays where you worship, and then you might spend this afternoon just doing that, in the presence of God through the scripture, reading your favorite Psalms or some account of the life of Jesus. And you find your battery getting recharged. You find yourself renewed in your strength.
Ephesians 6:10, as I've alluded to this just a moment ago, says, “Be strong in the Lord and His mighty power.” And part of that strengthening is recognizing your weakness. Paul said, when I'm weak, then I'm strong. Well, that's not a complete statement. I think what he meant was when I'm weak, I'm strong when I take it to the Lord in prayer. When I realize I can't do this, God, I'm coming to you, would you please strengthen me? Then I'm the strongest I can be.
So that's what I think of, I think of be strengthened. And fifth, do everything in love, do everything in love. The final of all these five commands, it just to some degree sums up everything. It literally says, Let all your things be in love, everything you do, be in love.
Now, I went back and counted, I devoted 10 sermons to 1 Corinthians 13. I'm not doing that again this morning, but 1 Corinthians 13 is just a vital, a vital analysis of the Christian... Of love in the Christian life. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but if I have not love, I'm a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I do any spiritual gift ministry, but I'm not a loving man or a loving woman, a loving person, it's nothing, it actually is detrimental.
And then those sweet Verses, oh, I would commend them to your meditation, convicting, but powerful. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude. It is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, love never fails.” Oh, just take those Verses and just pray them into your soul, pray them into your marriage. I've read them, I was just convicted with how I was being as a husband. I just... I wanna be patient and kind and humble.
And so it is with all of us, just let everything you do be characterized by these kinds of words. Let all your things be done in love. It's the capstone. And I think even if you did all these other commands, if you didn't have love, it would be worthless. If you were extremely vigilant, and if you stood rock-solid in the faith, and if you were a bold and courageous warrior for Christ, and if you were amazingly, strong, having been strengthened, but you were an unloving person, you would do damage to the Church of Christ. Love is the capstone.
Alright, applications. Five straightforward commands. Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strengthened, and do everything in love. Now, these are commands. One of the most helpful insights I've ever had about Christian law or law in the Christian life is whenever we have commands, turn them around as promises. Just make them promises. This is what you've commanded me to do, now do it in me, Lord. Do these things in me. Take them up to God in prayer and ask Him to fulfill all of these things in you.
Now, which of them is speaking to you particularly? Do you feel yourself sluggish or sleepy or drowsy in the Christian life? Ask the Lord to wake you up. Ask the Lord to make you aware of what's going on in your life and in your world. I remember years ago, I went skiing with some friends in New Hampshire, and I was living in Massachusetts. Drove up three hours to the ski resort area, just spent the day there, all day skiing. At the end, they very kindly treated me into a very big dinner. Nice dinner. Got in my car in the dark at 8:15 for my three-hour-plus drive back.
You know what happened? Within 20 minutes, I was almost asleep at the wheel, straight out asleep. I'm like, I'm going to die tonight. I'm gonna literally die, not met... I mean, I'm gonna die tonight if I don't stay awake. So I pulled over, and that car had rolling down windows. Now, I'm really dating myself. Some of you rolled down windows years ago, none of... Obviously, you don't even know what I'm talking about. It's also 'cause you've never hung up a phone either. [laughter] You think you have, but you never have. [laughter] You've clicked off, but you didn't hang up. But I pulled over, rolled down the four windows in northern New Hampshire in January, and drove home. [chuckle] I was sick two days later. [laughter] But I was alive. And the wind that blew in was chilly and terrible and very effective. So, I would just say, if you need to pull over and roll down the windows and let the cold blast in, whatever you need to do, do it.
Are you standing firm in the faith? Are you strong doctrinally? Or do you feel yourself flickering? Do you find yourself... Like, take transgenderism, do you say, Oh, maybe who knows. If you're flickering, just go back and say, There's no doubt about this in the Bible. God's not flickering on this, why am I? What's going on with me? Make me God rock solid in my faith. So are you reading the Bible regularly? Are you strengthening your soul with sound theology?
What about your boldness and courage as a warrior? If you are a man, are you acting like a man as Jesus would have you, are you acting like a Christ-like man? And if you're raising young men, are you raising them to be Christ-like men? Whether they are ever husbands or not,o just be Christ-like leaders. And concerning all of you, are you fighting courageously? Are you fighting your lusts? Are you putting on the spiritual armor and fighting for holiness?
What about evangelism? You know, are you being courageous? Are you bold as a lion? What about being strengthened? Do you feel weak? Do you feel like you just need... Well, then, if I could just urge you, spend this afternoon well, spend it wisely. Go into your week tomorrow morning much stronger than you feel right now. Be strengthened today through the ministry of the word in prayer.
And finally, do everything in love. The simple application I give you is just read over 1 Corinthians 13 again, and take Verses 4-8 and just press them and say, Am I patient? Am I kind? Just those two are powerful in a marriage, patient and kind. Do I keep a record of wrongs? Am I a bitter person? Just go over those things and say, Oh God, make me tender-hearted.
Now finally, I just wanna... I began the sermon this way, I wanna end this way. I wanna plead with any of you that are outside of Christ, you came in here today and you weren't a Christian, I wanna plead with you. I just believe that God draws people for times like this. John 6:44, “No one Jesus said, can come to me unless the Father sent me draws them.” Before you ever come to Christ, there's a drawing. Is God drawing you to Christ? All you need to do is repent of your sins and say, Jesus, I'm a sinner, you died for sinners, I trust in you, forgive me, and He will. These commands won't save your soul, faith in Christ, this is what you must do, this is the work of God for you, believe in the one he's sent. And if you do believe, you'll receive forgiveness of sins. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the clarity of these commands, I thank you that we have a commanding officer through the Holy Spirit who gives clear, sharp, understandable commands to us in the Christian life. We know we're not saved by obeying these commands, we're saved, Lord Jesus, by your obedience to all the commands, by your righteousness, Lord, we're saved. But Lord, having been saved, justified by faith, we ask, how shall we live? And these commands tell us how to live, so I pray that you would strengthen each one of us based on these words in Jesus’ name, amen.