The summer after my freshman year at WSU I began to pursue a head/heart/hands walk with Christ…that had not been the case up to that point
The difference in how I viewed God, my life, the world, the people around me…from May of my freshman year to September of my sophomore year was virtually a 180-degree shift.
I really liked the change…I wanted more.
So, I read…my Bible, books
I talked with more mature Christians… I wanted to get more truth into my head.
I listened to different music, I prayed, I tried to think different thoughts, I examined my motives, I went back and asked people for forgiveness who I had wronged.
I didn’t know it then, but I was trying to move my heart not just my head towards Christ.
I shared the gospel with teammates, went to church whenever the doors were open, I made different kinds of choices…I began to change my behavior to better align with what I knew of God.
I liked what was happening…so I wanted more
So, I spent parts of some nights laying outside on the ground asking God to “show himself to me”…sometimes begging him.
I spent hours sitting in the Stadium or Arena, or walking in the graveyard…seeking God for experiences to speed things up…to prove he is there and give me more.
I wasn’t exactly sure what “more” meant.
Generally speaking, I liked what God was doing in me…I knew this is what life is supposed to be about.
In retrospect…I think I wanted him to microwave the process…no slow cooking for me…let’s get on with this.
This is good…so faster would be better.
Through all this God was a patient parent. He put up with a lot of silliness from me.
And over the years…never when I demanded it…but when I wasn’t looking for it…God showed up in unusual ways.
Ways that cannot be explained other than God’s direct involvement.
But the unusual experiences were not the usual way God worked in my life.
Thus… I call them “unusual”
Just like a miracle is something that doesn’t happen all the time…or its not miraculous.
A baby being born is amazing and we should marvel at it(it’s not technically a miracle)…because it is normally how God brings humans into the world.
Normal childbirth is special, amazing…but not precisely a miracle.
The Virgin birth…now that was unusual…a one off…a miracle.
The unusual has not been a big part of my growth over the years…the usual usually has.
From my reading of Scripture and biographies over the years…the common, not the uncommon, is God’s preferred process for making us into the image of Christ.
The ¼ pound effect of some unusual experience is nothing compared to the hundreds of pounds of daily life that when all totaled…add up to a long, slow moving process of change.
God is playing the long game…he is patient and he is effective.
We want him to move faster.
All children want this from their parents…children are not a big fans of waiting.
But wise parents move with the speed of the big picture…they see a life not a moment.
God is certainly a wise parent.
**Let’s not chase the fast, the new, the “interesting”, the cool, the current, the famous, the trends, the miraculous, the shiny, showy.
Chase Christ…head, heart, hands.
He is not running from us…chase is a figure of speech.
Chase implies moving towards someone with urgency and determination.
But just because it’s long and feels “normal” doesn’t mean it’s not full of passion.
The Short bursts of feelings of passionate infatuation couples newly in love have are nothing compared to the long, slow, sure burn of deep passionate relationship matured in long-term marriages over time.
Several years ago, we talked a lot about passion and pace…I believe this describes the good life very well.
Passion without pace is bound to burn out
Pace without passion is bound to rust out
Passion and pace is steady movement in a good direction.
The chase will at times feel like a sprint, but overall…it is a long walk-in in single direction.
When you get bored…wondering “Is this all there is?”
-The answer is “no” and “yes”
-There is always more of Christ…always will be for us.
-But there is no other way…no faster way…than a life of passion and pace.
-There are no microwaves…no faster, easier path.
When you get proud…because you have experienced a bump in growth…maybe a special experience…newly found passion, zeal.
-Great but if it is growth, if it is a movement of God…it will include more humility and more patience with others.
-Not more pride…less of you, not more of you.
Paul had an amazing, unspeakable experience…and to ensure that the amazing experience didn’t make Paul think HE was amazing…God also gave him a long-term “thorn in his flesh”…probably physical suffering.
So think twice before you think you really need one of those special experiences from God…in order to thrive…you don’t.
When you get confused…because it’s hard, it’s not what you expected.
-Maybe you are feeling disillusioned because God is “dissing” you of a former “illusion”
-Like… the illusion that this will be fast, or easy, or all fun, or…whatever illusion we bring to this journey
This year and the next…we are looking at the NT letters with the goal of better aligning Heads, Hearts, Hands with the reality of God.
With the goal of the glory of God, the good of others, and our own great joy (those three always go together)
Let’s go to 1 Corinthians chapter 1.
Here’s the plan for this morning.
- Walk through the chapter reading and discussing it as we go.
- Look at what it has to say about what we are to believe, value, and do
10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.
Years earlier Paul had traveled from Athens to the city of Corinth to plant the church (Acts 18)
Corinth was an important city on the Greek Isthmus (a narrow neck of land) that separates the mainland from southern Greece…it’s only about 4 miles across. (19th century built a canal)
Travelers would often port across the land rather than sailing all the way around southern Greece…so lots of folks came through Corinth.
Paul found a Jewish family who had moved to Corinth because the Roman emperor had forced all the Jews to leave Rome.
He stayed with them because they were tentmakers like himself…evidently he had come to know them before through their shared professions.
Paul’s tents were made of cloth or leather and were used by travelers and some businesses to stay out of the sun and rain….they were essential items, not for days off at the lake.
He went to the Synagogue every Sabbath and tried to persuade Jews and Greeks to become Christians.
They eventually refused his message (many of them did), so he left the synagogue and went right next door to the house of a man named Justus and started ministering from there.
This seems a little in your face…but that was Paul.
The leader of the synagogue and many others become Christ followers.
He remained there for over a year and half…building the church.
Now, years later…Paul is in a city called Ephesus in modern day Turkey and he receives some reports that things are not going well in the young church at Corinth.
They are not getting along very well…which is a bottom line essential for a family, church.
Later he will use the analogy of the church as a body…a body that doesn’t get along with itself has a disease…not healthy…auto immune disorder, ALS.
When he wrote that they should all agree and they shound be united in mind and judgement…he doesn’t mean they can’t think differently about anything.
That’s neither reasonable to expect…nor healthy for a community.
The strength of a good marriage, friendship, church…is a host of different ways of looking at the world…with a shared, essential foundation of beliefs and values.
*We tend to look for people like us…we want group up with them.
God likes to group us with people who are different…then shape them into a body.
“Terry this church is all the same.”
Are you kidding me, not even close…most of us wouldn’t hang out with each other apart from the gospel.
The gospel forms our common beliefs and values
“All of you agree” literally means “speak the same thing”
It’s a classical expression for being united.
No party cries…no catch phrases, no bumper sticker statements…that don’t fully explain a position but certainly divide people.
Lots of that going on in our culture at large…things like Make America Great Again, Black Lives Matter.
I make no value judgment on these catch phrases other than to say…they don’t accurately explain what a person means when they say them but they do effectively divide people.
A good friend has been in DC working on a racial equity project for the AF…he is African American, a very smart guy.
-I spoke to him on the phone before Christmas…he told me that whenever people in his “think tank” throw out slogans…he stops them and makes them explain what they mean.
Paul is saying…enough with the slogans…speak the same language of the gospel.
11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
We know nothing of Chloe but some of her servants there in Ephesus informed Paul of the disunity back in Corinth.
It wasn’t gossip…gossip has no healing intent…this did.
Paul had three sources of information about the church…Chloe’s servants.
A letter the church had composed and sent to Paul.
Then three men who had come to Paul to deliver the letter who told him some of what was happening.
In this letter back to them, 1 Cor, Paul addresses unity, moral purity, idolatry, worship, and the resurrection.
These are things Paul had heard were problems…as well as questions they asked him about in their letter to him.
All of the issues he addresses…have a head, heart, hand…component.
He begins by addressing their lack of unity.
12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”
This was not the equivalent of denominations…this was all within a single church.
They had formed into these groups with their favorite preachers.
The Paul group
-These are the “founder’s club”…they are a legacy group loyal to the one who first brought the gospel to them.
The Apollos group
-Let’s call them the “current cool” club.
-Besides having a really awesome name Apollos was a Jewish fellow from North Africa who had come to Christ and was a gifted communicator.
He had showed up in Corinth to help out the young church.
The Cephas Group:
Cephas is Peter…let’s call them “The Rock club”…Peter was Jesus’ right hand man, he called him the rock.
The Christ Group:
This was just another faction who took pride in the fact that they followed “no man, only Christ.”
Of course, they heard of Christ through a man, Paul…but oh well.
Let’s call them the “Yall are all wrong club”
Paul, Apollos, Peter…were in no popularity contest between each other…they all worked for the same goal.
Paul was not flattered by the “Paul club”…he had no stomach for any of it…even the so called “We follow Christ group” was critiqued.
If they did follow Christ…they would not have formed their own faction.
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
These are rhetorical questions…of course Christ is not divided…God is one.
Of course, Paul was not crucified for them…it’s not about him, or Apollos, or Peter.
Of course, they were not baptized in the name of Paul…but in the name of the Triune God.
“And I don’t know how many I baptized, I don’t keep track of this stuff…not important who does the act…what the act means is important.”
In fact he is thankful that in God’s providence he had only baptized a very few of the believers there…that way no one could take pride in “who” baptized them…that was not the point of baptism.
Paul’s purpose was not to gather Paul followers but to point people to Christ.
17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
The Greeks placed a high value on human wisdom and eloquence…Paul was both wise and eloquent (just read ahead to chapter 13, one of the most beautiful and eloquent pieces of literature in existence).
His point is that he did not place his confidence in wisdom or eloquence…and he didn’t want others to put their faith in those things either.
We shouldn’t intentionally try to be unconvincing or unclear…but we must guard our hearts…the power is in the message not the messagers.
This should humble those who are gifted…and encourage those who believe they are not.
You don’t have to have great wisdom or eloquence…you only need to know and speak the gospel to people…that’s encouraging.
18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” 20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.
Some translations have “the message of the cross” but it is literally “the word”
This is contrast to “words of human wisdom”
Bill Anders was a member of the Apollo 8 crew, first to circle the moon and the man who took the famous “earthrise” photograph.
He later said…
The Earthrise photograph “really undercut my religious beliefs (he had no foundation) The idea that things rotate around the pope and up there is a big supercomputer wondering whether Billy was a good boy yesterday? It doesn’t make any sense. I became a big buddy of Richard Dawkins (well known atheist).”
What is interesting is that about 23 of the 26 Apollo Astronauts professed to be believers at some level…for some it was their view from space (this same view) that was a key part of their faith growth.
But look at how he has turned something as complex and wonderful as the Triune God, sin, redemption, human purpose into something silly like…
“A big supercomputer wondering if Billy was a good yesterday”
I agree, that doesn’t make sense…because it’s not true…it is silly.
The truth of God and redemption…are not silly at all.
Paul is not saying the gospel is actually folly, just that it appears to be so to those who don’t believe.
This has been the case since the first century…it’s not new.
There is a famous 2nd century piece of graffiti that shows Christ having the head of a donkey and the inscription translated from the Greek under it says “Alexamenos worships his god”
We don’t know who Alexamenos was but we do know that at least one of his peers thought he was an idiot for believing in Christ.
This will be true, at times, for you if you believe the gospel.
One of the prevailing historical myths is that “Galileo was a scientist who was persecuted by the church for teaching that the earth went round the sun rather than the earth being the center of the solar system.”
It is used as proof that religion is silly and as a means of ridicule against those silly people who place faith ahead of science.
Which no one I know actually does this…science and faith are friends not enemies.
God designed the natural world…of which science concerns itself.
Galileo was a firm believer in God and the Bible and remained so all his life…he was arrogant and hard to get along with…but he was a believer (he would not, by the way, have agreed with the atheist scientists who want to claim him)
He tried to demonstrate at one point how his view was not at odds with the Bible.
He was most vigorously opposed by secular philosopher/scientists who were enraged at his criticism of Aristotle…the then prevailing scientific view of the world.
In a letter he wrote in 1615 he said that it was the academic professors who were so opposed to him that were trying to influence the church authorities to speak out against him.
He was opposed by the prevailing science of his day.
So, it is not a story of faith against science…but a man of faith whose science was at odds with the current science.
And a man who was hard to get along with…so he made the whole thing harder than it should have been.
When Dr. Semmelweis discovered in the 19th century that washing your hands dramatically decreased the death of women in clinics…he was mocked and diminished.
He could offer no proof why this was so…no germ theory had been proven…and so doctors were offended that he wanted them to wash their hands between patients…including those with disease or who died and those who were healthy….he anguished as women continued to die needlessly.
It was only after his death that Pasteur confirmed germ theory.
My point is…in spite of the fact that humans are limited, we don’t know very much about all there is to know…and we change our minds frequently about what is fact (2020 is a case in point)
There will always be those who think the gospel is silly, folly, myth.
Don’t be intimidated by them…don’t be impressed
Don’t think the truth depends on your ability to defend it.
Don’t think lies are true because you can’t readily defeat them.
Don’t think science or someone has proven God, the gospel untrue…they haven’t, they won’t…because it is true.
The gospel is amazing…but it sounds crazy…but it is not illogical, contradictory, or false.
It is the truth of God…intellectually, emotionally, historically, personally…it is true.
God has made himself known to the world, and to you and me…in Christ.
22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
The reason the gospel looks so foolish is because it is so very far above the wisdom of men and women.
Christ crucified…is a stumbling block…a skandalon…the word we get scandal from.
Jews want a show of power, Greeks a show of wisdom.
But those whom God has saved…Christ is the power and wisdom of God.
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
It’s not that none of these believers were wise or powerful…some clearly were, we read of them in the NT.
But not many were.
Comparing one really smart, or famous, or rich human to a less intelligent or famous or rich human is like comparing a tiny ant with a tinier ant.
The comparison is nonsense.
No human is wise, or famous, or rich compared to God.
Those who put their faith in their wisdom, fame, or wealth…have put themselves in a position of opposition to God…they don’t know they are ants…they think they are God’s peer…or at least near peer.
This is sheer madness.
Christ is the wisdom of God: he is our righteousness and sanctification and redemption
Righteousness: Made right with God. Justified, forgiven.
Sanctification: Becoming like Christ over a lifetime.
Redemption: The final act of our salvation when we experience resurrection even as Christ has.
So…the only legitimate boast is this “The Lord has saved me; I know him because he has known me.”
The prophet Jeremiah said it like this
This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight. 9:23-24
LET’S LOOK AT BELIEVE, VALUE, DO:
The gospel is the wisdom and power of God…Believe this, it is true.
You can study physics, engineering, medicine, construction, whatever…you will quickly find that there is more and more to know…more than we can ever know.
You can become powerful in body strength, in influence…but your power is very limited in time and space…we can’t do much for long….we are like grass of the field.
Quick…who was the most powerful, influential person of 1847?
“What difference does that make?” Exactly.
But in 1847 everyone would have thought differently about that person we can’t remember…he/she would have been really something.
-By the way I don’t know…I randomly picked the date.
-Thomas Edison was probably the most famous person born that year.
As you read of elections and shifts in public opinion and the newest smartest, greatest person making the newest, smartest greatest claims.
Tell yourself the truth…just like Talitha did.
The gospel is the wisdom and power of God…it directs me…not emotions in me NOT events around me.
I will say it again…he gospel is the wisdom and power of God…it directs me…not emotions in me NOT events around me.
Value/Do: Heart and hands
These two things go “hand in hand” or “heart in hand”
What I love directs what I do.
What I do affects what I love
What does this mean in regards to our heart’s longing and affections?
Watch what you allow your heart to care most about.
What does it matter, really…what someone in cyber nowhere thinks of you?
What does it matter, really…if someone doesn’t respect or think you are cool or smart or whatever.
In our hearts we want to live our lives for a single “like”…the applause and approval of God.
How do you move towards a heart shaped by the wisdom and power of God…a compelling and controlling desire in your heart…for God’s approval above all else.
Guard your heart…confess when anything less impressive has become impressive inside of you.
Push your heart the right direction…give time, effort…to thinking about the greatness and glory of God.
Redirect some of your reading and thinking away from current events and the current cool humans in society at large…spend time thinking about and learning more deeply about God.
He has made himself known to you…he wants to do so more.
By all means listen to podcasts, read blogs, articles, books by well-known believers…but if you find yourself reading mostly one person, quoting that person exclusively…and checking in with him or her to know how to think or feel about a subject.
Back up…be careful.
Or if what you are reading is mostly negative… “against stuff or people”…watch yourself.
Immerse yourself in what you are for…God is for all that is good (he is against all that is not)
Focus your attention and affection on what God is for.
Be especially careful of Christian heroes who are not dead yet…they still have time to really mess up.
You might want to wait till your heros have been dead for awhile.
Better yet…learn from people…but don’t make anyone other than Jesus…your hero.
Paul wanted none of that…anyone with any sense would think the same as he did.
Learn from others…I thank God frequently for smart, disciplined people who study stuff I would hate to study and write books I would hate to write…so I can learn stuff I need to learn.
But don’t let your hearts wrap around any of them…and don’t use information gained for any purpose other than to worship God and love people.
Set your minds on things above…take thoughts captive to Christ
Above all else guard your heart.
Do the things that God desires you do…the works he has planned in Christ Jesus for you.
Settle in for the long haul…a long walk in a single direction…believe, value, do
It’s not a dull walk…it is a hard long walk…a walk full of passion and pace.
This is the way God intends to make something beautiful out of our lives…for his glory, the good of others, and our own great joy.