Friday, September 28, 2012

The Foolishness of God

1 Corinthians 1:17-31

"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.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. For it is written, 
'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.'
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? 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. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but 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.
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. 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; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

A few years ago I was in a philosophy class about the way people think and how that effects our defense of the Gospel. Epistemology and Apologetics  it was called and it was one of the most interesting classes I took at San Diego Christian College. It opened my eyes to the foolishness of the Gospel. We had one student in the class who was convinced that salvation was something you could argue a person to. That if you just answered all their questions and made a more logical presentation, they would have to be converted to your point of view. The rest of the class continually pointed him to this passage in 1 Corinthians, trying to make him see that though apologetics may strengthen the faith of a believer, no eloquent wisdom will ever save anyone. 

This passage says that "it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe". The cross does not look like a very sturdy rescue plan to the world. To the Jews who wanted a mighty warrior king for a messiah, Christ crucified becomes a stumbling block (literally translated: scandal.) To the Greeks who loved logic, philosophy and their gods on distant Olympus the cross seemed ridiculous. If Paul was living today this might read: Christ crucified, fantasy to the Scientist and madness to the Atheist or just one path of many to the New Ager. A god who leaves perfection to give his holy life to die a criminal's death for a people who reject him, this rescue mission seems destined to fail. But "to those who are called (I love that word: CALLED)... Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." Our God is so mighty and so ingenious that even what seems like foolishness and weakness to the mind of man is far superior to anything found in our world. 

More than all that God, chose to call the most unlikely men to understanding. He could have revealed the genius of His redemptive plan to kings, philosopher, and the most revered minds of the age (which at times He does). But when it came to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them that they are not wise, strong, or anything special. But God chose them (the foolish) for His own purpose. He chose "what is not, to bring to nothing things that are." So that in the salvation of the weak and foolish the world would be put to shame. He also chose them remind them that He saves. He saves us by becoming our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We have none of these things on our own but in the greatness of the plan of our God, He gives us the most amazing parts of Himself so that we can be something when on our own we are nothing. He makes us special in Christ Jesus  in order that "the one who boasts, boast in the Lord" for our good and His glory. 

Friday, September 21, 2012


1 Corinthians 1:10-17

 "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. For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 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.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize alsothe household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 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."

I married a Diamondbacks fan... it's not my favorite thing about my husband, but I deal with it. See, I am a Dodger fan. Born and raised. I may not follow them as closely as a diehard fan should, but no matter what state I live in I will proudly sport that beautiful blue (much to the dismay of my husband.) I think that is is fun to be a fanatic. We love to declare our allegiance to a team or a television show or even a pastor. How many times have I heard a person say, "Do you listen to  Piper? I love Piper!" only to hear, "Nah... I'm more of a Driscoll person." I mean, I've even heard people get into arguments over that kind of thing. Do you see how this is finally relating to 1 Corinthians? There is something in our human nature that wants something to belong to. The problem here, and so often in our culture, is the Corinthians were raising the wrong banner. 

Paul's plea in this passage is for the church to "be united."  He wants them to be of "the same mind and the same judgment." There is so much the church can learn from verse 10. If you want read more in depth about that call to unity, I encourage you to read John Piper's sermon, "The Nature of the Unity We Seek".  But the main idea that struck a cord with me is that we, as a body, are to be moving together toward a common goal with a shard purpose. Not only should our direction be the same (our mind), but our reason for that direction as well (our judgment). So often we get so caught up in what God has put right in front of us that we forget He has a global, eternal purpose for the Church. We are a part of the Church. We are a redeemed people through Christ who was crucified for us. The gospel unites us under one purpose which is the Kingdom of God. Along the way the Lord is so good to us. He is teaching individuals different things. He moves us in different directions and little by little convicts us, shaping us into vessels to be used for a specific end. However, if we get tunnel vision about a specific theological camp, or missional mindset, or way of doing ministry, we divide the Church. 

When I thought about how the Spirit unifies I was reminded of something my pastor, Josh Reich said on Sunday. He was talking specifically about seeking the will of God in our lives, but I think it applies here too. He said, "Anything that moves the mission of God forward, that makes more of Jesus and less of you, that is what the Spirit is all about!" That is the banner we should raise. United. Seeking the Kingdom for our good and His glory. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

God is Faithful

1 Corinthians 1: 4-9

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in Him in speech and all knowledge - even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you - so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord."

When I read this passage my heart stands up inside me and screams "Look at all the AMAZING things God does for you!!! Look at how AWESOME you get to be, and it has NOTHING to do with you!" I feel like that is the basic idea behind what Paul is telling this church. He loves them, he is grateful for them, he thinks they are pretty cool. But, he gives them none of the credit for it. Everything we are is in Christ and everything that we have to be grateful for is because He is faithful.

Paul lays out their life in Christ. First, he is grateful to God "because of the grace of God that was given (them) in Christ Jesus". He is grateful for their salvation. He is glad that they are saved by the grace of God and that this is His work, not theirs (Eph. 2:8). Paul is also grateful that they are "enriched in Him" and "not lacking in any spiritual gift". I'm so blown away but this. God doesn't save us and then walk away from us. It's not as if He says, "cool! now I'll see you in 40 years. Good luck with your life, I hope you make me proud. I guess we'll see on that judgment day how you did." No! If He did I don't think any of us would be surprised. I mean the majority of the church walks around as if that is what they believe anyway (I know I do). Instead, He has equipped us with what we need to glorify Him. He as made us lacking in nothing and it is Him that sustains us till the end. It is the Lord who will present us to Himself "guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ". He saves us, He sanctifies us, He glorifies us. He does it all! Look at all the AMAZING things God does for you!!!

These are some pretty splendid promises. They are massive and our lives depend on them. Paul completes his thanksgiving by remind us why we will not be disappointed. "God is faithful". He is. Always. And the assurance we are given is our salvation. It was by God that you were called to salvation, "into the the fellowship of His Son". When I look back at my salvation I recognize how much I was running in the opposite direction. But God called me. He was irresistible. He was stubborn. He was faithful to me when I was completely faithless. That is how I know He will do what He says. Because He as already done such amazing things for me. He has already done it all, and He will complete my journey to Himself for my good and His glory.

Friday, September 7, 2012

And away we go...

When it comes the Corinthians, they seem like so many other prosperous cities in the
Roman Empire. Large due to trade and military. Corrupt due to a pagan temple. And a
church that is caught somewhere between the indulgence of the city and the morality of
empty religion. I think this feels a lot like the world we live in today. But that makes sense.
There is nothing new under the sun. Sin is the same today as it was then. However, so is the
God we serve. He is the one who speaks light into the darkness. Paul writes to the
Corinthians in response to reports he has received from the church. He addresses internal
issues and answers questions they have about the specifics of Christian life. Something I
love about Paul is that he is very thematic. His epistles speak on many different subjects, but
woven through different topics is always one theme that he is driving home. In this letter,
Paul desires that the church be unified. I was amazed that in the greeting, just the first three
verses, Paul is already making clear the oneness of the Church body.

1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,
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:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The word “our” is used 4 times in these 3 verses. Paul speaks of “our brother”, “our Lord
Jesus”, referring to Him as “their Lord and ours”, and “God our Father”. Paul is connecting
himself with the church. The God they serve is not theirs, He is ours. He is the thing that
unifies. And He doesn’t just unite Paul and the Corinthian church, He unites all believers
everywhere together. The letter is addressed “To the church of God that is in Corinth….
Together with all those who in every place call upon the name of out Lord Jesus Christ,”
When I read this it struck me that this letter was written to me as well. We cannot read this
letter and claim it is for another culture in another time. If we call on the name of Christ, this
letter is for us. If we call on the name of Christ, we are united with this church 2000 years ago
through His name.

This unity is through His name and it is for His name. In John 17:21 Jesus
prays, “that they may be one, just as You, Father are in Me, and I in You, that they also may
be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent me.” Our unity is for so much
more than brotherhood or solidarity. It is because when they see our love for our brothers
and a mutual sacrifice in order to have harmony, the world will take notice. They will
understand that Christ is who He says He is. I reflected on how many issues I take with
God’s people and how much that must grieve the Lord. I have an opportunity when there is
disagreement with a sister to not only preach (through my actions) the Gospel to that sister,
but also to the world watching. Christ laid down His life for me. I can humbly submit to others,
laying down my right to be right. I can fight for oneness in the church. I hope, as I join a new
church body, I will make that my goal. As far as I am able, I will fight for oneness for our good
and God’s glory.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Conquering: Revisited

It has come to my attention that (again) I have been neglecting this blog. Although a crazy work schedule, involvement in my local church, keeping up a social life and planning a wedding may be justification enough for blowing off my blog, all of that is not reason enough to neglect time with the Lord. I have let an inconsistent schedule be my excuse for pushing aside my Bible for the last two years. Now that things are starting to quiet down, I can hear the Lord prompting me to return to His Word and deepen my knowledge of Him. 

As I thought back on school and the sweet times I had in the Word, some of my favorite times were during the course I took on preaching. I loved spreading my books out on the floor of my dorm room and diving deeper into a passage of Scripture. When I began this blog I wanted it to be a reflection of what I was studying. I am determined to do that now.  

So... here is the plan. 
Once a week I commit to writing a sermon on the passage I am studying. Not  a long one, more of a devotion really. And I am going to post a summary or my favorite thoughts here. Not that I believe I have something to teach the world, but more because I know God has something to teach me. I am motivated by deadlines, so Fridays by noon with be my due date. And the book I will be going through for the next probably year of my life is going to be 1 Corinthians. 1) because I have study materials on it and 2) because I love both the Gospel truth and the life application found in Paul's letters. 

Friday, September 7th will be my first post. An introduction to 1 Corinthians and Paul's greetings to the church. If any of you feels the desire to keep my accountable I would love some gentle (or not so) nagging if I miss my deadline. I am so excited to see what God teaches me. Thanks for supporting me as I study His Word for my good and His glory.

It's been over 2 months since I began this project. I found out that the deadline, the goal, the study wasn't enough of a motivator for me to be daily in God's Word. But finally I think the Lord is revealing to me my true heart. I have spent so long trying to fill my day with things that I wanted to satisfy me. But none of them were enough. And the more I fill myself with these things, the less room I left of the Spirit to move in me. What is enough to motivate me to change is the Cross. Jesus died so that we could live in Him. He gave His life because only He can satisfy our needs. I'm doing some practical things to help redeem my days. Like organizing my day and week and pulling out my old prayer journals to keep things tangible. But my hope and prayer is the Lord keeps my need for Him ever before my eyes and I would labor after Him first. (updated 11/26/12)