Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Building Blocks

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

"According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”  So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

Last summer a few friends and I lead a program for refugee children in El Cajon. Each morning we would come early to set up and go over the schedule for the day. Then we would pull out some games and wait for the kids to check in. Wes began a morning ritual early in the summer. He would gather all Jenga pieces and build towers. It was his goal to build the tallest tower he could. Of course there were obstacles. An uneven building surface, 5-6 eight-year olds wanting to "help", other kids playing tag in the room knocking against tables, etc. Creating a stable structure out of a bunch of blocks was not easy which made Wes even more proud when he created something that was worthy of having it's picture taken for future bragging rights. This week I read about the image of a temple being built. I'll admit I do not see myself as some who builds much of anything. 

However, truth is, we are all builders. As members of the church we build upon the firm foundation of Christ. It is our job to build up the body into maturity. But not everyone will build a good structure. That is why Paul warns us, "let each one take care how he builds." It may be easy to disregard this caution, thinking that it does not apply to you. But I loved something that Josh Reich said on Sunday at Revolution. He talked about how leadership is defined by influence. We all have a sphere that we influence, that we lead in some way, that we build up. Who are you leading? How are you doing that? This passage tells us that "each one's work will become manifest... it will be revealed by fire." How we build will be judged because each of us has the power to grow the church stronger in unity or to destroy it with quarreling and discord. 

But, and please don't miss this, I do not think that the judgment of our work is reason enough to build well upon the foundation. We should not work for unity in order to receive a prize. Paul ends this passage with a command. "Let no one boast in men." Do not elevate yourself or others due to pride or a need of control. Because, "all things are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." This is a blessing. We have been given all things in Christ. We no longer need to strive for recognition or power on earth because we have all things. And still we are all unified in that we are all in Christ. He is the head of the Church and we submit all we have (which is everything) to Him. And we can trust Him because He submits to God the Father. Even unto death, He has proven that He will do the will of the Father to build the Kingdom of God. And so can we, not for a prize or even our own good. But for His glory.

*My sister Anna and David, her husband, came to visit this weekend (i'll post about that later) so this is the post that should have been up on 10/26
** If you want to go more in depth into this passage I encourage you to listen to John Piper's Sermons on it here and here.  

Friday, October 19, 2012

Of Babies and Bean Sprouts

1 Corinthians  3:1-9

"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building." 

When first reading this passage I saw two very different images. The first of a baby needing  to be swaddled and fed and taken care of. It is not yet ready for big people food, it still has a lot to learn. The second of a field with workers in it. They are all working for the harvest. Each has an appointed task but the credit for the harvest goes to God. Two very different pictures. But I think there is a link between them. And I believe it is something we need to grasp in order to mature in the Lord. 

Neither babies or sprouts stay small for long. They grow and change and develop. They become something that in the end bears only a slight resemblance to the first stages of their life. None of us would argue that the sprout grows itself. It does not plant itself. It does not water itself. It can not produce its own sunlight and it has very little say in the speed it grows or what it grows up to be. We know that God makes plants grow by His grace. In the image of the field we identify more with Paul and Apollos (the workers) than we do with the plants but the reality we (as the Chruch) are the field here. And we are the baby too. And just like the sprout the baby does not grow itself. And that is where the link fits. "God gave the growth". How often are we ok with the idea that is God that brings us to salvation, but after that, after we are born again we are on our own? It's just not true. We strive so hard to stretch ourselves straining for that inch of growth. But when I look back at my own life, the times I grew the most where when I was resting. When i was simply basking in the light of my God. My God who give growth. He is the one that matures us. It is His goodness that molds us and makes us into spiritual people. 

I'm amazed that again my reading has brought me back to the idea that God does these amazing things for me. Salvation. Redemption. Sanctification. Glorification. And it has NOTHING to do with me. Maybe the Lord is trying to drive something home (you think?). I'm excited to keep reading see how He continues to remind me of His unique goodness. I pray that He will use this study to bring growth in my life for my good and His glory. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mind Blown!

1 Corinthians 2:6-16

"Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ."

For almost a month now, I have been studying about the incredible way that God works out salvation in the hearts and minds of man. It's absolutely fantastic the way that He has chooses the foolish and base things to make much of Himself and nothing of the world. The cross, the called and the preachers look ridiculous when seen through the eyes of men. Then, in an amazing twist, when we are saved, the "secret and hidden wisdom of God" is made known to us. One of the things I am most in awe of, is the working of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of our hearts and teach us the mind of God. 

Paul begins this passage by explaining that once a person is saved they begin to be taught wisdom "which God decreed before the ages". This means that we can now look at scripture and understand the amazing plan God has to redeem the world to Himself. No longer does the Bible seem like a hodgepodge of myths and good teachings. Instead, we can see that God has been working since before the world was made to set into motion a plan for our salvation. That is amazing! He blesses us with a love to magnificent that it literally moves heaven and earth to plot out a path to pursue us. DANG! 
But it get's better. Paul continues,  "For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God" Please think about that for a minute. It's fairly easy for me to accept that God knows all my thoughts. It's a bit harder to comprehend how, knowing those evil thoughts of mine, He still loves and accepts me. But, I struggle even more with the thought that He also wants me to understand Him. So much so, that He gives me the Spirit of Himself who comprehends the thoughts of God. And why does He gives us that Spirit? "that we might understand the things freely given us by God."  MIND BLOWN! Let that blow your mind for minute. Then consider this: 

We worry when talking to people about the gospel that they will not accept us. We worry about their judgment of us and of our God. Verse 15 tells us, "the spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one" This is not because suddenly we are better than the world but because, "we have the mind of Christ" If the Spirit within us testifies of the incredible, beautiful, awesome truth of the cross, why worry about what the natural world thinks? We can share boldly about the gospel knowing it is the Spirit who enlightens men. We can step out and proclaim the beauty of Jesus and allow Him to move in the hearts of the hearers. And we can rest in the love of the God who has called us to spread His story for our good and His glory. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Weakness

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 

"And I, when I came to you brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message where not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

Confession time. This week I have very little desire to post. I slacked on my study in the last few days. I have been really very busy and am tired and would like to sleep. It is finally Friday and I feel it. Usually, when it comes time to post, I have spent at least a few hours preparing: reading, outlining, praying, talking things over with Jake. Usually, I am pretty excited to share (or maybe show off) what the Lord has been teaching me. I feel like I will be well spoken and my words will convict and I will be a blessing to those who read me. It's just like the Lord to bring me to a place where I feel completely inadequate the week I learn about the insignificance of man next to the power of God. 

This passage is a continuation from the last chapter. Paul explained how the foolishness of the gospel message makes much of God's wisdom and about how the insignificance of the people God chooses makes into nothing the lofty of the world. Here, Paul remarks on the fact that it is his own weakness that reveals the power of God. 
Pride is such a simple sin. One minute a preacher can be stoked on how beautiful Jesus is. The next he is trying to think about how best to present that beauty to others. And the next, he is relying on his own eloquence to reveal that beauty to the hearts of man. Men of God through history have had good intentions (saving lost souls) but rely on so many things other than the Spirit to touch the world. Whether it's through fear, logic or even promises of an easy life, we so easily place the burden of salvation on our own shoulders. 

Paul goes in the opposite direction. "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified".  The gospel is wonderful on it's own. It does not need special words to make it powerful. Paul even says that he spoke in words that seemed unwise and impossible so that if people heard and responded it would be "in demonstration of the Spirit and of power". Again this is all for one reason. That in doing so Paul would not be seen at all. That in talking in this way, in laying down his own pride, people would come to see God as He really is. Powerful! The Corinthians found it easy to follow men because of outward style. But we are called for follow God and rest in His power. The only power that calls us, saves us, and seals us for our good and His glory.