A Glorious Mess: a Study of I Corinthians
Jumping In! – I Cor. 1:1-9
Good day! I’m Michael Hockett. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the lead pastor of the Adult Ministries Team here at Life Center.
Last month I went to the dentist to get a cavity fixed, and after they laid me back and got rolling, I suddenly realized that what they were showing on the TV on the ceiling was Sex and the City. My first clue was all the people jumping in and out of bed with each other.
So as soon as the dentist came up for air and pulled the drill out of my mouth, I said to him and his assistant, “So do you put Sex and the Cityon for all your pastors?” They thought that was pretty funny, but they also quickly gave me the remote so I could pick my own channel!
Today we’re starting a spring and summer series calledA Glorious Mess: a Study of First Corinthians, and what caught my attention while I was prepping for this sermon is that Sex and the City could have been set in Corinth as easily as in New York! They’re both cosmopolitan port towns, and despite their separation in time and space,
they both have the same human issues that arise. One of the reasons this letter continues to remain so contemporary to us, despite the fact that it’s a couple thousand years old, is that human nature and human culture really haven’t changed all that much over time.
And whether we’re living in ancient Rome or modern America, the life God calls us to as Christians is countercultural, so it reveals and stirs up all sorts of messes in our lives.
For this series were going to jump right into the messes with Paul, and it’s going to be glorious because we’re going to find Christ right in the middle of it all, transforming our lives and our world. So this is the adventure we’re setting out upon. Let’s begin in prayer.
If you brought a tithe or offering, you may prepare that now, and the ushers will come as we start the talk. Thank you for giving your time, talent and treasure to partner in God’s good purposes through this local church. As I noted at the beginning of the service, this spring and summer we’re jumping into I Corinthians, and what we quickly discover through the Corinthians’ experience is that their new church—which is embedded in a very cosmopolitan, pluralistic culture—is a glorious mess!
Think of the culture we live and swim in as the ocean, and think about God’s Kingdom and righteous rule as solid land. When the ocean breaks against the land, waves crash and splash everywhere—it’s a glorious mess! And that’s exactly what happens when you take people emerged in the ocean of a culture, and you crash them into the solid ground of God’s Kingdom.
That was true in Paul’s time, and it’s true today. And it will continue to be true until Christ comes again and sets the world to rights. But in the meantime, we—the church, the people who follow Christ—we expand God’s Kingdom by creating more and more outcroppings of that solid ground that the chaotic world crashes against.
What we’re going to look at over the next few months are the insights Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians gives us into the early church and ourselves. And something I guarantee we’re going to see is that learning how to follow Christ well is often a messy business!
Following Christ just naturally creates some messy interactions within the broad culture we’re a part of, whether we’re ancient Romans or modern Americans.
And following Him also creates some messy interactions within our own church and families as we try to mutually encourage each other to fully follow Christ and allow Him to develop our character and shape our communities.
Trans: To launch this adventure in I Corinthians, we’re going to start off with chapter 1, verses 1-9 today. If you brought your Bible with you, go ahead and turn there. If you’re not in the habit of bringing one, I encourage you to do so for the rest of this series, because it’s often very useful to see the whole passage we’re working with along with the specific verses we’ll have on screen. So now that we’ve set the stage, let’s jump into that first point on your outline:
1. It’s possible to be gifted and talented and also rebellious and immoral.
ILL: How many of you have watched the movie Amadeus that came out in the 80s? [Slide of Mozart with main point 1]
For those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s historical fiction about the famous classical composer Amadeus Mozart. It’s probably more fiction than history, but it’s still a great story! Mozart is portrayed as being off the charts when it comes to gifting and talent, but he’s equally off the charts when it comes to rebellion and immorality!
A great part of the tension in the story is that it’s told through the eyes of a fellow composer, Antonio Salieri. He can’t understand how God could give such giftedness to Mozart while seemingly withholding it from himself. Why would God so lavishly gift such a reprobate?
The church in Corinth is a lot like Mozart! … at least the movie version of him. (By the way, if you’re going to watch Amadeus, I recommend finding a copy of the original theater release. The later director’s cut has included some tawdry scenes, and rather than adding to the story, they actually detract from it. So avoid the DVDs that say “Director’s Cut.”)
Anyway, getting back to Christians in Corinth, some of them were living in ways that we wouldn’t want to watch unedited, either! But you wouldn’t know that from the way Paul starts off the letter. Let’s look at what Paul has to say about the Corinthians in his greeting:
I Corinthians 1:1-9
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes. So using traditional Greek form, Paul tells us who it’s from: him and Sosthenes. Sosthenes we don’t know much about, other than he was Paul’s companion in ministry. But Paul himself is an impressive fellow. He was a scholar’s scholar, innately brilliant, and educated under the finest of Jewish rabbis of the time as well as in the fundamentals of Greco-Roman culture in his younger years. Today, he would have been a Rhodes Scholar who went on to earn a Doctorate of Divinity and become a renowned professor and religious and civic leader.
But along with all his learning and influence, Paul also had a vicious, murderous hatred for Jesus and His followers. If that had remained the case, we likely wouldn’t even know about Paul today.
However, something life changing happened to Paul. On his way to persecute more Christians, he met the risen Christ. And when we meet and come to really know Jesus, He changes us. Suddenly, perhaps the most brilliant man of the age found someone who was not only more than his equal, but also his Lord and Savior.
John Ortberg, who’s one of my favorite pastors and writers, puts it this way:
Who Is This Man? John Ortberg
Paul, by all accounts, was one of the most brilliant people who ever lived. He studied under the person who may have been the greatest rabbi of that day, Gamaliel. People sometimes think of Jesus as an amiable sage, while they think of Paul as the genius theologian who invented Christianity. One person who would not have thought that way was Paul himself. Paul said that Jesus is “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Paul did not say that about Gamaliel; nor did he say that about himself.
So that’s a brief introduction to Paul. He’s extraordinary, but he recognizes that Jesus Christ is even more so! And Jesus takes Paul’s passion for Him, and He uses Paul to plant new churches all around the Mediterranean.
So that’s the first part of Paul’s introduction. The second part addresses his intended recipients in verse 2:
I Corinthians 1:1-9 [Keep up until “blank slide” below]
2To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:
We’re part of that audience of “all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and along with the Corinthians, we look pretty good so far, being all sanctified and holy as Paul describes us! [Blank slide.]
So having made introductions, Paul now goes on to wish the Corinthians and us well and to encourage us:
I Corinthians 1:1-9
3Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge—6God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
If we had only this introduction of Paul’s letter to the Christians at the church in Corinth, what would we think about their character?
It seems to be pretty good! They sound like a pretty godly people: They’re sanctified in Christ, they’re God’s holy people in Corinth. They’ve been given grace in Christ and enriched in every way in their ability to speak, and to speak with knowledge to boot! In fact, they’ve been given all the necessary spiritual gifts to thrive as a church, and Paul notes that God’s going keep them firm in their faith to the end so they’ll be blameless when Christ returns.
That’s some pretty fine commendation! I’d be quite pleased if Paul were to write that way about us here at Life Center! But let’s take a sneak peak at next week’s passage to see where Paul goes with the letter just as soon as he gets to the body of it.
Look at his first main point right after that encouraging greeting:
I Corinthians 1:10-13
10I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?
Well, well. Apparently not everything is all sweetness and light in this little patch of paradise known as the church! And it’s not just Corinth, although they’re the prime example Paul’s presently working with. Remember that Paul included us in his introduction, too, since we’re part of all Christians everywhere.
But before we move to quickly to applying things to ourselves, let’s
think about the Christians in Corinth in particular. When Paul writes,
I Corinthians 1:10-13
10I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.
… what does that appeal indicate about them? They may be gifted … but they’re a divisive people. There’s a little rebellion going on right under the surface. They’ve formed into cliques within the church that favor certain leaders.
It’s telling that of the array of gifts they have, Paul singles out in particular the verbal and intellectual gifts that often foster charismatic preachers, teachers and mentors. Look again at verse 5 in the New Living Translation:
I Corinthians 1:5 NLT
Through him [Christ], God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge.
He says the church has been gifted “in every way.” But he’s also telling them their major giftings are underlying some of their major problems! They’re making things messy.
Apparently, a number of the members prefer the knowledge and eloquence of one leader over that of another, and they’re getting picky. So Paul appeals to them to stop arguing and dividing over their favorite leaders.
ILL: Of course, that sort of thing never happens in the modern church, and particularly not at Life Center. No one ever calls during the week to ask if Joe is preaching that Sunday because they’re not much interested in coming to worship otherwise….
We all love learning from Joe, including me! But are we here as the gathered church to worship and follow Joe, or to worship and follow Christ? Paul’s telling the Corinthians and us, Keep it straight!
As I’ve been saying, I Corinthians is very contemporary! The same issues that made messes in the early church still make messes in the modern church, including our own.
Their quarreling over their favorite leaders and teachings isn’t the only messiness. As we travel through the letter, we discover all sorts of areas in which their character, and ours, is undergoing development in Christ.
In fact, I Corinthians isn’t typical of Paul’s letters in terms of how he structures it. Most of Paul’s letters are treatises, in which he writes about principles of faith in the first half, and then how to put them in practice in the second. If you like academic terms, he usually starts with theology, and then he moves to ethics. But the terms faith and practice serve just as well for our purposes!
So that’s how Paul typically organizes a letter. But I Corinthians isn’t like that. Paul helped plant this church in Corinth as he did so many others during his missionary travels, and in this letter, he’s responding to questions they’ve asked him in a letter of their own. And he’s also responding to some sayings that have arisen in their church that have become unhealthy clichés. We see both these questions and clichés come up in the letter. For instance, look at the question he addresses it in
I Corinthians 7:1-2
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.
Going back to verse 1,
I Corinthians 7:1-2 [Keep up until the next slide.]
1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”
notice the quotations used by the NIV translators, which indicate they understand Paul to be responding to a statement of principle that’s under examination by the Christians of Corinth in their own letter. The New Living Translation scholars handle it this way, making the question even more obvious for us in English:
I Corinthians 7:1-2 NLT
1 Now regarding the questions you asked in your letter. Yes, it is good to abstain from sexual relations. 2But because there is so much sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman should have her own husband.
The Christians in this early church are wondering if it’s right to assume in the light of Jesus’ imminent return that they should become celibate in order to better focus on spreading the gospel around the world. After all, if Jesus’ return is going to happen any day, why occupy your attention with romance or child rearing, which was the inevitable result of romancing at that time?
Of course, from our viewpoint a couple thousand years later, we realize that conception is as important as conversion when it comes to spreading faith in Christ! But they really thought Christ would return any day, so celibacy was a legitimate concern and question.
Note that whichever translation you use, Paul is clearly a pragmatist. He’s saying, Yes, it’s good to be celibate for the purpose of focusing on the gospel. On the other hand, sex is a powerful thing, and we’d better respect it! If sexual urges are distracting you, as is normal for us as sexual beings, it’s far better to fulfill those urges with God’s blessing in marriage than try to bury them and end up seeking sexual gratification outside of marriage, which God does not sanction or bless.
So we see how Paul goes about addressing issues the Corinthians themselves have inquired about.
Now staying on the topic of sex (because who doesn’t like to talk about sex in church?), we also see how some of the Corinthians’ sayings that are going around are bringing issues to the surface. When the topic of sexual immorality first comes up in the letter, Paul develops the subject by quoting one of their sayings that is being put to bad uses. Go to
I Corinthians 6:12 [Paul quotes,]
12“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
So he uses this so-called Christian saying that’s become clichéd in order to explore how we’re to conduct ourselves sexually as followers of Christ.
Along with responding to the Corinthians’ own questions and sayings, Paul’s also responding to news he’s heard from some friends about things that are going on there since he planted the church. Notice again what he brings up as his first main point in the letter:
I Corinthians 1:11
My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you.
You know what the Corinthian Christians are all thinking, right? Snitches! But it’s these outside reports along with the inside questions and sayings that cause Paul to realize there are some messy issues of Christian faith and practice that need to be addressed one by one in this letter.
We’ve already touched on a couple of these, but here are some
Major Issues of Faith and Practice That Paul Addresses
- divisions that have arisen in the church
- the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion [How do we make sense of a crucified Lord? Neither an executed Messiah-King nor an executed God makes any sense on the surface. ]
- the fact that they’re suing each other [not a good sign for brotherly love!]
- sexual immorality
- questions about married and single life
- what to do about questionable practices
[For them it was issues such as buying or eating meat that had come from pagan temple sacrifices; for us, it may be how much we let the culture’s music influence our own style of worship.]
- propriety in worship and communion
- propriety in the attainment and use of spiritual gifts
- how love covers all [even in the mess]
- the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection [and what it says about our own]
Paul’s raising these issues because the Corinthian Christians are struggling with them within the context of their culture and cultural lifestyles. And it’s easy to see that Paul was quite right in realizing these aren’t just the Corinthians’ issues, they’re also ours 2,000 years later!
Do we still church shop and church swap for leaders who appeal to us?
Do we still divide churches and whole denominations over pet doctrines?
Do we still struggle with sexuality?
Do we still sue others, including other believers?
Do we still argue over the practice of spiritual gifts?
Do we still complain about the style of worship
and how we practice communion?
Yes we do. We’re still a glorious mess! Paul’s letter is just as fresh today as it was all those years ago. Remember that Paul tells the Corinthians in verse 6 of the greeting that they don’t lack any spiritual gift as a group. God’s given them everything they need to fulfill His purposes and live out His good intentions for them.
But as I noted at the beginning of this first point, it’s quite possible to be both gifted and talented and rebellious and immoral. Paul addresses the latter half of this equation, the rebellion and immorality, through much of the letter, and what we see is the glorious mess that often arises when culture crashes against Christ.
Trans: That takes us to our next point:
2. God’s ways are often countercultural.
The reason God’s ways don’t come easily to us, even when He’s gifted us, is that we’ve been ingrained by our culture. Now not everything about our culture or any culture is bad. In Genesis 1, God says humanity is made in His image. This remains true whether people believe in Him or not. Being cast in His image is simply something we can’t escape. Since God’s good, there’s still a lot of good in us and the cultures and societies we create for ourselves. After all, just life itself is a great good.
But due to the fall, there’s also rebellion and sin in us, and these pervert and twist the good in ourselves and our culture. This is easy to see with a concrete example:
Does the Bible indicate marital sex good? You bet it does!
Does it indicate extramarital sex is good? Not so much.
We learn that fire is a great good in the fireplace. It’s a great destructive force when it jumps that boundary.
What happens is that the unruly parts of culture come in conflict with God’s boundaries that are intended to help us live well, to live in blessing. And pretty soon our culture starts calling what’s bad good, and what’s good bad.
For those who don’t follow Christ, their moral standards are primarily defined by what evolves or devolves in their culture over time.
But the moral standards of God’s Word don’t change. That’s what causes some segments of society to start calling the Bible a hate book, because they want to sanction cultural behaviors as morally right that the Bible calls morally wrong. And if we say, “If you do that, you’re acting immorally,” they say we’re being discriminatory and hateful.
So which way is a follower of Christ to go? As a person who’s part of a broader culture, a Christian is inevitably caught between two sets of standards.
ILL: Let’s go back to our metaphor of culture as an ocean we swim and play in. The ocean has an awful lot about it that’s good. I love going to the beach and body surfing. But there are some areas of the coast that are dangerous to humans. My parents lived on the California coast when I was in college, and there were some parts of the local beach that were off limits due to the undertow or rocks. If you quit paying attention to the signs and moved into one of those areas, you could get into real trouble real fast!
The Christian life is a lot like living along a coast. Our life merges the solid ground of the Kingdom of God with the ocean of our culture, and we participate in both. But to live long and well, we have to be aware of and stay away from those areas of the ocean that threaten our lives. So let’s think a little about the culture the Corinthians were swimming in and its danger zones, which were full of undertows and jagged rocks.
Christianity in the first century is a brand-new faith that has emerged out of Judaism and is spreading around the Mediterranean like fire. The First Church of Corinth is literally the very first church there ever. And most of those who join it are Gentiles from that pagan Roman city, not Jews with a morality based on the laws of Moses.
So this new church movement that’s learning and spreading the good news of Jesus Christ is cutting edge and countercultural.
But it’s being countercultural in a complex and powerful cultural center. Corinth is a major port city between the Adriatic and Aegean Seas.
So like New York in Sex and the City, it’s cosmopolitan and has many different kinds of people living and traveling there to access the jobs,
the markets, and cultural and religious attractions. For Christians who work and live in the city, it provides a rich opportunity for all sorts of people to hear the faith, make it their own, and then take it back to their hometowns to spread even further! But Corinth is also host of some major temples, including that of Aphrodite. So as a major seat of idol worship, it not only has all the usual sinful outlets that go along with cosmopolitan port cities, but also ritual prostitution from the temple of Aphrodite. At her peak, Mighty Aphrodite had over 1,000 ritual prostitutes at her temple.
When religion sanctions and encourages sexual immorality inside the temple,you can only imagine what goes on outside the temple gates! What happens in Corinth stays in Corinth.
The Corinthian culture got to be so grossly immoral, people around the region used its name as a epithet for immorality. Korinthiazo became a euphemism for having sex.And to behave immorally was “to korinthianize.”
ILL: Just think if our city was known that way. I can just imagine some of my pastoral conversations now: “So if I’m understanding you correctly, you’re living a lifestyle of extramarital spokanazo. How’s that working for you? Has spokanizing really made your life better, or is it just more complicated?” …Wouldn’t that be odd?!
Somehow, I don’t see Spokane’s reputation ever getting to that state; but Corinth’s certainly did!
Nevertheless, what our church has in common with the church in Corinth is that we’re both embedded in broad cultures that don’t have their core beliefs and values rooted in God’s Word in the Bible.
ILL: When I was in high school and college in the 80s, I was taught in my secular history, government and civics classes that our nation was and is built on Judeo-Christian ethics. That was the given despite the cultural and sexual revolution of the 60s just two decades earlier.
But since that time our culture has just distanced itself more and more from biblical values. So we don’t tend to hear about a Judeo-Christian ethic in our schools or from our political leaders today. That’s not just because they’re being politically correct. That’s because our pluralistic society really isn’t grounded in a biblical ethic anymore. As a broad culture, we set ourselves adrift from the Bible and Christian morality a long time ago.
So like the Corinthian Christians, our Christian beliefs by their very nature have become countercultural, and they’re more and more that way all the time. It’s no surprise, then, that as we try to encourage each other to live them out as church community, all sorts of glorious messes arise in our lives, our church, and our society.
But even though we struggle within our culture, our church, and ourselves, I’m encouraged both for the Corinthians and for us because of what I see in Paul’s introduction to this letter. And that takes us to our final point:
3. It’s Jesus who changes us, and He completes us even in the mess.
Paul knows the Corinthian Christians, and knows what their issues are. But look again at how he encourages them right from the start regarding what they have going for them. Let’s read it this time in the New Living Translation:
I Corinthians 1:2 NLT [Keep up until next slide]
I am writing to God’s church in Corinth, to you who have been called by God to be his own holy people. He made you holy by means of Christ Jesus, just as he did for all people everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.
Even though the Corinthians and we ourselves are far from perfect in our faith and practice, we can take hope in what Paul says about us. God makes all Christians, despite all their messes, “holy by means of Christ Jesus.”
The Greek root word for “holy” or “sanctified” = hagiazō Although being holy does lead to a moral life, the term is not primarily about morality. So what is it about? you ask. I’m glad you asked!
“holy” or “sanctified” = hagiazō
Being dedicated, or separated, as God’s people for God’s purposes
So I Corinthians is an instructive letter because it deals with the fact that while we have been set apart for God’s purposes through the work of Christ— and that’s a done deal—we still have a lot of growing up to do in Christ!
And in this process of growing up, God doesn’t tell us to simply pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and get ‘er done. He provides what’s necessary to help us live a life of grace and truth through our relationship with Him.
So although we can often be discouraged by the church’s and our own sinful, dysfunctional behavior, we also have this encouragement from Paul right from the start that Christ is actively gifting and transforming us, and He is faithful!
Sticking with the NLT, let’s look again at I Corinthians 1:4-9.
I Corinthians 1:4 NLT
I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.
This is Paul’s topic sentence that begins his overall greeting to the church. He’s saying, God’s graciously given you some amazing gifts!
ILL: As a pastor, I often get to see what Paul sees: all the incredible abilities God has given people in our church and how they use them to further His Kingdom. Sometimes it’s the small things I see that delight me most.
For instance, our Women’s Pastor, Kathi Jingling, is gifted in many ways. But one of her gifts that catches my attention because I don’t have it at all is the gift of shopping. How many of you can relate to that one? All women! I get to see it in action with Kathi. All year long she picks up special items here and there that she can see people would appreciate. And then when she does some of her annual appreciation events for her leaders, she gives them away.
As you can imagine, because she’s put thought into them and they’re personal, they’re very meaningful and encouraging to these leaders.
Take that in comparison to the way I do things: when Christmas rolls around and we start showing our key volunteer leaders appreciation, I’m left dashing off for cheesy gift cards from Safeway at the eleventh hour. I just don’t have the gift!
Paul knows the Christians at Corinth, and he’s deeply pleased with the full array of gifts he sees God has given them. As we’ve discussed, he’s going to use this letter to address a number of issues they need to work on in their Christian walk. But he assures them right from the start that even though their lives are messy, when you put Christ in the mix, He turns the messes to glory.
Look again at how positive Paul is about their future due to Christ’s work in
I Corinthians 1:7-9 NLT
7Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns. 9God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Even as Christians, followers of Christ, we can often be a messy, unfaithful people. But as Paul says, God is faithful. As we saw in verse 2, Christ sanctifies us. He makes us holy people set apart from our broader culture as we partner with Him in fulfilling His good purposes on this earth. In order to do this, verse 7 says [I don’t read the shaded verses—please simply flip through them as I briefly summarize each one.]
I Corinthians 1:7 NLT
Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
… He gives us spiritual gifts—which are abilities that help us fulfill these good purposes. And verse 8 goes on to say
I Corinthians 1:7-8 NLT
7Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will keep you strong to the end …
… He gives us ongoing strength, and along with that
I Corinthians 1:7-8 NLT
7Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8He will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns.
… He frees us from all blame through the work of Christ in our lives. If we will just stick with Him through thick and thin, through the messes, Paul assures us in verse 9 that
I Corinthians 1:9 NLT
9God will do this, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
So Paul is just about to launch into a very tough letter to the Corinthians and to us. But he’s also letting us know right from the outset that God is looking out for us. We have work to do in our Christian lives and community, but God won’t leave us to fend for ourselves. God’s with us and in us and working through us in our lives and relationships.
Ill: Let me close on an everyday illustration of what this looks like in our lives. My mother-in-law has a log home right on the Kettle River, and it’s like getting away to a resort whenever we go up there. The only problem is that there’s one private bedroom in the house, and it usually goes to whichever of the three siblings gets there first.
Up until last Thanksgiving, Leslie and I have never gotten “the room” when the rest of her family was there. But last Thanksgiving we were there before everyone else, and we were staying longer, so Leslie and I finally got it! We would be downstairs, alone, and everyone else, including our three kids, would be upstairs with Grandma. We had won the prize! I was feeling truly thankful.
But then when her brother, Ron, and his family showed up a day later, Leslie decided without consulting me to give the room to him and his wife and their one-year-old.
When Leslie told me what she had done, I said, “You did what?! We never get the room. How come we have to give it up?”
Leslie looked at me kind of stunned for a minute, and then she said, “Because we’re Christians.” Poop. How do you answer that—especially when you’re not only a Christian, but a pastor?! So I went along with giving up our private room.
And you know what? It turns out that when you have a tired one-year-old, sending him off to a private room with momma is a brilliant idea! It turned out that the Christ-like thing to do was better than trying to stick to my rights. What a shocker!
We all ended up having a very joyful and thankful Thanksgiving, including me.
Being a Christian challenges us. It challenges what we think are our rights. And it will definitely mess of our lifestyles and our plans. But it also leads to joy and to Christ’s character taking root in our lives.
So jump in with us this spring and summer, and let God mess with your life. He’s given us every good gift and even Himself to help us, together, live a glorious life in Him.
Even in the midst of the glorious mess, may God bless you and keep you this week! Have a great day!