In my previous post I linked the problems Paul confronted in 1 Corinthians 1-4 with excessive adoration of Christian authors and teachers on today’s landscape. However, I feel that it’s irresponsible of me to describe a problem without giving some ideas for avoiding it. So here are 4 methods Paul gives us in those same chapters to help us keep our focus on Christ.
1. Remember Your Roots (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)
Christians need to stay humble. This virtue remains as relevant today as 2000 years ago in Corinth. It’s so easy to gloat in our “superior” knowledge.
- “I can’t believe those atheists really think God doesn’t exist! Why don’t we all just pursue anarchy if we’re not following God? What’s the point?”
- “I can’t believe all those scientists really think God didn’t create the universe. Where’d we come from if He didn’t initiate life?”
Then we start picking on each other:
- “Did you hear what Mark Driscoll said the other week? Crazy!!”
- “I don’t understand how Calvinists live. It must be awful going through life feeling like a puppet.”
- “I don’t know why people are so enamored with ‘free will’. It’s much more comforting to trust my future to God.”
- “How crazy is it that Baptists don’t think baptism is very important?”
I hope you get my point. PRIDE!
We need Paul to remind each of us that our “knowledge” looks like foolishness to the world. It’s faith, not logic. It’s spiritual, not rational. We use words like “believe” and “hope”, not “prove” and “know”.
The entire basis of our faith is that we’re incapable of helping ourselves. We depend upon Jesus and his grace to restore relationship between God and ourselves. There’s nothing in those two sentences that should give us cause for pride or a spirit of superiority. Our own knowledge, skills, and abilities lead to us being buried in sin and death. We only have relationship restored with God because He wants it restored.
2. Seek the Wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:15-16)
Given point #1 above, and recognising our human limitations, following Christ requires us to depend upon his wisdom and teaching. When we depend upon our own wisdom and knowledge we’ve stopped following Christ.
Seeking the wisdom of God according to verses 11-13 requires listening to the Holy Spirit. We do this by practicing spiritual disciplines. In my experience within Churches of Christ spiritual disciplines are for the “super-Christians”. I’ve been part of 5 churches of Christ in the United States. I don’t recall one of them every having a Day of Prayer, or promoting a Prayer Retreat. Fasting tends to be something we joke about rather than practice. We’re much more likely to have a class on the subject of prayer than to spend 45 minutes praying together. When Randy Harris went on a silent retreat it was so revolutionary that he wrote a book about the experience.
Following Jesus requires us to listen to the Holy Spirit.
3. Despise Division (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
We live in a society of choices. I cannot list the numerous choices that confront us when we go to a diner and order eggs. “How do you want them cooked?” The same applies to churches. We each have a gazillion choices about where to attend church.
Somewhere along the road Christians have come to accept division within the church. We prioritize doctrine, decorations, worship styles, personalities and umpteen other things above the unity of the church.
If you want to follow Jesus, love His church. “If anyone destroys God’s temple [the church] God will destroy that person.” Ouch! Persevere with the church. Seek the betterment of the church. Spend more energy contributing to solutions than identifying problems. Love God’s people in the church.
4. Glorify God for our Differences (1 Corinthians 4:6-7)
In the Corinthian church the members wanted everyone else to agree that their favourite preacher was THE best one. As a result the church divided into several factions aligned with different leaders (not that the leaders wanted this).
First, we should see our distinctives as gifts that strengthen the church. Paul talks further about this in chapter 12. If four preachers connect with four different groups within the church that’s a great blessing that one of those groups isn’t left out in the cold. Diversity is a gift.
Second, since our gifts and talents come from God, let’s not take credit for them. Let’s use them to encourage others and strengthen God’s kingdom. “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I’d love to get some feedback on this post. Obviously it’s not the answer to everything related to following Jesus, but I believe it’s a significant step. Does one of the points above strike you as more urgent for the church today than the others? (It’s okay if we disagree. 🙂 )