Sermon Date: January 30, 0911
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Scripture: I Corinthians 1:18-31
We Are Lights Together... When We Glory in Christ Alone!
This morning we’re continuing our sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so let’s think about what fellowship hour might have been like in that congregation. At one table are the intellectuals. They love talking about religion, especially where to draw the line between faith and reason. Of course, no one can agree with anyone or get a word in edgewise. Each has different thoughts on which teachings of the Bible are reasonable and which need to be modified to make more make sense. Some are even denying Christ’s resurrection. Are you going to sit at their table? Maybe not. We go to the next table and they’re talking about what they did last night. This bunch worships having a sinfully good time. In fact one guy is bragging about sleeping with his father’s bimbo third wife, and they’re all yuking it up. Would you sit at that table? Let’s move on then. The third table has all the smelly people. They’re too poor to take a bath. Some were born that poor. Others became that poor because they’re alcoholics and made too many bad choices. A couple of them are just about passing out. So, is this the table you’re going to sit at? Let’s move on. At the fourth table they’re having a heated argument over which of their pastors is the best and they’re insisting that by picking him, they are better Christians than everyone else. Care to get involved? So, we go to the food table, except we have to stand in line according to who dresses the best and gives the most. Maybe we want to skip fellowship and just go home.
I’m not exaggerating how bad things were at Corinth. Nevertheless Paul did not give up on them, nor was that God’s will. Corinth was a city of about 200,000. That’s comparable to our immediate area. Yesterday there were 14 obituaries in the paper. I don’t know if that’s average, but it’s not hard to imagine that everyday 10 or more people in Corinth were dying and beginning an eternity in hell.
So, who was there to preach the Gospel in Corinth? There was no one except those nice people we met at the Corinth fellowship hour. This was one reason Paul wanted to get everyone united in mind and thought. Another reason was for their own sake. You see, each table had problems. But they would not get anywhere in dealing with their problems, until they had a right attitude toward Christ and a right attitude toward each other. Did you catch what I just said? We all have problems. But we won’t get to the bottom of them unless our pride is in Christ alone. And then when it is, we will be lights together for our time and place, even if our congregation starts out as messed up as Corinth’s, which it isn’t.
We read in our text, For the message of the cross is foolishness 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; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” – I Corinthians 1:18-19 What God did for us in unbelievable. Here’s a picture from the Hubble telescope. Those aren’t stars, those are distant galaxies. Astronomers had pointed the Hubble in an area that appeared to be to void of stars, and that’s what they found. Unbelievable isn’t it. But why did God created such a big universe? To display his glory and to show us that His love for us is over the top.
Here’s another picture of God’s over-the-top love for us. That person on the cross isn’t simply a great teacher or a gifted miracle worker. That’s God on the cross. That’s the creator of everything you saw in the previous picture. He became also truly human, so that He could suffer the punishment of our sins for us. Unbelievable, but it’s true. However, what does God’s doing this for us tell us about our sins? They are that serious. And so, it would be ridiculous for us to compare ourselves with other sinners, including even the members at Corinth and say, “I’m better than they are. I deserve to have God the Son die for me. Those people over there don’t.”
If we go down that path, where does it take us? It takes us away from trusting in Christ. It takes us to trusting in our own righteousness. If we start doing that, where do we draw the line with how much righteousness is enough to get us into heaven? And then once we get into trusting in our own righteousness instead of in Christ alone, we’re going to have to rationalize away God’s Law to where we feel we can keep it, except in our conscience we’ll know we’re just fooling ourselves. Or, maybe we’ll go in a little different direction. We give up fighting some of the popular temptations and then try not to think about standing before God someday.
The seed of faith is in us. God gave us faith through the water and the Word, because He says so in His Word. But if we keep fighting against our faith by rationalizing away the things we don’t agree with in the Bible or by giving up and giving in, we get farther and farther from Christ. Our faith can die. Also, then we will be at odds with everyone who sits at a different table than we do like was going on in Corinth. As a result all of our problems will compound; and those compounding problems are just showing us that we don’t have a right attitude toward Christ.
So, what do we do to change direction? How do we stop comparing ourselves with others and recognize that only God the Son was able to pay for OUR sins? Also, once we get back to having a right attitude toward Christ, how do we help other believers/sinners be united with us in Christ so they don’t kill their faith either and we can be lights together? And finally, how do we learn to say what needs to be said in a way that it needs to be said and not become judgmental or sound judgmental?
Do you hear all those we(s)? How do we? How do we? How do we? Right there is another problem. We read on in our text, Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” – I Corinthians 1:26-31.We came to faith because God called us to faith. And God called us to faith, not because of any special qualities in us. No, when He calls to faith, He often goes after the chief of sinners like Paul. Or He goes after those who are least desirable in the eyes of the world, so that the rich and proud will think twice about even wanting to become a Christian.
Well, if the heart and core of Christianity are opposite to everything the world is looking for in religion, and if our own sinful nature is opposed to God’s standards and God’s truth, it is a miracle that you and I are believers; but we are! And so, just as the galaxies display God’s power, and just as the Cross displays God love, our coming to faith displays God’s wisdom!
Wow! We, sinners, are walking displays of God’s wisdom! Did you ever think of yourself that way? Well, we are! But how does knowing we are walking displays of God’s wisdom affect our attitude toward His Word? It humbles us! It leads us to subject our minds to the Word. In the weeks ahead in this sermon series we’ll talk about how we use our minds to determine exactly what God’s Word is saying in any given verse. But once we determine that, we will humbly accept what He is saying, whether it rationally makes sense to us or not.
Or, here’s another question. How does knowing that we are walking displays of God’s wisdom affect our attitude toward Christ? That God should choose us for faith, and He has, blows us away! And so, we want to worship Him, we want to tell others about Him, and can’t stand not doing these things. But then when we sin or fail again, we get disappointed with ourselves, and deep down we may even hate ourselves. Yet we’re dumbfounded that Christ still wants us, even if we’ve messed up as badly as the Corinthians had. And so all the more we glory in Christ alone.
Finally how does knowing we are walking displays of God’s wisdom affect our attitude toward others? When we see sin or false doctrine, we won’t be able to ignore those things - there’s too much at stake, souls are at stake. At the same time we won’t approach anyone with pride in ourselves and disgust at them, because we’ll see each struggling believer/sinner as another miracle of God. And now miracle of miracles, God wants to use us to help and encourage others in their faith. That’s unbelievable, but it’s true.
However, don’t start thinking, “Oh more guilt”, because God is expecting us to do things we’re not comfortable doing. Rather, come back here next week, and you will learn how we may effectively share our faith with others, so that all of us believers/sinners may be lights together; and by being lights together, make New Hope a congregation that reflects Christ and attracts many to Him. By being lights together, may God now use to make an eternal difference to the 200,000 plus in our area before it’s too late!