1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Paul addressing some petty disputes and strife among Christians which are clear evidence of a lack of maturity in Christ. He is likening them to children, who are aging in the Lord but not maturing in the Lord. The picture of feeding them milk and them still not being ready for solid food makes me think of a toddler, who should be eating meals with the family, still on eating only milk from a bottle. The Corinthians development is stunted like this. And the primary evidence Paul is citing, is competing allegiances to different leaders or preachers.
Paul says to bicker and fight and argue and divide over such things is altogether natural and normal, and altogether unbefitting people who are supposed to be spiritual. There is a trap within local churches, and within the larger Church too, to separate into camps that follow a certan leader, teacher, author, etc, when we're all supposed to be following Jesus.
I'm concerned about this in our celebrity pastor culture and wonder...
- Are you really following Jesus, or is it a certain teacher or teaching you're following?
- Are you prone to fighting or arguing with Christians over this preacher or that preacher?
- If strife between Christians, and an allegiance toward or inordinant emphasis on one preacher over all others is a sign of immaturity, are you needing more milk only, or can you handle solid food?
The warnings against adultery in throughout Proverbs, and especially chapters 5-7 need to be seen as more than adultery. We must expand these insights and warning into the broader realm of sexual immorality. And in light of that, these next couple chapters are really important to come back to again and again.
While Fear is not mentioned explicitly in these chapters I want to highlight some fears that are implied in them, which run counter to the Fear of the Lord. For example, in chapter 5, Solomon warns of the enticement and allure of sexual immorality. Certainly we can all relate to a fleshly draw into this area of sin. And if we do not fear the Lord, we will fear "missing out" on something good. To flee seual immorality will leave our flesh fearing that we're mising some great pleasure that others indulge in, and our lives will be robbed of some enjoyment.
Solomon says just the opposite. Our fear is that we'll miss some great experience and will regret walking in the boredom of purity. But v. 9-10 tell us that we'll actually regret indulging. That what we're missing out on is slavery and death. Our fears lie to us and tell us that our best life is to feed our appetites, while the Fear of the Lord tells to fear our natural impulses.
- Be honest with yourself. As it relates to sexual immorality, what is it you fear missing out on? And if you walk in purity, what does the Fear of the Lord tell you you're missing on?
1 Corinthians 3:10-17
One think that stands out to me in this passage is that Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, not to Christians in Corinth. When he talks about "you" being a temple in which God's Spirit dwells, that's not to be read or understood through an individualistic filter. It's not that I am a temple in which Christ Spirit dwells (though other parts of Scripture speak to that), but Paul is saying that all of us together, as a church community are a temple where the Holy Spirit dwells.
This means we're all necessary parts of a larger whole and that we are responsbile to contribute to the health and stability of the church. He's also said in v. 10-15, that the church must be established on the foundation of Jesus Christ if it is stand the test of time, and that each person has a part in that. So I see 3 things to conisder today...
1) Is Generations being built on the foundation of Jesus Christ?
2) Because the church is people first and foremost, our individual lives must be built on the foundation of Jesus Christ... is my life strengthening that foundation or weakening it?
3) Am I contributing to the beauty and durability of my church (God's Temple), or am undermining and destroying it?
v. 25, 27-28 - I wonder if we recognize the danger of our natural and normal desires. This is another aspect of the Fear of Lord I see represented in these chapters. Fearing the Lord will produce a healthy fear of my fleshly and unchecked desires, and the potential consequences they bring about. Do you you find your natural desires benign or problematic.
1 Corinthians 3:18-23
v. 18 is such a haunting and important verse. We are all prone to self-deception. All of us. In fact, we deceive ourselves more than we deceive anyone else. It's so easy to do this. All we have to do is think we're doing better than we are. And we seem to constantly be hiding, hedging, pretending, exaggerating, minimizing, dealing in half truths, ambiguities and vagueness about life. We all want to be doing better than we probably are and we are all prone to assuming the best of ourselves. Paul applies this specifically to not thinking ourselves wise when we are fools.
At a very simple level, Paul is just saying, if anyone thinks he's got it together... if anyone thinks he's figured out life... if anyone thinks he's got all the answers... it's obvious that he doesn't. The kind of wisdom that God gives leads us to humility, dependency, repentance, honesty about weakness, denial of self, and things the world deems foolish.
The cross has already confirmed our need, our foolishness, our stupidity. We don't have to pretend we've got it all together, because we all know we're a mess inside. Jesus has made that plain. So, stop hiding. Stop acting as if... Stop being so guarded... Stop trying to prove your awesome. Embrace the gospel. That you are a guilty, foolish, weak sinner in need of grace which has been abundantly supplied in Jesus, which flows freely among and between His people because of the Holy Spirit dwelling among us. Let's be real with each other. Let's be real with ourselves. It's incredibly freeing!
v. 7, 23, 26 - Thirdly, in chapter 7, if we have no fear of the Lord we will have no concern or even awareness of our particular vulnerabilities. Fear of the Lord produces a healthy fear of my own weakness and the temptations that entice me. Whereas we touched on desire yesterday, and what we actually pursue, todays verses are touching more on temptation, and those things that come for us. There is not only trouble that we seek and find, but the trouble that seeks us out and finds us. Fear of the Lord makes us alert to both.
1 Corinthians 4:1-13
This gives some insight into the the kind church leaders we should look for and submit to, as well as the kind of people church leaders should be. Really, as Christians, we are always living in submission to some authority, but we are also probably leading someone as well.
Do these characterize your leaders and you as a leader?
Servant - Leaders in Jesus' church are servants first and foremost. We do not impose our will on others coercively, forcefully, or authoritatively. Rather, we influence others' wills humbly, gently and sacrificially. We are not here to draw followers to ourselves, we are here to empower and strengthen followers of Jesus. We serve them as Christ came to serve us. He is the ultiamte leader and our model for all of ministry.
Steward - No church, no group of Christians, no individual Christian belongs to any man or woman. The church of Jesus is a blood bought bride who belongs to her head, Christ. No pastor, elder, minister, oversight committee, bishop, board, or leader of any kind, has any claim on that which belongs to God. Every local church is a possession of God alone's, and her leaders are entrusted with a sacred responsibility to care wisely and lovingly for what does not belong to them.
Submitted - No one should have spiritual authority if they are not under spiritual authority. Submitted men and women are the only safe kind of people God uses to form Christ in his people.
v. 13 tells us there is a direct correlation between our fera of the Lord and our hatred of evil. It even identifies pride, arrogance and perverted speech as particular evil. So, those are some categories to start with, but maybe they establish the kind of categories we should be thinking in with regard to evil. Evil isn't just the obvious things like murder, injustice, abuse, etc. What seems far more benign can actually be evil. Things like joking around in sexually suggestive ways. Lude comments. Thinking more highly of oneself than we ought.
Evil is a larger category than any of us wants it to be according to Proverbs 8:13. If that pride lives in you than it will allow you to roll your eyes and trivialize that verse. But if you fear the Lord, you'll take it seriously.
Fear of the Lord cannot peacefully co-exist with your inflated thoughts of yourself, or your preoccupation with yourself. Nor can it abide harmoniously with dirty jokes, and "locker room" talk. This puts ordinary things that many of us laugh at and laugh off in our lives, and puts them into a category that's pretty sobering. Pay attention to these areas, today, and pay attention to how your heart and head react to the verse itself.
1 Corinthians 4:14-21
v. 20 just has arrested my attention today. Paul's declaration is this: "The Kingdom of God does not consistin talk but in power." It's direct and simple. But it's surprising and alarming. The honest truth is that so much of what I have experienced and observed spiritually, has consisted in talk... a lot of talk... a lot of words... countless words. And there has been a poverty of power. The reality of this verse is the cry of my heart today. I hope it's the cry of yours. May it be our cry every day. I'm longing to see God's Spirit move in power in my life and among our church and in our community. I want to power of God to be evident in my life and in our church family so that Jesus becomes the fixation of our lives and the talk of the town. I'm longing more and more for what only God can do... what we can accomplish is boring and played out. Let's cry out for what only Jesus can do, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
v. 10 - We ar ereturning to one of the original ideas about the Fear of the Lord... and that is that all wisdom begins there. You can be smart, competent, intellectually savvy, well-educated and a complete fool. In fact, a lot of people are, because the many of the smartest people in the world have no regard for the Lord whatsoever. You can also be a lousy student, uneducated, not super bright, and very wise, because what little you know is grounded in the ultimate truth. That's why Paul says that the gospel is of "First Importance." If you can only know one thing, be knowledgeable in one area, or be an expert in one field, may it be in the knowledge of the truth of who God is, and in the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is for us, wisdom from God.
v. 27 - "The fear of the Lord prolongs life." This is not a promise in Proverbs, but a truism. Meaning, on balance, this is pretty reliable. Well, people live long when they're healthy. Essentially, Solomon is saying that the fear of the Lord improves the health of the whole person. We were made by God and for God, and when we embrace our destiny to love and serve and glorify him, to worship and honor him, it makes sense that we will thrive and flourish. It doesn't mean we'll prosper materially, or live comfortably. But when our lives are rightly oriented around God, we will be whole.
- Question: Is your disregard for the Lord shaving years off your life, and robbing you of a long and satisfying future? Might you need a healthy fear of what you miss out on should you keep minimizing Jesus' place in your life?
Just pick a verse in chapter 11 that speaks to you today. I have nothing related to fear here.