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Sermon: Vision Correction 

January 22, 2006 – Clovis Christian Church

Introduction:

A.    Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.  A few months ago Bev and slipped into your second service and very much enjoyed worshiping with you.

B.    Since then, Michael and I have had lunch together and have carried on an e-mail friendship which I have enjoyed a great deal.

C.    A bit about us:

       1.     We have two grown children, Angela and Jonathan.

       2.     Bev is a speech pathologist and serves two districts and three schools in Merced County.

       3.     We moved to Merced after a 15 year ministry in Lodi.  Before that, in reverse order, Texas, Kentucky, and Minnesota.

D.    Paul’s words to the Corinthians resonate with me.  In fact, I have been troubled about evangelism for the past few years, and I think it has been a result of the love of Christ convicting me—not a result of my own goodness or faith.

E.     We are in Merced as a direct result of “the love of Christ” urging us on.  The convicting, niggling, irritating, unrelenting love of Christ.  It is not because we are noble or particularly obedient.

F.     Paul understood the work of God’s influence in his life.  K“The love of Christ urges us on...”

        1.     He had experienced the blindness of his experience on the road to Damascus, Acts 9..

         2.    He had seen visions of the “third heaven,” 2 Corinthians 12:2.

         3.     K Now he knew he was the “chief of sinners” and undeserving of Christ’s love, 1 Timothy 1:15.

I.      Paul’s critics judged him harshly.

        A.    Paul met bitter opposition in Corinth carrying letters of recommendation (3:1) and claiming the right to exercise authoritative leadership in the churches (11:5)–probably with the purpose of undermining Paul’s influence in the churches.

        B.    For that reason, Paul engages in an extended defense of his ministry.  Some call it the most autobiographical of Paul’s letters.  Clearly it gives great insight into Paul’s mindset, and his heart for ministry.

        C.    K If you listen to some of the criticisms leveled against him, you can very clearly see where the critics’ priorities lay.

                1.     K They had “status” and Paul didn’t, 12:12; 3:2ff.

                2.     K Paul’s physical presence and speech delivery were “weak,” 10:1,9; 11:5.

                3.     K He refused support from the church by being privately employed, 11:7-12.

        D.    K We might not engage in criticism as these Corinthians did, but I think it is helpful to ask how our own priorities might distract us from the real heart of the gospel.

                1.     K Perhaps the “market-driven” approach we’ve had to church and faith in the past 20 years. [See ‘Me Church’]

                2.     K Or the resentment for outsiders that you sometimes see in faith communities.  “They are messing up our party.”

II.    Paul re-centered the conversation in Christ:

        A.    K Paul wanted the Corinthians to understand that the only enduring motivation for Christian conduct is Christ’s love.  Not outward appearances.  Not status or the market, or social convention (being in a “right mind”).

        B.    K Jesus’ death was not a privatized event.

                1.     Not a “me and Jesus” sort of thing.  According to Paul, Jesus “died for all.”

                2.     So he died for every race, gender, economic strata, and sinner.

                3.     Jesus’ death is the property of ALL.  And our responsibility is to ALL.

        C.    K Living in a privatized world tends to make us live in categories.

                1.     My Kiwanis Club in Lodi used to hiss when the word “Rotary” was spoken.

                2.     I heard a group of men at church saying, “Look at that guy; doesn’t he know you can’t come to church dressed like that?”  (He was walking across the parking lot toward the entry door.)

                3.     I just got back from a Leadership Merced retreat.  One of our exercises (diversity) was to get people to sign off on various experiences.

                        a.     One said, “Find someone who has very different musical tastes than you.”

                        b.     Danielle said, “I like rock music; would you sign this square?”

                        c.     She assumed that I, being a pastor, didn’t like rock music.  I told her I actually preferred it.

                        d.     She had a privatized view.

        D.    K“Therefore,” Paul says our worldview is changed.  We don’t look at people the same anymore.  “Maybe he/she likes rock music.  I’ll have to ask.  I’ll have to get to know him/her.”

III.   According to Paul, the death of Christ was the great leveler.

        A.    K The death of Christ removed the artificial barriers that were erected as a result of the Fall.  There is only one reality for those who accept this–“in Christ.”

                1.     In Christ there is no status except relationship to Jesus.

                2.     In Christ we do not live for self but for Jesus.  He is the object of our lives, 5:15.

3.                     Not position.  Not money.  Not education.  Not power.  All the things that divide us are sacrificed to Jesus.

B.            Paul refers to the death of Christ three times, as if to drive home the point that whatever existed no longer does.  K It’s an idea that is recurrent in the NT.

1.             K We have been buried with him...so we too might walk in newness of life... Romans 6:4.

2.             K...a new creation is everything... Galatians 6:15.

3.             K...clothe yourselves with the new self... Ephesians 4:24.

4.             K In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! Colossians 3:11.

C.            So while the rest of the world is erecting barriers, the disciples of Jesus are building bridges.

1.             Can you imagine what would happen to Sunnis, Baathists, Shiites, and Kurds if they died in this way rather than with suicide bombs?

2.             Or how would the language of people like Pat Robertson or Ray Nagin sound like if they really spoke for Jesus?

Conclusion:

A.            We began this sermon talking about the nagging, insistent, ever present love of God.  For those who are so inclined, it never goes away.

B.            Paul’s critics did not know what it meant to be controlled by God’s love.  They could only think about Paul’s weaknesses.  In the same way as a person today who can get past the minutiae of life.

C.            K Paul reminds us that there are two proper responses to this love of God.

1.             K To fall into God’s embrace and be reconciled.  To give up the things that keep us apart from him.

2.             K The other, equally important, is to become an agent of reconciliation, bringing the lost to God.

D.            The love of Christ, as well as the fear of the Lord, correct our eyesight and give us 20/20 vision.  That having happened:

1.             We begin to comprehend how great is God’s love.

2.             We fear the alternative to living in a self-willed way.

3.             We seek to acquaint others to the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection.

                        I have presbyopia.  It’s a nice medical word for “old eyes.”  I was thankful for glasses which restored my vision so that I can see clearly. 

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