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Are you sure?

Year A 2019-2020  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  21:56
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Have you called someone and began carrying on a conversation with them and then realized that you had no idea who you were talking to because you called the wrong number?
I’ve done that. I remember when I was a teen. I was at my friends house next door and it had been raining for a couple of days and the river and creeks were starting to flood. My friends dad decided he wanted to drive down by the river to see the flooding.
I called my mom and she answered. I told her where I was at and asked if I could go with the neighbors to see the flooding. She sounded a little confused because she didn’t know who Edie was, but she said it was ok, as long as I was home by bedtime.
Off to the river we went. We say the flooding and came back home. When I walked in to my house my mom asked me where I had been. I reminded her of our phone conversation and she told me that I never called her. We argued back and forth a little bit and then it dawned on me that I had called my girlfriends house and talked to her mom. She and my mom sounded familiar on the phone so I didn’t realize at the time that I was talking to the wrong mom!
Calling the wrong number, mistaking someone for somebody else, those things happen. The way that Paul opens this letter to the Corinthians we might wonder if Paul was writing to the correct church. We might ask the question of Paul, are you sure? Are you sure you are saying these nice things to the Corinthians.
The Corinthian church was a church full of problems. There sexual immorality that was openly happening. There were people in the church suing other people in the church. There was quarreling, there were church fights going on. This church was a mess.
It reminds me of a church that I heard about. A district superintendent had gone there to meet with the board. There was a sweet little old lady there. She was given the opportunity to speak and she told that district superintendent that she had a pistol and she knew how to use it!
Can you imagine? Can you imagine if our D.S. came here and one of our board members told the D.S. that they had a gun and they knew how to use it? Do you know what? It happens! There was a church on our district about 10 years ago that was going through a really hard time, kind of like the Corinthian church and one of the Board members promised to bring his gun to the next board meeting!
That is just so hard to fathom. Board members are supposed to be entirely sanctified, filled with the spirit. But on these occasions they were acting no better than people in the world.
Is that the way the church is supposed to be? No! We are to be different, to live in the world but not be like it.
Kids can be funny because when they see something in the store it becomes a case of them saying that they "need it"; almost as if they'll die if you don't buy it for them. They may start out saying that they "want" it but it almost always in my experience turns into an "I need it" situation.
As they grow older and become teenagers it doesn't change much except that the cost of their "needs" gets more expensive. Teens also become better at trying to manipulate you into buying or giving them the money to purchase the item that they think the need.
That same type of mindset can even spill over into the church. Churches buy into this program or that program in hopes that they will become bigger and better in the process. Individuals get angry and cause problems in the church because their supposed needs aren't being met and they can hold the church hostage by their attitudes and demands. Pastors are just as guilty of trying to be control freaks and needing everything in the church to go their way to meet their needs.
Too often in the church we play the "if only" game. If only we had this, if only we had that, if only.
I saw an ad for a law firm. It showed a cartoon image of Cinderella on her knees scrubbing the floor with the caption “If Only Cinderella’s father had left a will.” How might her life been different.
Plying the "If Only" game won't get us anywhere. I've fallen into the trap of playing that game occasionally but I've learned that it can be a bottomless pit to fall into. We talk about all the "If Only" things that we think we need which in most cases are just wants.
Paul in his opening words of encouragement to the church at Corinth has some encouraging this to say to us this morning about the issue of needed things in the church.
I love how Paul starts out this letter to the church. We don't write letters much these days. Those of us with computers or smart phones we send e-mails or text messages. There's not much of a greeting in those things. It's usually just a Hi! and then what ever message you wanted to send. The first 9 verses in this letter are his greeting to the church.
Paul starts out his letter with a reminder; it's a reminder of who they are. I think what Paul is stating in verse one is that he's not writing this letter just as Paul, a friend of the church.
1 Corinthians 1:1 CEB
1 From Paul, called by God’s will to be an apostle of Jesus Christ, and from Sosthenes our brother.
He's writing this letter from that position that he is called.
Being called is an important concept for all of us. In most churches, we think of being "called" as the pastor or an evangelist or a missionary, the "professional" ministry idea. I don't think that is a completely Biblical concept. Those of us who are Christian this morning have all been called of God.
Paul talks about the calling of God in many places throughout his writings. Peter even mentions it in his first Epistle. Peter wrote:
1 Peter 2:9–10 CEB
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. 10 Once you weren’t a people, but now you are God’s people. Once you hadn’t received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
What an affirming thought to know that God through the Holy Spirit in what we call Prevenient Grace called us who are Christians out of darkness, out of sin by His great mercy into as Peter says "his wonderful light."
Paul goes on in his introduction of his letter to the Corinthians to reiterate this point of being called. He is writing "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."
Let's take that apart just a little bit. Paul says he's writing to the church in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus. That word sanctified as you know means to be set apart for God, something or someone devoted to service to God. The root idea of sanctification is a separateness.
As Christians, we are to be different from the world around us, we are to be separated. That doesn't mean that we become like the Amish and revert to an 18th century style of living. It's what Paul wrote:
Romans 12:2 CEB
2 Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is—what is good and pleasing and mature.
When we conform to something we become like that thing we are conforming to. When we become a Christian we are called to stop conforming to how the world wants us to live. In the Message translation of that passage from Romans puts it this way:
Romans 12:2 The Message
2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
It's so easy to just go along with what the world is doing. Peter addressed this as well, he wrote:
1 Peter 1:13–14 CEB
13 Therefore, once you have your minds ready for action and you are thinking clearly, place your hope completely on the grace that will be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14 Don’t be conformed to your former desires, those that shaped you when you were ignorant. But, as obedient children,
God calls us to be different. Paul takes it step further and says that he's writing to those "called to be his holy people". Throughout the Bible there is this calling for humanity to be holy. Just a little further in Peter's writing he wrote:
1 Peter 1:15–16 CEB
15 you must be holy in every aspect of your lives, just as the one who called you is holy. 16 It is written, You will be holy, because I am holy.
We struggle with that idea of being holy. So often we think of people acting "holier than thou" where they talk and act like they are somehow better than everyone around them. That is not true holiness that we read about in the Bible. What the Bible tells us is to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul and then it says to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
Loving God is easy for the most part. Loving the one who created the universe, who gives us our very lives, who sent Jesus to be our savior, that's pretty easy. But, did you ever stop and think that if we're not being obedient to God then we're not really loving God with every aspect of our being?
Loving our neighbor as ourselves can sometimes be another story. Just who is my neighbor? Is it that obnoxious teenager that walks around with an attitude that lives next door? Is it that big mouthed drunken blowhard that lives a few doors down who's always yelling at his kids? Is it that little old lady who lives across the street that complains about everything? Is it that cashier at the grocery store who's always in a bad mode and you dread having to use her checkout lane?
The answer is Yes! Yes, we are called to love not just the people that treat us nicely but everyone. Go back and read Jesus story about the good Samaritan - that will give you a great idea about who your neighbor is.
Some of you will remember Anna Grow from the Jerome church. I think it would be safe to say that she had a challenging personality. Right? She was one of the last members of the Johnstown church when it closed. I will admit that there were times that I would cringe when she said she needed to talk to me because she was challenging.
When she learned of her cancer and Darlene and I started helping her out we really got to know her. She truly loved Christ and the church. We learned about her rough childhood in the west end of Johnstown. She lived in a cabin that originally had been I believe someplace near Jennerstown that her grandfather had moved to Johnstown. It wasn’t much more than a 2 room cabin with a bathroom. Her mother, her brother and sister and Anna all slept upstairs in that cabin on two bunk beds. She really had a rough life.
Darlene and I really got to know Anna and to love her as Christ loved her. It took looking past that rough and cranky exterior to see who she really was.
Before you think that Paul was just writing to the church there in the city of Corinth he says:
together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours
This call of God to be sanctified to be holy was not just for them alone, it's for us today. We're a part of that group that as Paul says "call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
You might be thinking that the Corinthian church was a perfect church with no problems after looking at his introduction of this letter, especially since there are two letters to the church included in the Bible. It was far from a perfect church. I would say that there is no perfect church out there. Some of the problems going on included "factions within the church, a case of incest, members suing each other, problems with sexual impurity, and the spread of a quarrelsome spirit." {1}
Paul changes course in the next several verses of his letter to the church and mentions several things that he thanks God for about the Corinthians.
The first thing that Paul mentions is God's grace that they have been given in Christ Jesus. Grace that unmerited favor of God or another way of defining it using the letters in the word: God's Riches At Christ Expense. This salvation that we have is only because of God's amazing grace towards us.
Too often in our culture we think we must do something to get people to like us. We often fall into the trap of doing stuff to gain a friendship with someone, it's almost like we're auditioning to become someone's friend. Some people get really trapped in that type of living and they go through life constantly trying to get approval from others. You often see it in women who go from one failed relationship to another to another always looking for approval and acceptance.
Do you know that we try to do that with God as well? People try to earn their way to God. Maybe you've tried that. It's the idea that I've got to this or change that to impress God so that He will love me. Do you know what? It is impossible to please God. You cannot no matter how hard you try, you can't impress God, you can't earn your way to Him. At some point, you come to the conclusion of what Paul quotes from the Old Testament:
Romans 3:10–12 CEB
10 As it is written, There is no righteous person, not even one. 11 There is no one who understands. There is no one who looks for God. 12 They all turned away. They have become worthless together. There is no one who shows kindness. There is not even one.
Pretty discouraging, isn't it?
Well it would be depressing and discouraging if it weren't for what Paul wrote when he said: "because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus." It's because of God's grace, of Him coming to us in the person of Jesus that we can know forgiveness of sin. It's through God coming to us and infilling and empowering us through the Holy Spirit that we can live the holy life that He's called us to live.
Paul says to the church that they have been enriched in every way.
In our culture, today we hear a lot about the financial mess that we're in. Do you know what is worse than a financial bankruptcy? It's spiritually bankrupt people in the church. Our culture places great value on acquiring stuff. The culture in Corinth was not too much unlike our world today. The problem is that a society that places so much emphasis on making money and pleasure will ultimately be a society that diminishes the quality of life. One commentator wrote:
The worth of self and of persons diminishes and the quality of relationships deteriorates. Soon the distinctions between right and wrong fade and values become distorted; social pressure toward evil emerges. This was precisely the mood and pattern of life in first-century Corinth, but it is also a fairly accurate description of most cities in the world today.[2]
But Paul says we, the church has been enriched.
Think of what you were before you came to saving faith in Christ. Then Paul gets to the key point that I want to leave us with this morning. Look again verse 7, Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:7 CEB
7 The result is that you aren’t missing any spiritual gift while you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.
Paul later in his letter will spend a lot of time talking about spiritual gifts but he states right up front that because of what God has done the church does not lack any spiritual gift.
Paul reminds us we don't lack any spiritual gift, in other words we have everything we need. Our problem is that we're not taking advantage of what God has already given us. You might be sitting there thinking "come on Pastor, look around, we don’t have a large crowd, how can we possibly make a difference." I will just point you back to what Paul wrote when he said "because of His grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way."
I love how the Message paraphrase translates this section:
1 Corinthians 1:4–7 The Message
4 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. 5 There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. 6 The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives. 7 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale.
1 Corinthians 1:4–9 The Message
4 Every time I think of you—and I think of you often!—I thank God for your lives of free and open access to God, given by Jesus. 5 There’s no end to what has happened in you—it’s beyond speech, beyond knowledge. 6 The evidence of Christ has been clearly verified in your lives. 7 Just think—you don’t need a thing, you’ve got it all! All God’s gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. 8 And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. 9 God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.
Did you catch that? "Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all!"
Be encouraged this morning - we have everything that we need to reach the un-churched. And do you know what? If we don't have it, God will send it along. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Corinthian church:
2 Corinthians 9:10 CEB
10 The one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness.
Do you know what the source of my hope is this morning? It's found right there in our Scripture in verse 9:
God is faithful
God is faithful, He will not fail!
Are you struggling this morning? Remember God is faithful, He will not fail you. Remain faithful to Him and watch what He will do in and through you!
Are you sure of your faith in Christ?
[1]Chafin, K. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1985). Vol. 30: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 30 : 1, 2 Corinthians. The Preacher's Commentary series (17). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.
[2]Chafin, K. L., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1985). Vol. 30: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 30 : 1, 2 Corinthians.. The Preacher's Commentary series (26). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.
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