Thursday, January 29, 2009

Body Principles

1 Corinthians 12:12 – 26

“Body Principles”

State of the church in this present age... One study shows that only half the people who attend a “conservative/Bible believing” church have a “saving relationship” with Jesus [Barna]. Another study shows that between 15% and .3% of those who choose to follow Jesus join the church in the first year [Schwarz].

How is it that we can attract people to church but not Jesus? How is it we can attract people to Jesus but not the church? Why has this become a two-step process?

One possible explanation has been the loss of form and function of the body of Christ in our culture. In the “West” we are so individually oriented, we seldom see the need to associate with a group unless we feel passionate about those in the group or the group’s common interest. We also have the tendency to be competitive to the point where we damage each other instead of working together. We tend to resist any form of “connectionalism” thinking it leads to a loss of identity, independence, and personal entitlement. (Absolute values in American society.)

The Bible describes the church as an interdependent collection of diverse people. It is “the body of Christ.”

Many years ago a scientist noted that the human body had enough lime to white wash a good size chicken coop, enough salt to fill a small shaker, and enough iron to make a small nail. The value of the individual parts of the body is very low in comparison to the value of the individual.


I.         What are the principles of the body of Christ?


            A.        The body is UNITED under King Jesus.


                        1.         Jesus is the “head.”

“And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy.” [Colossians 1:18]


                        2.         The body depends on diversity.

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” [v 12]

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” [v 14]


                        3.         The body exists for a purpose.

“From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” [Ephesians 4:16]


            B.        The body is DESIGNED by God.

“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be.” [v 18]


                        1.         Each part of the body is dependent on the other.

“If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. [16] And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.” [vv 15 – 16]

“The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!” [v 21]


                                    a.         No part can live separate from the body. (We would call this “amputation.”)


                                    b.         Notice, even Jesus (the head) places Himself in dependence to us.


                        2.         Different types are needed to make a body.

“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?” [v 17]

“If they were all one part, where would the body be? [20] As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” [v 19]


            C.        The body is DEPENDENT on its weakest part.


                        1.         The “weak” are indispensable! (“absolutely necessary” – Oxford.)

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.” [v 22]


                        2.         The necessity of caring for others forces us from our general apathy.

“So that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” [v 25]


                                    a.         There is no room for self-depreciation [v 15]


                                    b.         There is no room for depreciating others [v 21]


II.       How do we deal with our society’s training?


            A.        Our tendencies:


                        1.         Identity is based on the individual:


                                    a.         We see ourselves through our family, job, etc...


                                    b.         Even group connections are is for the individual, not for the cause.

[“Conviction” v “Preference” – Conviction is what you will go to jail for and die for. Knowing for absolute certain you are right. It is who you are. Preference is what you like and want. You will fight for it but not die for it.]


                        2.         Need is considered self-inflicted.


                        3.         Care for others is optional.


            B.        Our realities:


                        1.         If our identities are not based on Jesus, then we are not “saved.”

You are not your own; [20] you were bought at a price.” [1 Corinthians 6:19b – 20a]

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” [Galatians 2:20]

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” [Galatians 6:14]


                        2.         Compassion is an essential component.

“And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.” [Matthew 10:42]

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” [Matthew 9:26]

“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” [Colossians 3:12]


III.      The body at work


            A.        Mutual relationships!


                        1.         American Revolution: “Hang separately or hang together.”

[On July 4 1776, delegates from 13 American colonies approved the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall. John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress, warned the delegates, "There must be no pulling different ways: we must all hang together."

Benjamin Franklin, Philadelphia's legendary wit, is said to have added, "We must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we will all hang separately."]


                                    a.         Do you really want to be alone?


                                    b.         Loneliness is a major driving force in a world becoming more disconnected.


                        2.         TV show Cheers: “Wouldn’t you like to go where everyone knows your name?”


                                    a.         It’s more about your name, its about sharing in your life.


                                    b.         It’s about having someone being there for you, and you being there for someone.


                        3.         “T.E.A.M.” – Together Everyone Achieves More.


            B.        Shared suffering and honor.

“If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” [1 Corinthians 12:26]

(Ill.) The floor of the parsonage is a truss system, not individual 2x12. First thought it looked weak, talked to the person who built them. At first he was skeptical but the designer demonstrated the strength difference between the two floors. The difference is remarkable between one piece and many pieces carrying the load!

So it is with our lives and our church...

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Monday, January 19, 2009

About Spiritual Gifts

1 Corinthians 13:1 – 3, 8 – 11

About Spiritual Gifts.


1.         Typically, the topic of “spiritual gifts” is discussed in context to one or two specific gifts. (“tongues” and prophecy)


            a.         The underlying context of the discussion is “have and have not.” The “haves” are either the “in” group to be respected or they are the ones who are to be feared because of the perception of not being authentic. The “have nots” are either to be looked down upon and criticized or they are the ones considered “safe.”


            b.         Often the issue of “tongues” has become the acid test. On one side, the extreme has decided that if one does not speak in tongues, the person is not even saved (or filled with the Holy Spirit). On the other side, those that speak in tongues are considered heretics or emotionally unstable.


            c.         The core philosophy in this debate is “different is better.” The idea is to impose the same experience on everyone... wether is speaking or not speaking.


2.         Lets look at the BIBLICAL evidence for the giving and use of the spiritual gifts.


            a.         “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. [5] There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. [6] There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” [1 Corinthians 12:4 – 6]


                        1.)       There are three different concepts mentioned by Paul. (Ways to understand spiritual gifts)


                                    a.)       Gifts – (Greek “charisma”) are the spiritual quality or ability.


                                    b.)       Services – (Greek “diakonia”) are the applications of those abilities.


                                    c.)       Workings – (Greek “energema”) are the effects.


                        2.)       The lesson here is “different is just different” because they are from and for the SAME one. Notice the reference to the Trinity in this verse: Spirit (v 4), Lord [Jesus] (v 5), God [the Father] (v 6).


            b.         “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” [1 Corinthians 12:7]


                        1.)       These “manifestations” are given for the COMMON good not the INDIVIDUAL good.


                        2.)       (Greek “sumphero”) The manifestations are only in the context of the group as a contribution for everyone’s advantage.


            c.         “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. [1 Corinthians 12:11]


                        1.)       The distribution is determined by God NOT our desire.


                                    a.)       Observation: everyone had “time, talent, and treasure” and everyone has spiritual “gift, service, and work.”


                                    b.)       These gifts, services, and works are SITUATIONAL.


                                    c.)       Some gifts are more useful to the group than others: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.” [1 Corinthians 14:4]


                        2.)       So why have gift(s) that edify the individual?


                                    a.)       The word translated “edify” (“oikodome”) is an architecture word that means “to build up” or “to strengthen.” Some individuals need to be built up and strengthened so they can contribute to the collective growth of the group.


                                    b.)       “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. [1 Corinthians 14:3]


                                                I.)        Expected outcome #1: Strengthen/build.


                                                II.)       Expected outcome #2: Encouragement and exhortation (challenged to do something).


                                                III.)     Expected outcome #3: Comfort.


3.         It is all meaningless without “love.”


            a.         Impressive manifestations of gifts (tongues, prophecy, knowledge, faith), services (giving), workings (martyrdom) are pointless without love. [vv 1 – 3]


            b.         Gifts, services, and workings are pointless without context and direction: “love.”

*** Jesus’ love demonstrated on the cross for us. Our love for God demonstrated in our repentance and obedience. Jesus’ love and our love for others demonstrated in effective use of these to draw others into right, saving, and serving relationship with God. ***


4.         Why?

“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” [1 Corinthians 13:8]


            a.         Gifts, services, and works are “imperfect” and “fail.”


            b.         There are a variety of words for “fail” in verse 8.


                        1.)       “Love never fails. (“ekpipto”) Means to “drop away” or “become inefficient.”


                                    a.)       Image of a flower of leaf coming to the end of its life cycle.


                                    b.)       Image of a business idea, way of doing something that fails to make the best use of time and resources.


                        2.)       “But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”


                                    a.)       (“katargeo”) The word used about prophecies and knowledge, means “to be entirely useless” or “abolish.”


                                    b.)       (“pauo”) The word use in the context of tongues means, “to stop” (come to an end).


            c.         How does this work?

“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, [10] but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. [1 Corinthians 13:9 – 10]


                        1.)       Situations and needs change with maturity. The word translated “perfection” (teleios) means “to be complete,” “to be mature,” “to fulfill function and purpose.”


                        2.)       In other words, the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given because of our imperfections for the purpose of maturing (perfecting) us.


5.         The questions for response:


            a.         What part of the church has God designed for you?


            b.         Where in the church has God given a gift, service, or work for you?


            c.         How does this reflect your love of God and for others?

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Saturday, January 03, 2009

New Year's Dare

Isaiah 55:6 – 11

New Year’s Dare

“I resolve to let God be right, about everything.”


I.         The problem:


            A.        We like to be right. We resist the possibility we might not be right!


                        1.         How often to you admit to being wrong? (Seldom...) When do you admit to being wrong? (When forced with unpleasant consequences...)


                        2.         How often do you just give up the disagreement because the other person is resisting/being stubborn?


            B.        How many of us have the life skills and grace to ADMIT we are not right and ACCEPT responsibility?


                        1.         As children we are “forced” to comply with authority and those who hold power over us.


                        2.         We are trained to resist... “Passive-Aggressive”


II.       Reality [vv 8 – 9]


            A.        God is not like us.


                        1.         God does not think like us or behave like us.


                        2.         God’s thoughts and ways are “light years” ahead of ours.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.” [1 Corinthians 1:25]

Our limited mind gets it backwards.

“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” [1 Corinthians 2:14]

Here’s the reality:

“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God's sight. As it is written: "He catches the wise in their craftiness [20] and again, "The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” [1 Corinthians 3:19 – 20]

This is the consequence of our thinking: We make our own “god.”

“Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools [23] and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” [Romans 1:22 – 23]

[Even Christians make their own version of “god” when we make God think and behave like us, or how we want God to think and behave.]


            B.        Hard reality, but true:


                        1.         The difference between God and humanity is GREATER than the difference between humanity and any animal.


                        2.         In other words,


                                    a.         What God says is right, true, and correct; even/especially if we don’t understand it.


                                    b.         What God does is righteous, holy, and loving; even/especially if we don’t like it.


III.      Objection!

Why do BAD things happen to good/innocent people?


            A.        There are five possible ways for bad things to happen:


                        1.         Natural disaster (tsunami).


                        2.         Accident (car accident).


                        3.         Self-inflicted (smoking/second hand smoke).


                        4.         Momentary lapse/insanity (“Santa slayings”).


                        5.         Pre-meditated/Planned evil. (September 11)


            B.        Possible views:


                        1.         The “deist” view thinks God set things in motion but is not personally involved.


                                    a.         Argument: There are spiritual laws/principles that cannot be violated. (Like the physical laws.)


                                    b.         Answer: yes but they can be come a “White Tiger.”

(Ill.) In India there was a “fakar” who went from town to town “creating” gold in boiling pot of mixed things. Someone would ask him how he did it... for a big price he would give them the “formula” and say, “it only works if, when you do this and say these words, you do NOT think of a white tiger.” The “formula” never worked. He would be arrested and tried but never convicted because in his defense he would ask... “did you think of a white tiger?”

A “White Tiger” is a condition to be met that automatically nullifies the possibility.

Example of a “White Tiger:” A radio evangelist once announced: “If you believe, God will put the keys to a new Cadillac into the hands of an angel and send those keys to you right away. But if you doubt for an instant, those keys are gone.”


                        2.         The “determinist” believes God pre-determined every action and behavior in the universe.

“If there is one single molecule in this universe running around loose, totally free of God’s sovereignty, then we have no guarantee that a single promise of God will ever be fulfilled. Perhaps that one maverick molecule will lay waste all the grand and glorious plans that God has made and promised to us... our maverick molecule could change the course of all redemptive history. Maybe that one molecule will be the thing that prevents Christ from coming.” [R. C. Sproul “Chosen by God” pp. 26 – 27]

[Response: This seems to be a very weak concept of God and an attempt to explain the chaos caused by sin... If God were sovereign: Then maverick molecules, sinful people, or even defiant armies would NOT prevent anything God wants to accomplish, any time God wants to accomplish it. “Now He is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else – not only in this world but also in the world to come.” (Ephesians 1:21)]


                                    a.         Some will suggest it this is accurate then God is the source of all evil if God predetermined or even allowed evil/bad.


                                    b.         Some will suggest that if God is not capable of stopping evil/bad then God is weak, and not God.


                        3.         A Biblical model.


                                    a.         God works with humans on four different levels.


                                                1.)       Eternal destiny (salvation/grace).

“He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.” [Ephesians 1:7 NLT]


                                                2.)       “Big Picture” history (Messiah, Revelation).

“And this is the plan: At the right time He will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.” [Ephesians 1:10 NLT]


                                                3.)       Groups (nations, churches)

“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirt in, whom He promised long ago. [Ephesians 1:12 – 13 NLT]


                                                4.)       Individuals.

“God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” [Ephesians 2:8 – 9 NLT]


                                    b.         There is a hierarchy.


                                                1.)       An individual will suffer or benefit what the group suffers or benefits. [see Matthew 5:45b] We do not completely control our own destiny.


                                                2.)       The group fits into the ultimate plan, purpose, and flow of history. The group does not necessarily control its own destiny.


                                                3.)       The individual has “free will” to react and interact with circumstances, life, others, and God. (You cannot control your circumstances but you control your reactions.)

Ravi Zacharius: “sanctity of free will” What we struggle with is that the sanctify of free will appears to be godless chaos from our limited perspective.


IV.      Back to reality


            A.        God does not abandon us to the chaos of sin, even if we do not understand God or the chaos.


                        1.         God has given us the Bible [vv 10 – 11]


                                    a.         The Bible has a PURPOSE.


                                    b.         The Bible reveals God’s PLAN.


                        2.         God has given us an invitation:


                                    a.         [v 6] Seek and call on God. This will require energy and time.


                                    b.         [v 7] Forsake wicked ways and unrighteous thoughts. This will require discipline.


                                    c.         [v 8] Turn to God. This will require humility.


            B.        What skills are we going to need? [“Trust”]


                        1.         We are going to have learn “historical remembering” (v emotional remembering).

“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. [4] Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.” [Psalm 51:3 – 4]


                                    a.         When we take things personally/emotionally we resist.

“When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. [4] For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. [Psalm 32:3 – 4]

                                    b.         When we step outside our emotional resistance we have a chance to hear God.

“Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” [Psalm 32:5]


                        2.         We will have to be courageous.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. [24] See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” [Psalm 139:23 – 24]


                                    a.         Do what is right, even when everyone around you is not...


                                    b.         Do what is right, even if we gravitate toward what is comfortable.


                        3.         Keep in step with the Holy Spirit.

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” [Galatians 5:25]


                                    a.         To do this, we will have to hear and listen (obey)


                                    b.         To do this, we will have to be consistent reading the Bible.

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