Tuesday, 21 July 2015

United in mind and thought

Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 19th July 2015                               
Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Paul’s letter is an attempt to get the Corinthian church that was going off course back on track. 
In v 10 Paul appeals to this church that they will unite around their common goal.                                                                                                            
I appeal to you, brothers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 
Organizations and denominations develop doctrinal statements and mission statements so that what they believe and why they do what they do are clearly understood. It is not that everyone has to do the same thing but that there are core, common beliefs and values that everyone can unite around. 

1.         Side tracked by differing opinions
v 11  “My brothers from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you 
Paul would be wrong if he believes that people can agree all the time. Indeed he would be hypocritical to insist on it because he himself had disagreement with both Barnabas and Peter. It is unlikely that Paul believed we can all stand together on every issue. Rather he sees that there can be a unity of purpose and intention, which means we can differ in our opinions and avoid quarrelling.  His appeal was for harmony, not the elimination of diversity. 
In his appeal for unity Paul refers to the power of the cross.
"For the message of the cross is foolishness for those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God"  (v18)
“The cross of Jesus is the great leveller. In the light of the cross not one of us is worthy, but we have been made worthy because of that cross.
There is a power in the message of the cross and we don’t have to fully understand it, we don’t have to completely agree on exactly what that cross means. But still is has that power; the power to heal divisions, the power to bring different people of different gender, different race and social status to the same place. I have been in churches and conferences where people have disagreed and you point to the cross, you remind them again of the message of the cross, and all of the sudden the differences don’t seem so important anymore! Not as important as that cross!” 
(Stephen Woody)
The challenge, every time we dislike something that happens in the church or in the army is to bring that issue to the cross and ask the questions,
Does it really diminish Jesus Christ or the cross or is it a matter of personal preference? Does it really distract from the cross or is it just an inconvenience to us and our agenda?

2. Side-tracked by personalities
There is nothing wrong with identifying with the people whose ministry we understand and enjoy unless we start to concentrate on the messenger rather than the message or when we mistake style for the standard.
This is what happened in Corinth. There was one group who said, “We belong to Paul,” They were probably those who found Paul’s message of freedom and grace liberating after years of endless struggles to keep the ceremonial laws.
Another group said “We belong to Apollos”. Apollos was a clever Alexandrian Jew, who knew Greek philosophy. He would appeal to those who thought themselves a little better intellectually.
A third group said, “I belong to Cephas”. Cephas was a nickname Jesus gave to Peter. This group admired Peter’s appreciation of his Jewish roots. They thought that the Christian life required recognition of Jewish customs and laws.
A final group said, “We follow Christ alone”. Their claim sounded good but they were being superior with a “We don’t need anyone but ourselves” kind of attitude.
Paul does not seek to bring unity to this community by siding with one group, then pulling rank as an apostle and demanding that all the other groups conform to that group. Instead he calls them all brothers.  
Under the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the role assigned to him by God, Paul spoke with authority to the church but not in his own name but ‘by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’?  (v10)
Paul points out to them that when they were baptized they swore allegiance to Christ not people.  Neither, Paul, Peter nor Apollos had set out to create a cult around their own ministries.  Their so called supporters had done so without their consent.  Rather Paul talked about it in terms of one sowing, another watering and God giving the growth.
 If you have one hundred concert pianos and you tune the second piano to the first and the third piano to the second and the fourth to the third, until you have tuned all the piano’s accordingly, you will still have disharmony and discord but if you tune each piano to the same tuning fork you would have unity and harmony. So too, in the body of Christ; when we tune our lives to Christ we will keep true.”  (AW Tozer “The Pursuit of God”)

3.         Side-tracked by the world
The Corinthian Christians were side tracked by clever arguments from the world around them. People in Corinth revered cleverness.
Some in Corinth were overawed by a group of people who had become well known by ridiculing Christian belief. Another set were mesmerized by a group who made Christianity extremely complicated. 
In reply Paul said, “I just preach the power of the cross of Christ”
There is little in the way of political power, intellectual argument or spectacular actions to commend the Christ who goes to the cross. By the worlds standards it was the essence of folly and weakness.
 It says that God became weak in order to save us, that when we surrender our lives we truly find them, that the way to be truly exalted is by true humility and that the way to new life is through death. The world looks on this as says it is foolishness. But Paul says that it is the very power of God.
The gospel will always appear foolish to those who only apply the world’s wisdom to it.  The gospel always needs a response of both mind and heart.   We just need to discern between those who are trying to give a real sincere response of their minds to the claims of Christ and those who simply like to engage in arguments.
We must never be intimidated by intellectualism. The gospel might appear to be foolishness but it still stands it is still changing lives.
The other thing is that we can proclaim Christ with our lips but continue to apply worldly logic to the way we actually live our lives or we can trust the word of God which calls us to live according to the principles of the cross.
The following statements sound good but they are based on the philosophy of the world not the word of God.
“I must be the best Christian I can in order to be acceptable to God”.
It sounds noble but it is not the gospel. Nothing you can do can make you acceptable to God.
 “I keep my religious life and my personal life separate and they don’t interfere with one another”.
A faith that doesn’t affect your personal life isn’t worth having.
“Humans at their very core are good and only need the right environment to improve the quality of their lives.” 
No - human beings need something as drastic and powerful as the cross to really give them life in all its fullness.
So let’s not get side-tracked by differing opinions, personality or worldly wisdom because when we it pulls us apart from one another.
How will we do this?  
It is by focusing on essentials, Christ himself, the cross and the word of God. 

God bless

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