July 18, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 1)

Submitted by Manny K. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

  • How is the message of the cross the answer to the Corinthians’ lack of unity?

The message of the cross is the answer to the Corinthians lack of unity because through the cross God flattened the humanly devised hierarchy based on superficial systems of worth and made the essential component of our commonality our need for forgiveness.   It is the cross that emphatically demonstrated that we are all stricken with this disease called sin, and it is a harrowing, eternity altering disease that separates us from an eternal relationship with our creator.   I don’t need to look too far from my own experience to know and appreciate that we are all broken in essentially the same way.  Whenever I listen to or give a bible study, whenever I mediate over my daily devotion, I am struck just how much I relate to almost every character in the Bible.   These ancient stories are not too far from me precisely because I am broken in the same way.  I know the ‘I’ll show you” spirit of Zaccheus, I understand the internal conflict of the Rich Young Ruler, or the foolish bravado of the Rich fool.  I have experienced being in the far country of the prodigal son, the envy turned to burning rage of Cain, and the deception and shame of Adam.  I also know that I possess the Pharaoh-like pride.   One glance at almost any story in the Bible reveals how I am just like them, because I am a sinner and the cross reminds me that it is my sin that deserved the punishment being done to Jesus.   So whether I am successful in the eyes of the world or a failure, this does little to mitigate that fact that all of humanity, including me, need to be saved.   We are all essentially in the same boat.   The Corinthians needed that reminder.  They forgot.  They had gotten boastful and arrogant.   They quickly forgot who they had been–people who were immoral, not of noble birth, not powerful, and not wise according to worldly standards, yet how God called them to be a sanctified people by His grace.  This is why they started to engage in these kind of petty delineations amongst themselves making sharp camps based upon their loyalty to Paul, Peter, even Jesus Christ.   They needed this reminder that amidst such superficial contrasts, that the thing that binds them was more essential and significant, which is that they were huge sinners who were all forgiven by the grace and mercy of God, people who all needed that redemption and hope for eternal life.

·         What is the wisdom of the world that finds the message of the cross to be foolish?

The wisdom of the world has to do with what it thinks is the method of salvation.   For the Jews, this method had to do with a powerful messiah who would come and rain power down on its enemies much in the way Moses demonstrated through the plagues.   For the Greeks, the means to salvation was through knowledge, through the power of one’s ability to acquire knowledge.    They were in fact enamored by their ability to think and articulate their positions with rhetorical flair.   Either way, they thought they knew and had the answers to the human plight.   Today, the notion of competence, which earns you a good education, which then earns you a high salary job and prestigious position, which then allows you to have buying power.   The similarities are there.   We as a society have longed sought for the pursuit of some salvation through power, money, or pleasure.  When I was growing up, I thought I was so wise.  I thought that living selfishly was the way to save myself.   I would delight when I found a way to outwit others so that I would be spared some time, some money for myself.  I thought I was having the last laugh when I used someone toward my advantage such as extracting from someone help for studies, or even something like laughing at another person’s expense.  As long as I minimized the list of negatives done to me, and maximized the list of positives, I thought I was cheating the system, I thought I was being so smart.   In that way, I had fully bought into the system of the world’s values.   I was to serve myself and that was the pathway to salvation.  Well, as I think about those from whom I learned and then adopted that philosophy, I see that their lives have resulted in utter failure and devoid of any relationships or true meaning.   They serve as a perpetual reminder to me that their philosophy of selfishness, which I then subsequently adopted, was proven to be foolish.   They are now isolated, devoid of any true meaning.   And it is really, really sad.   The message of the cross is contrary to the world’s fascination with power, beauty, grabbing things for yourself because the cross is the direct antithesis of all that the world values.  Jesus in Philippians 2 demonstrates a completely opposite view of salvation.  He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, instead making himself nothing and becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross, where in ancient times it symbolized the worst curse upon a person’s life.   God showed another pathway to salvation and it was so brilliant, so outside the box of human thinking that it made foolish all the wisdom of the world.   I feel so thankful that I received this message by His grace that I can know the pathway toward true salvation.

·         Are there values within me that make it hard for the message of the cross to become “the power of God and the wisdom of God” in my life?

I find myself having to carefully monitor my heart because I know that for most of my years I lived it deeply entrenched in the values of the world.   At bottom, I see this resilient pride in me that still finds it hard when ugly truth comes to light.   I find it slightly embarrassing still when truth shows that I was petty, or that I was not caring, or I had overlooked someone’s need.   I find in me a desire to power up and show that I was in control of the situation.  I need to stay vigilant lest I allow myself to get caught up in myself, in taking matters into my own hands.   I need to extricate myself from all such leanings and to constantly mediate on the punishment I deserve, and the mercy I was shown through the cross of Jesus.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

·         Think about my own journey.  What state was I in when the Gospel came to me?

I have recently thought about what would have been the cost of NOT following Jesus.   The costs would have been too many to count.   Before the gospel, I was a person with very little vision and what little vision I had for my life, it was mired in conflicting emotions of worldly success as well as some spiritual heart.   But I was neither disciplined, and a person of too poor of a character to fulfill those visions.  I used to be so self-conscious that I found approaching people other than close friends or family a dreaded experience.   I was content thinking I can just get by on doing bare minimum in life, fooling myself that in the end, I would still get all that I had wished for, which was a comfortable life, prestigious position somewhere, and going to church, of course.  I was selfish to the core and immature.  I know that I had no virtue that I could point to when it comes to the fruits of the spirit–Galatians 5:22-23,  […] love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.  I don’t think I can confidently say I possessed much of any of those and if I did, it was fleeting and not really indicative of my own nature.  In short, I would have made no difference in any person’s life and would have remained perpetually immature being given over to endless trivialities.

·         How do I feel when I think back to the state I was in when I was called? 

I find myself so ashamed at the person I was.   I was truly in a wretched state.   I was deluded and arrogant.  It is interesting how being a father truly is something I think God gives me to humble me.   I look at my kids and I see my sins at times in them.  And when I see that, it is a sobering moment for me.  I was like that and so no matter what I have been through, what so called successes I have experienced, I know that God had mercy on me and I only need to look as far as my own kids to know how far God has brought me.

·         Do I agree with Paul that there is no reason to boast, except to “boast in the Lord?”

So in that light, I know that like Paul, I have no reason to boast.  Were it not for the cross, this church, ministry, marriage, and my friendships, as well as the leaders who shaped me, I would be a wretch and wreck of a person.   I know I didn’t get here due to my own efforts.  If my path were to have continued, I would have been left truly lost to myself, and following an utterly inconsequential life.  The fact that I get a chance to experience the fruits of how much God has been at work in the people around me, I know that I have no reason to boast except in God who allowed me the privilege to witness such things, and for allowing me to experience His life giving work through ministry and through being a part of this church.   Truly praise the Lrod!

·         Recall stories of God choosing the “lowly things” of the world to shame the wise and the “despised things” to nullify the things that are. 

  • If God chose the “foolish” and “lowly” to powerfully advance His kingdom during the early church period, what does that tell me about the legitimacy of human valuations during that time or in today’s culture? 

It is true, from the early church, using lowly fishermen to powerfully defy the powers that be, the Jewish Sanhedrin, and then advancing to the next century, thinking about the early Christian martyrs among who were lowly people like Perpetua, and then thinking about the Irish monks who went “wherever their sails took them,” to the missionaries to China like Gladys Aylward, a lowly housemaid and inn keeper. They were subversive to the powers that be, and though they were not noticeable in the eyes of the world, their impact has been felt throughout the generations. This demonstrates without a doubt that human valuations as culture sees it is not only off but wrong. There is such a premium placed on external, superficial, fleeing notions of success. I need to continue to guard my heart that I don’t get unnecessarily impressed when I see these types of imprints in others or even in myself. I need to be vigilant to guard against such toxic values within the church.  God’s way are best, and I need to keep mediating on the cross to remind myself of the kind of community I need to help build out here.

Submitted by Judge H. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

  • How is the message of the cross the answer to the Corinthians’ lack of unity?

The Corinthians were divided into factions, breaking apart the church into various groups under the pretense of following one of the disciples or Christ Himself. But Apostle Paul uses the image of the cross to remind them of the unity they are to have in the Body of Christ. The message of the cross is seen as foolishness by the world, this idea that God, in His might, sovereignty and power would willingly give Himself over to death to save humanity. Yet this is the message that Paul preaches and what embodies the Gospel, and it’s in this message that all people are to find unity. For it’s the cross, on which Christ died for all men, that reminds all of us that we are equally sinner before God. No social status, no education, no wealth, no occupation changes who each of us is before God. This message was foolish to an unrepentant world, but Paul knew that it was in this message alone that such a divided people could find unity.

  • What is the wisdom of the world that finds the message of the cross to be foolish?

The wisdom of the world essentially comes down to the mantra of save yourself, just like what the priests shouted at Jesus when He was on the cross. The world we live in preaches the same message, saying that only by saving yourself can you truly live. Get a nice house, nice car, build up your bank account, find romantic happiness, these are the ways the world says to save yourself, and by doing so it promises peace and fulfillment and true life. In Mark 8, Jesus made it clear that anyone who tries to save his life lose it, and yet the message of the world is this very idea. It looks at the cross, a symbol of sacrifice and suffering for the good of another person, and sees it as foolish. Yet, as a Christian, I can look on the cross as the source of my salvation, and this changes how I view the cross in my own life. I no longer view such a life as foolish, because I’ve seen how a cross-bearing life become a life-producing life as well, and its the kind of life I strive to live, even through times of difficulty and struggle.

  • Are there values within me that make it hard for the message of the cross to become “the power of God and the wisdom of God” in my life?

One of the biggest struggles against worldly values that I’ve seen in my heart recently has been seeking a comfortable life. I’m out of school now, and for the first time in my life I have a little bit of money. I know that I’m susceptible to this kind of temptation, and part of the rationale comes from the fact that growing up I could never afford nice things. I know that these temptations present values that can block my heart from experiencing the power of the cross. The cross calls me to die to myself, to lay down my life, so that I can become a source of blessing to others. I know the weakness and susceptibility of my heart to these values, and so I have to constantly recommit to living out a cross bearing life. It means taking on interruptions, welcoming change and increased responsibility, and seeking out things that might be difficult or stressful. But I am confidant that God can use a life that follows the message of the cross to be a life that brings life to others, and its the life I want to pursue.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

  • Think about my own journey. What state was I in when the Gospel came to me? How do I feel when I think back to the state I was in when I was called? Do I agree with Paul that there is no reason to boast, except to “boast in the Lord?”

When I think back to my life before Christ, I am reminded of Ezekiel 16, where God describes how He passed by and saw the people of Jerusalem lying it its blood and kicking around, on the verge of death. I was headed down the path of death, consumed by my sins and addictions and living recklessly with no regard for people or the consequences of my actions. And yet, even in the midst of a life so far from God and so trapped in my sin, God called me and saved me. He has revived my life and given me a new calling, set me down a new path. Before, I lived only for myself, for pleasure and fulfilling my desires. I used people and discarded them, and had no care for anything but myself. Now, He has given me a new life, a life where I have the privilege of bringing the Gospel to people and helping to lead them to God. I know that I am no good on my own, and there is nothing in me to boast. I only have to remember back to where I was, and I see that I have no good thing but Christ. I can boast only in what He has done, and I want to live my life proclaiming that message.

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