July 20, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 2)

Submitted by Bryan S. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

• What can I learn about evangelism and Christian life from this passage?

As Apostle Paul describes the way in which he proclaimed the Gospel to the Corinthians, he says very clearly that it was not with lofty speech or wisdom (v. 1) but instead it was proclaimed to them with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power (v. 4).  This shows me that evangelism is not something that is generated by one’s own power and wisdom necessarily.  It’s not so much about crafting the perfect words to say, coming up with and executing a perfect ministry strategy.  But rather, it’s about the power of God working in the hearts of people, convicting them, and bringing them to knowledge of Him.  Apostle Paul states very honestly that during his time with the Corinthians, he felt weakness, fear, and much trembling.  In the midst of this, Apostle Paul continued to minister to the Corinthians.  Christian life is not a bed of roses, but it can be a life filled with vulnerable moments, periods of fear and weakness.  How would ministry happen in such fragile conditions?  This is the mystery of how God works, as it brings glory unto his name.  Like Paul, when Christians proclaim the Gospel in the midst of his weaknesses and fear, God’s power is demonstrated through it all, His name is glorified

• Reflect upon v. 2 and what it says about the exclusive centrality of Christ and the cross for Apostle Paul.  What would be the result of a life so intensely focused on the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion?  To what extent do I share this resolve to make Christ and “him crucified” the central theme of my worldview and my understanding of the gospel?

A life intensely focused on the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion would be an attractive life, a powerful life that has the potential to have a profound effect upon many people.  Such a person would take every word of God seriously, take it to heart and live it out to the very best of their ability.  Their lives would not be filled with trivialities of this world, but there would be an all consuming, over-arching focus on obeying the word of God.

It is my sincere desire that God would mold me to become like this, so completely focused on the truths of the Gospel.  I am clearly not there yet but my hope lies in the patient, persevering love of the Father, who is leading my life.  Jesus Christ and him crucified is the goal I seek to live by ultimately.  This life is one of complete surrender unto my heavenly father, a life of total entrustment.  Just as Jesus surrendered his life to the Heavenly Father to the point of death upon the cross, I desire to become like him, surrendered in my desires, my hopes, my feelings and wants.  I want for it all to be rooted out from the mundane, base desires for comfort and success in the world, from the natural impulse to feed my pride and ego.  That is not the way of Christ crucified.  But as I go about living and relating with my spouse, kids, my students, leaders, fellow staff, and others, I must continue to work out my faith such that Christ and his crucified life becomes the pattern in which I relate with people.  This means not trying to prove myself right, not trying to get the last word, not trying to establish what farce sense of superiority I want to entertain to others, and not trying to make myself appear more than I actually am.

1 Corinthians 2:10-14
• How do I feel about the fact that I have been given the Spirit of God, who searches all things, even the deep things of God, and that through the Spirit I “may understand what God has freely given us?”

The fact that I have been given the Spirit of God is a weighty fact that causes me to see myself a lot more seriously.  It’s somewhat unsettling that God would endow me with HIS spirit.  Why would he?  The Bible lays it out so clearly.  He wants to have a personal relationship with me and He wants me to share this truth with others.  None of this would be possible without His Spirit. That God would give me His spirit, which has the power and ability to understand Him and His heart, makes me realize first of all how much God wants me to know Him, to draw closer to Him, to understand the grace that has been freely been given me upon the cross. His love and sacrifice demonstrated upon the cross for me is really incomprehensible.  It doesn’t really make sense that God would die for me, his enemy.  And yet He gives me His Spirit to understand and receive this truth.

• How have I personally experienced the work of the Spirit of God in my life?

One of the ways that I have come to personally experience the work of the Spirit of God in my life is through a deeper understanding of my sinfulness.  Recently I had an opportunity to think about the past four years in Austin, and what has become abundantly clear is that He brought me out to here to deal with me and my issues, humble me, learn that it’s not about me or anything I can do.  What I can confidently conclude is that the Spirit of God has worked much more personally in my heart through all I’ve experienced out in Austin.  He has shown me my weaknesses, shortcomings, and flaws.  Through it all, He is molding me, so that I might become that kind of person who is more like the crucified Christ.

Submitted by Joyce L. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
·       What can I learn about evangelism and Christian life from this passage?

Evangelism and Christian life is not about how well I can perform in these arenas or how successful I can be.  It is not about my own competence, eloquence, and not even about how much wisdom I have.  It is about living a life knowing nothing but Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

·       Reflect upon v. 2 and what it says about the exclusive centrality of Christ and the cross for Apostle Paul.  What would be the result of a life so intensely focused on the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion?  To what extent do I share this resolve to make Christ and “him crucified” the central theme of my worldview and my understanding of the gospel?

The result of a life so intensely focused on the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion would be a selfless life, life focused on loving others, sacrificing and denying self for the sake of others.  That was the life of Jesus.  It was lived out in full surrender to God, not living for Himself, but completely for others, giving and sacrificing His time, energy, His very life to love others, so that others may have eternal life.

The cross is the central thing about the gospel.  The gospel is all about dying so that others may live–the kernel of seed falling to the ground, and bearing fruit.  However, though the gospel message is so clear, there are times I find myself straying from this central theme of the gospel, and instead, focusing on trying to attain for myself worldly competence, worldly criteria in terms of speaking well, having wisdom, knowledge, strength, ability.  This is not the way the gospel came to me.  I wasn’t impressed or drawn towards the gospel because of people’s knowledge, because of their competence and eloquence.  I was drawn to the gospel because of people’s lives that I saw, the way that they gave up their time, resources, energy, in order to minister to and love people like me, the way that they considered other people’s needs higher than their own, the way that they sacrificed time with their own families in order to meet with and counsel others, the way that people opened up their own homes to me as if I were part of their family, the way that people used their money freely and generously for others.  The different ways that people died to themselves, their needs, and their own agenda were the ways that the gospel came to me.

This is the theme of the gospel that I need to embody in my life–the theme of sacrificing, denying myself, dying so that others can live.  As I face this upcoming year of ministry, there are fears, anxieties, and uncertainties.  However, what I want to resolve is not to try to attain for myself some kind of worldly competence, or success, but rather, I want to make Jesus and Him crucified as the central theme of my life. I want to embody the gospel message in my life through looking for ways to die to myself so that others can gain life, so that others can be blessed.  Looking for small ways that I can die to myself daily, whether it be pushing through my tiredness from work, refusing to give into desire for rest, and instead opening up my home to bless others, not clutching onto my finances, but spending it for the needs of God’s ministry, dying to my own pride as I relate with others and refusing to mentally shut down, but rather using those times to engage in prayer for others.  Through these daily choices, I want to make the theme of the cross the central message of the gospel that I embody, and through this, I want to be able to experience God’s resurrection power at work in my life and in the lives of those around me.

1 Corinthians 2:15-16
·       Reflect upon the fact that I have “the mind of Christ,” and that the “spiritual man makes judgments about all things.”  To what extent has my judgment and discernment grown as a result of my Christian life?

My judgment and discernment used to be based upon just my feelings and emotions.  I used to make decisions based upon what I felt was good, as the world says: be true to your heart.  If something felt good to me, then I would think that is the direction that I should go–regardless of morals, how other people would be affected by it.  My judgments were very self focused, deciding things based upon what was good for me without consideration for others. I used to consider fulfillment of my immediate desires and wants the thing that I needed to pursue after.  I made some bad choices in the past because of this, and it resulted in others getting hurt because of me, scars that I left on myself and others, and also in delayed maturity and inability to love or care for others besides myself.

Through God and His words, I’ve been given so much wisdom and discernment in terms of the best way to live out my life, what I need to value.  He has given me wisdom to know what truth is, to know what really matters in this life, how I need to live out my life.  He has given me the wisdom to know and understand that this life is temporary, that I am not meant to invest in this present life, in immediate pleasures and fulfillment, in making myself comfortable in this world, but I have an eternity waiting for me.  That is my home.  This life that I have now is temporary, it is fragile, it is short.  This one truth alone gives me so much wisdom and discernment in terms of my daily decisions, what decision would be the best, and even in terms of how to advise and minister to people.  Through God’s words, I have been given wisdom in terms of how to relate with others, how to build relationships of trust and love (e.g. God’s way of sacrifice versus world’s way of putting self first, humility versus pride), and this has given me lot of wisdom in my relationships with others, with my friends, husband, family, spiritual leaders, peers, and others.  God’s wisdom has allowed me to develop deeper and meaningful relationships with others, to have affection for one another, and to mend broken relationships.

There are many ways that God gives me wisdom in all arenas of my life, and the fact and reminder that I have the mind of Christ through His words, gives me much encouragement as I look forward to the next year.  There are still many ways that I personally need to grow in wisdom, discernment, but I know that as I turn to God, His words, He will continue to increase my wisdom, and teach me more spiritual wisdom and truths.

Submitted by Jessica C. from Gracepoint Austin Church

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

  • What can I learn about evangelism and Christian life from this passage?

One thing I can learn about evangelism and Christian life from this passage is that it’s not an issue about having some particular skill in speech.  Apostle Paul says that he didn’t come with “lofty speech” or “wisdom,” but instead he came “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”  In other words, he didn’t wow the Corinthians through some awesome oratory performance, and that was how they became Christian and were saved.  Rather, he plainly spoke the truths of the gospel, and it was the message itself that contained God’s spirit and power that stirred their hearts to repent and give their lives to Christ.

This is something that I need to be reminded of again regarding evangelism, because I find myself having thoughts like, “I don’t talk very well,” “I don’t know what to say to this person,” or “So-and-so is a much better conversationalist than me.”  Or it doesn’t even have to be in the context of outright evangelism.  Even having thoughts like “I have a hard time articulating clearly” when we’re just sharing in a small group setting, reveal to me the extent to which I still overly place “lofty speech” as a big factor to being a good Christian evangelist and minister.  Being a good speaker, and saying a lot of good, awesome-sounding words, may help to lower barriers and make inroads to a person’s heart, but it’s never been the main criteria through which their hearts become changed.

Even as I think about my own life, it was not through some “lofty speech” of my leaders that I heard, received and responded to the gospel.  Sure, I still vividly remember certain messages I heard and certain talks I had with my leaders, where I remember some key phrases or wisdom that deeply moved me.  But they weren’t etched into my mind just because it sounded nice.  They were memorable because through their words, I experienced the Spirit moving in my heart—whether it was to help me to personally experience the word of God coming alive and grabbing a hold of my heart, or being able to take a glimpse into my leader’s heart and see their love for me even though I was so difficult to love.  Maybe at the time, my leaders walked away from one of these conversations with me, wishing that they had said this in another way, or brought in a much better illustration than the one they used—these are certainly thoughts that have oftentimes gone through my mind after talks I’ve had with people.  However, I see how God still used their plain speech to impact my life, because more than the actual words spoken, it was the gospel message itself and the heart of God’s messengers that turned this selfish, stubborn, proud, and rebellious life around.

Thus, I am reminded that the quality I need to develop as an evangelist and minister is being more deeply connected with God and crying out in prayer for the Spirit to move through me.  Though I just moved to Austin, I realized that I can either respond to the anxiety I feel in a new place by relying more greatly on myself and my abilities to try to draw people into our group, or I can respond by turning to God and asking for His Spirit and power to fill me.  The latter will require for me to be weak, to be in fear and tremble, but that is in fact where I need to be in order for His power to be unleashed.

·       Reflect upon v. 2 and what it says about the exclusive centrality of Christ and the cross for Apostle Paul.  What would be the result of a life so intensely focused on the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion?  To what extent do I share this resolve to make Christ and “him crucified” the central theme of my worldview and my understanding of the gospel?

The result of such a life is that the message of Christ and his crucifixion would permeate through all areas of life—in speech, action, life choices, what values to live by.  The basic posture of such a life would be one of humility, self-denial, other-centeredness–qualities necessary in order to really understand the nature of love.  Such a person would not have an entitlement mentality, but rather, would seek to honor Christ’s crucifixion for him through committing to live a cross-bearing life.  There would be a clear focus, consistency in his/her choices and actions, a total embracing of their identity.  From such a life, what would emanate would be true freedom, confidence and boldness.

I look at this picture of a life that is totally committed to the truths proclaimed by Jesus and His crucifixion and I see how Jesus Christ and him crucified is still not the central theme of my worldview and understanding of the gospel.  Although I have committed to walking this pathway towards the cross and embracing a cross-shaped life of surrender and death to myself, my resolve to do so runs pretty thin as I go about my day.  I can recount instances where I would rebel against a crucified life—times when I would have to deny my body and push myself against fatigue, times when I felt misunderstood or misjudged by someone, times when I felt like I was giving and giving in order to love someone and not getting anything back in return, times when I would fiercely hold onto my pride and want to have the last say.  These instances show me how I do not echo Apostle Paul’s statement and resolve to “know nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  However, I now come with a fresh commitment to really embrace and live a cross-bearing life, and really make it central to my life.  Just even dealing with the humidity and the heat in Texas is a chance for me to die to my flesh and emotions and push myself to weather through the stickiness, put on a smile and be all there to get to know the staff and students.  Having our home made open, is another way in which I can learn how to embrace a life of surrender and an openness of heart as I open up my home for ministry usage.  These along with being in a new ministry places me in a situation of weakness and need, which is the very place I need to be in order to help me experience v.2 in a lot more personal, deeper way, and I’m really looking forward to how God will mature me in this coming year.

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