July 26, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 4)

Submitted by Abe Y. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 4:1–5

As part of their alignment with party-factions within the church, the Corinthians had been comparing the various spiritual leaders against each other, and in so doing, arrogantly sat in judgment over them. Apostle Paul points out that he (and the other leaders) are “servants of Christ,” and that human judgments are not relevant in light of God’s judgment. What does Apostle Paul’s response teach me about being free from human gaze, and becoming a person of integrity and faithfulness?

Paul was very clear about whom he serves. He cares much more of how God views him than how others might view him.  His primary concern is being right before “the Lord who judges.” Thus, even as the Corinthians pitted him against Apollos–and so many have chosen to follow Apollos–his main complaint against that doesn’t stem from jealousy. He doesn’t give different arguments and reasons as to why they should follow him over Apollos; he doesn’t go through the resume of his accomplishments. Rather, his complaint was that the church was divided because of this, that they should really follow Christ alone, that Paul and the rest of the apostles were only “servants of Christ.”

Being a servant of Christ was Paul’s main identity. Not a leader of men, or a founder of many churches, but a servant of Christ. Though the other tag lines are true of him, it’s this identity that truly matters. He only cares about how to please his one and only master, Jesus Christ. As I think about the tag lines that describe me–a church planter, a minister, a staff representing our church– I hold onto these titles. Thus, there are times when the motivation force behind my servitude is not pure; it doesn’t come from the attitude “to God alone be the glory.”  Rather, if I were to be honest, it’s more “how might I gain favor in other people’s eyes?” For Paul, living as a servant of Christ, he must be the same person, through and through, in public as well as in private. He doesn’t slow down or cut corners when no one’s watching.  His zeal is not blocked by such artificial boundaries. This is the true definition of what it means to be faithful, that he is hard-working for God regardless of how others may perceive it; this is what it means to be a person of integrity. As I think about Paul’s life, and his clear identity as a servant of Christ, I am challenged. I must let go of my calculating mindset, of caring so much about how others might think of me if I do this or don’t do that. In the end, I need to remember that I am answerable to only One Person, and that is to my Father in heaven.

As a Christian, what kind of stewardship (i.e., things entrusted to me) have I been given?

As a Christian, I have been entrusted with the gospel–the “mystery of God.” But this gospel isn’t mere words, or an information transfer. As I think back to my earlier college days, so much of the gospel manifested itself through my interactions and relationships with my peers and leaders. I remember back to my freshman year, when I felt very rebellious towards the Word of God and the church as an institution.  However, it was through the tender kindness of my leaders, these older brothers and sisters, who would invite me to their homes and spent time with me.  That ultimately softened my heart so that I can be receptive to God’s Words. It is this gospel that was both preached to me and lived out before my very eyes that I have been entrusted with. Just as my leaders have given up their time–time to be with their family, time to spend with their kids, time to further and advance their careers–to be with my peers and me and to minister to us in many ways.  They have handed down the baton to me. It’s my turn to do likewise, to meet new students, to invite them over, to care for them, and to do everything I can so that their hearts may be more receptive and welcoming to the gospel.

According to v. 2, what is the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ? How much do I regard faithfulness as the measure of my service rather than other criteria, such as competence, tangible results, or approval of others?

The crucial criterion, the only criterion that really matters, is our faithfulness. Being faithful to God means upholding our end of the bargain, to actively do His will regardless of who’s watching us or how many people are noticing me. Being faithful is doing whatever kind of task, whether it’s big or small, whether it will impact many or only a few, whether it will get noticed or not with the same kind of fervor and intensity. “Well done, good and faithful servant” is what every Christian desires to hear of God at the end of his days.

Intellectually, I completely agree to this. Of course, I ought to be faithful to God, given all that He has done for me. But my life simply doesn’t measure up to this ideal; action speaks louder than words. I tend to go for the bigger tasks, the projects that will be more public, and I favor things that give immediate results over things that may not result in anything. If I’m completely honest with myself, I’m still looking for those ways to shine, maybe not so much in the things of the world, but at least in the arena of ministry and church.  Lord, have mercy on me. Let me not be so enthralled by the opinions of others, but let me care only of Your opinion. Help me to find ways in which I can be more faithful to You–let me be just as eager to do things in private as in public; let me not seek to do only things that will gather much publicity.

How do I feel about the fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts? What does this passage teach about passing final judgment on another person, or even myself?

It’s quite scary to think that one day, all the dark thoughts and things I’ve tried to keep hidden (or tried to forget) will be brought into the light. All the things I’ve said, all the things I’ve thought about, all the things within me that are troubling, dark, and downright sinful. Whatever good I attribute to myself just melts as I come before God, for His gaze pierces through any and every exterior that I try to put up. Likewise, I shouldn’t be so caught up in pronouncing my own judgment over others. In the end, who am I to judge? It’s the case of one sinner passing judgment on another–we’re both guilty, we’re both tainted with sin. Thus, let me leave the judging to God let my only concern should be to do His will.

1 Corinthians 4:6–7

Why is it fundamentally absurd to become “puffed up” over others? What are some things I have boasted about (if not openly, then inwardly, as I compare myself to others)?

It’s absurd to become puffed up over others for two reasons. First, all the things that we often boast about like our intelligence, competence, well-being, our achievements, etc. ultimately come from God. He provided us with the right genetic makeup, with the right conditions that allowed us to study without any distractions, and so on and so forth. But more importantly, none of what we can do with our own two hands can save us from our sins. It is God who has given us the free gift of salvation, and that’s the only thing that matters in the end.

The things that I generally boast about has to do with finding an angle in which I can come out on top, or to find some way to make me more distinct or more unique from everyone else. In the past, it’s about getting the grades and going to a good college. Then it’s about having a certain combination of talents (I’m not only good at this, but I’m also good at this and that). Even in ministry, I find myself trying to find different angles to puff myself up. Certainly, this attitude does not come from one whose sole purpose in life is to please God. It’s quite the opposite.  It’s still a life trying to please myself.

Spend some time listing the things I have received from God, and give Him the praise for these things. Repent for any sense of being “puffed up” over others for any reason.

Lord, have mercy on me for just the many ways–even the subtle ways–in which I try to boast about myself. Lord, indeed, You have given me so many blessings. I think about my parents and I’m so grateful that they’re both Christians, sold out to do your will. I often take this for granted, but just hearing from other people, so much of their emotional reservoir is depleted when conflicts arise.  This is one big battle that I do not have to fight, or even be worried about, and this gives me greater capacity to love others.

What does it mean to boast in the Lord?

To boast in the Lord is to have a God-centered perspective of things. It’s to have the proper recognition that all we have, such as, our material goods, our wealth, our skills, abilities, and competence all belong to God. Boasting in the Lord is, fundamentally, recognizing how awful of a person I am, then seeing how wondrous the gospel is. It’s the basic desire to not only worship Him for all that I have, but to point others to Him as well. Thus, the talents that I do have, my skills, abilities, and competence can be used not for my own personal vainglory, but rather, they can be used to build others up and guide them to God.

Submitted by Ernestine L. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

·      As part of their alignment with party-factions within the church, the Corinthians had been comparing the various spiritual leaders against each other, and in so doing, arrogantly sat in judgment over them.  Apostle Paul points out that he (and the other leaders) are “servants of Christ,” and that human judgments are not relevant in light of God’s judgment.  What does Apostle Paul’s response teach me about being free from human gaze, and becoming a person of integrity and faithfulness?

Apostle Paul’s response in calling him and the other leaders “servants of Christ” and that “it is a very small thing that [he] should be judged by [them] or by any human court” teaches me that human gaze ought to take a backseat. Oftentimes, I allow God’s work to be tainted by my desire for human approval, to be judged with worldly criteria. The moment I am aware of others’ gaze upon my works, my value in my work, my own hands becomes greater than the value of the message I am trying to get through.

Apostle Paul’s response reminds me again that I am indeed this servant of Christ–someone who lives according to God’s gaze. It is only when I understand myself to be judged by God alone that I can be free from human gaze. Apostle Paul notes that to him, it is a “very small thing” that he should be judged by the Corinthians or by any human court for that matter. This means that to him, their judgments, their gaze really do not matter all that much. It does not cause him to want to be a certain way before them nor does it make him want to boast of himself. He further notes that it is the Lord who judges him. This is the attitude I ought to have as I live this Christian life, as I do ministry, as I love the people God has placed in my life. This also forces me to think clearly about living a life of integrity and faithfulness because when I live for human gaze, I can be satisfied with what image I put forth. But before a holy and righteous God, I have nothing to hide, I cannot possibly be okay with just the external image I place before others for God sees all my thoughts, my motives, my intentions. When I live before His gaze alone, I recognize the need for absolute integrity and faithfulness to Him alone.

·      As a Christian, what kind of stewardship (i.e., things entrusted to me) have I been given?

As a Christian, the kind of stewardship I have been given include His message of salvation, freedom from sin, redemption of all of my past and current struggles that do battle with me daily. He has entrusted to me this message to offer to all who are broken and blind. I think about what I have been entrusted being here at Riverside–I have been entrusted with this rare opportunity to share the only message that can save each person here on this campus. As someone saved from the lostness I once was steeped in and yet have been picked up out of, I am entrusted with a tremendous sense of duty and privilege to reveal the “mysteries of God.”

·      According to v. 2, what is the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ?  How much do I regard faithfulness as the measure of my service rather than other criteria, such as competence, tangible results, or approval of others? 

The crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ is faithfulness.  Oftentimes, I fail to see faithfulness as the only criterion–rather, in place of this, I use things like approval of others to define the level of my service to God.  Apostle Paul notes that faithfulness is “required of stewards.” As I reflected on this requirement, this necessary element that makes the steward a steward of Christ, I thought about how this sheds light into the way that I do things–how I often misunderstand the requirement of a steward and replace it with performing well, of being liked or admired, of simply not making mistakes. Nowhere does Apostle Paul note that the requirement of a steward is competence or success. In fact, these are worldly criteria that I have brought into the Christian realm and assigned to myself, thinking that if only I could pull of some semblance of control and competence, then I will be a good steward. But as I continue to live out this Christian life, the more I learn that this kind of criteria can become tiring–there is temporary satisfaction of being approved of, but there is no end to the insecurities and fears that arise from this kind of mentality.

·      How do I feel about the fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts?  What does this passage teach about passing final judgment on another person, or even myself?

The fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts is humbling. This is also a reminder that God is the only one who can reveal all of this and will have the final say in each person’s life. I think about how foolish it is for me to pass final judgment on someone or even on myself–how little I know about someone else’s spiritual state/condition.  As I continue to reflect upon all that is hidden in darkness within my heart, all the motives of my own heart, I see how wretched I am a sinner and that much more clear the inappropriateness of my own final assessment and judgment of another person.

 1 Corinthians 4:6-7 

·      Why is it fundamentally absurd to become “puffed up” over others?  What are some things I have boasted about (if not openly, then inwardly, as I compare myself to others)?

It is fundamentally absurd to become “puffed up” over others because everything that we have has been given to us. The things that we can become “puffed up” over others are so menial in light of the greater message God has given us, in light of what He has already done in us. The things we choose to get puffed up over most often are tangible, visible or even things that we think we are somehow better at. Some things I have boasted about or inwardly are things like doing things quickly or better than someone else, being looked upon more favorably, being more capable in a particular skill than someone else. When I take a step back, these things are so absurd because they amount to nothing in God’s kingdom.

·      Spend some time listing the things I have received from God, and give Him the praise for these things.  Repent for any sense of being “puffed up” over others for any reason.

The things I have received from God:  eternal life, a broken and contrite heart, a new identity, a new name as God’s daughter, freedom from eternal guilt and sin, a purpose, a sense of belonging, and on top of all this, the ways He has physically blessed me including all earthly blessings, physical health, an active ministry on the college campus, co-workers in Christ. I give Him praise for all these things.  I shudder to think about where I would be at this point if I had not surrendered my life to Him, if I had not opened my life to receiving everything He has offered me. And as I reflected through this day’s DT, I thought about the absurdity of my own being “puffed up” over others for any reason at all; it is my own pride that gives voice to this need to appear better than someone else. It is stubborn pride that causes the heart to become cold in judgment towards someone else. I need to repent of this every single time because every time I am “puffed up,” I am rejecting God’s gifts and valuing what I think are my own gifts.

 ·      What does it mean to boast in the Lord?

To boast in the Lord means having the proper perspective, dying to any need to boast in myself and recognizing all that God has granted me. It takes a lot of seeing things for what they are–seeing the reality that really I have nothing to boast about. Boasting in the Lord becomes a hollowing out of the self and attributing ALL things to God.

Submitted by Ben K. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

• As part of their alignment with party-factions within the church, the Corinthians had been comparing the various spiritual leaders against each other, and in so doing, arrogantly sat in judgment over them.  Apostle Paul points out that he (and the other leaders) are “servants of Christ,” and that human judgments are not relevant in light of God’s judgment.  What does Apostle Paul’s response teach me about being free from human gaze, and becoming a person of integrity and faithfulness? 

Apostle Paul asks the Corinthians to regard the apostles as “servants of Christ” and “stewards of the mysteries of God.”  Servants and stewards are primarily concerned with the desires of the master, and as servants and stewards of God, we ought to be primarily concerned with the will of God.  When we live before the gaze of men, we are tempted to compromise because men are easily deceived.  They cannot see the motives of our hearts, they cannot tell if we are holding back and merely doing the acceptable bare minimum.  But when we live before the gaze of God, who cannot be deceived, “who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart,” then we will strive to live a life of integrity and faithfulness.  When I live before the gaze of God, I am motivated to do what is right even when no one is looking, to work hard and do things even when the chances are small that people will notice, to go above and beyond the call of duty as a staff member of our church, to do the hard work of reflection and struggling against my sins and repenting, and to live an authentic Christian life.

• As a Christian, what kind of stewardship (i.e., things entrusted to me) have I been given?  

In v.1 Apostle Paul says that the apostles are “stewards of the mysteries of God.”  The mysteries of God, the gospel, has been revealed and given to all Christians as well.  The gospel is the power of salvation to anyone who believes, and I need to steward it well making sure that this most important message is shared with the people God brings into my life.  God has given me everything–my life, health, money, time, education, this church, leaders, coworkers in Christ–and as a Christian I need to steward all these things well and further the gospel here on the UCR campus and to the ends of the earth.

• According to v. 2, what is the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ?  How much do I regard faithfulness as the measure of my service rather than other criteria, such as competence, tangible results, or approval of others?  

According to v.2 the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ is faithfulness.  I know I regard faithfulness as the measure of my service rather than other criteria when I live before God instead of men.  When I live before God, I am not merely satisfied when people are satisfied by my performance in ministry, but I am only satisfied when I know I have obeyed God fully.  When I give in to my desire for comfort, I merely want to please people and do the acceptable minimum in ministry and otherwise use my time and energy selfishly.  But as a servant and steward of Christ, I need to live before the gaze of God and be satisfied only when I’ve been faithful and done all I can to obey God’s will for my life.  I need to watch out that I do not measure my service by results–how many people are coming to our church and in particular how many are in my life group under my care.  To some people outside looking into our church plant it may seem like we’re doing well because of the rate of growth of our church plant, and there is the temptation to settle down and take it easy.  However, God’s love is such that He yearns for all men to come to Him, and there are so many on the UCR campus that do not yet know God.  To be faithful to God, I need to work as hard as we did when we first moved down here, being just as vigilant and passionate and zealous, making the most of every opportunity to love people and share the “mysteries of God” with them.

• How do I feel about the fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts?  What does this passage teach about passing final judgment on another person, or even myself?

The fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts reminds me of the importance of reflection and knowing my heart.  If God cares so much about my heart, then I must constantly reflect on my motives and the state of my heart.  I need to often do a heart check and ask myself questions like:

• Am I doing this for God?

• Am I doing all I can to obey God or am I just doing the acceptable minimum before men?

• Do I share in God’s heart for people as I do ministry or am I just going through the motions?

• What idols are causing my heart to drift away from God’s heart?

And if I find that I am doing ministry out of the wrong reasons or coasting instead of living in obedience to God or am idolizing something, then I need to do battle against my wayward heart and repent.

I need to also watch out that I do not pass final judgment on myself, judging myself with only my conscience.  My conscience is fallen, I am often blind to my sins, and I have an infinite capacity for self-deception.  I have so vividly experienced the truth of Jeremiah 17:9 over the years: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”  And so, I must desperately turn to the word of God to convict me of sin and also be humble and open to the feedback and correction of others.  I must let God bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of my heart through my DTs, messages, and the people of God.

Moreover, as a minister I need to make sure that those under my care are not merely living before my judgment, merely trying to please me.  I need to direct them to live before the gaze of God and be motivated out of a desire to obey His will.  I need to watch out that I do not just tell those I minister what to do, but whenever I can I need to direct them to the word of God and prayer so that they will be motivated out of a desire to live an authentic life before the gaze of God.

Submitted by John C. from Gracepoint Riverside Church

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

As part of their alignment with party-factions within the church, the Corinthians had been comparing the various spiritual leaders against each other, and in so doing, arrogantly sat in judgment over them.  Apostle Paul points out that he (and the other leaders) are “servants of Christ,” and that human judgments are not relevant in light of God’s judgment.  What does Apostle Paul’s response teach me about being free from human gaze, and becoming a person of integrity and faithfulness?

For Apostle Paul, the fact that they are judging and assessing him against the other leaders doesn’t seem to bother him all that much. In verse 3 he says, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or any human court.” The reason that he is relatively unaffected by their opinions and assessments of him is because he lives before God’s gaze and understands that in the end God is the one who judges.

For Apostle Paul, he is firmly rooted in his identity as Christ’s servant. There’s no drama. Apostle has this kind of rootedness and integrity because he lives before the gaze of God and not of man. On the contrary, I am someone who is very keen on what people think of me. This question of what people think of me is often in the background noise of my day-to-day interactions with people. However, above this I need to be aware of God’s gaze. If the goal of my life is simply to keep the people in my life happy with me and to impress them somehow, there is no incentive to dig deep and allow God’s light to shine in the dark places of my heart. In fact, if pleasing people is my main concern then there is motivation to keep hidden the ugly parts of me.  If I feel envious and resentful towards someone, or if I feel unmotivated in ministry, I won’t want to deal with those very real emotions for fear that it’ll displease people before whom I’m trying to maintain an image of a mature and spiritual guy. Big parts of my life and heart will remain unaddressed, and that’s how I would become a very compartmentalized and split person who pretty soon will become lost to himself.

God is the one who brings to light the dark places and hidden motivations of my heart. Only when I live before God’s gaze, knowing that he sees to the depths of my heart is there opportunity for my character to form and sanctification to happen. Only then am I able to become someone of integrity, of wholeness. Further, living before God’s gaze makes fellowship with other people possible because the masks and façades fall away. I know the tireless project of image management, and living before God’s gaze is liberating because I can deal with the truth about myself knowing that God is a God of mercy, grace, and redemption.

As a Christian, what kind of stewardship (i.e., things entrusted to me) have I been given? 

As a Christian, the “mysteries of God” have been entrusted to me. It is the revealed truth of the Gospel that has been given to me. Along with this is the entrustment of spreading the Gospel, the entrustment of ministry.

According to v. 2, what is the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ?  How much do I regard faithfulness as the measure of my service rather than other criteria, such as competence, tangible results, or approval of others? 

According to verse 2, the crucial criterion for a servant and steward of Christ is faithfulness. When it comes to ministry, I think the things that give me confidence and the things I find myself wanting to boast in are things like how are the students under me progressing spiritually. How fun was that games time that I led or how well did that life group evening get executed.  These things give me a sense of confidence about myself but essentially just feed my ego. The motivation for faithfulness, however, is my love for God and my relationship with him. God doesn’t care so much to see my competence or results, but he cares much more about my faithfulness because it’s a measure of my commitment to him relationally. That’s what I need to strive for, to be faithful in the things I have been entrusted with so that the reward for my service to Christ is a deeper and closer relationship with him.

How do I feel about the fact that God will one day bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts?  What does this passage teach about passing final judgment on another person, or even myself?

The fact that one day God will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the motives of men’s hearts gives me motivation to pray prayers like “search me O God,” to deal with my heart now and not later. It would be foolish to hide anything from God, and that sooner or later the things in my heart will be exposed.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7 

Why is it fundamentally absurd to become “puffed up” over others?  What are some things I have boasted about (if not openly, then inwardly, as I compare myself to others)?

In verse 7, Apostle Paul says, “What do you have that you did not receive?” It’s fundamentally absurd to become puffed up over others because all that I have has been given to me. It’s absurd to boast about things that you have freely received. The things I’ve boasted about internally are things like competence in life, competence in ministry, having a good education and a decent job. It’s also things that I perceive as a line item on my spiritual resume—even something like serving on a church plant. But as I step back and survey my life and how I have been given everything from life itself, to growing up in America and having the opportunity to be educated, being introduced to the Gospel at an early age, finding our church, and being entrusted with ministry and going on a church plant, it’s truly absurd to feel a sense of confidence over other people based on what I have because everything that I have has been freely given to me by God out of his mercy and grace. I only deserve death and to be cut off from God, yet on top of rescuing me from that fate he has blessed my life with so much. Whenever I get puffed up over other people, I am disregarding God as the one who provided all of these things in my life.

Spend some time listing the things I have received from God, and give Him the praise for these things.  Repent for any sense of being “puffed up” over others for any reason. 

What does it mean to boast in the Lord?

To boast in the Lord is to boast about who God is and what he has done. For me, that means to boast about how God took a selfish, proud, loveless person with no vision for his life and gave him the Gospel and a new vision for his life. I would boast about how without God I would be living such an empty and destructive life, becoming addicted to entertainment and numbing my soul with darker and darker pursuits, but God has delivered me from this kind of life. Because of God, I have a purpose for my life that fills me with dignity and joy. Even though I am a broken sinner, God is still able to use me to bless others and help them move closer to God. All the good things I can point to in my life worth boasting about is from God, his mercy to me, and his work in my life.

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