August 6, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 8)

Submitted by Alice R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 8:1-4

Why would knowledge (which is a good thing) cause some to be puffed up?

Although knowledge is a good thing, it can cause some to be puffed up when they regard having the knowledge itself as a reflection of one’s significance and which can lead to a sense of superiority over others.  Such a person misses the whole point that having the knowledge of the truth and of the things of God is a privilege granted to us and therefore should lead to greater love for God and people, not feed one’s ego.

Reflect on the contrast between knowledge that puffs up and love that builds up.  Have I been pursuing things that add value to my ego in some way, or have I been pursuing love that focuses on others?  What would it look like for a Christian to pursue knowledge in love?

Knowledge that puffs up causes a person to only grow self-centered and arrogant.  Ironically and tragically, the very knowledge a person possesses will fail to be embodied because it doesn’t lead to greater love for others but instead greater love for oneself.  While in contrast, love builds up the beloved by pouring out one’s life for the benefit of the beloved.  And love also builds up the one who strives to love as it causes one’s heart to be stretched and one’s capacity to love grows and one’s character is further forged.  One can never go wrong with choosing to love, as love can only build up the body of Christ and never destroy and eventually can become a powerful and tangible witness of God’s love to a watching world.

As I look back on my life, I see how during my twenties up to about by early thirties, my life consisted so much about pursuing to add value to my ego in some way, big or small, usually through my performance in academics, at work, and even in ministry.  Throughout my college years, I had such angst to become someone significant in this world.  This kind of angst was revealed in the ways I was selfish with my time, had a difficult time receiving correction or handling my failures because I was so mindful of preserving my image and the ways I struggled a lot with envy and discontentment.  I have many regrets over the years I wasted, being so anxious about proving myself and missed so many opportunities to pour out my all to the people God placed in my life.  As I got older and became a wife, a parent of two kids, received growing ministry responsibilities, and experienced various sorrows and losses in life, and went through many failures after another, I became humbled through life and came to see with greater clarity the reality of the depth of my sinfulness.  Even now, the struggle to die to my ego is daily.  That struggle comes out in my relationship with my spouse when we are in disagreement about something, or in ways I hesitate to readily admit my wrongs towards others or my failures in situations of responsibility.

However, being involved in ministry certainly causes me to put others before myself and it has been such a safeguard for me over the years.  Having been entrusted with people to care for, to guide and lead, to raise up and shape into mature disciples of Christ often leaves me no option but to put aside my own cares and desires and take on the cares and burdens of others.  Therefore, for a Christian to pursue knowledge in love is to be living a life that gives more and more of oneself.  The more we gain knowledge of the truths of God, the more we would be compelled to live not for ourselves but to live for others in selfless love, sacrifice, and generosity with a desire to build others up.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13

“The ‘weak conscience’ was not a poorly developed sense of morality or propriety, as modern use of the expression might often imply, but rather the over-scrupulous restrictions they placed on believers’ freedom in Christ. Their inner thoughts unnecessarily accused them and led to feelings of guilt or defilement.” [Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 162.]

Apostle Paul urges the Corinthians not to behave in ways that cause fellow Christians to sin.  What are some ways that the “exercise of [my] freedom” can “become a stumbling block to the weak?”

The ways the exercise of my freedom can become a stumbling block to the weak is a wide range.  One way is in the way that I counsel people or provide advice.  I am free to give advise as someone who is an older Christian, as a person who has experienced life longer and as someone who has been given such a trust.  However, I must not assume that because of my position or age that I can be confident to insist in my way of counseling and understanding to be the only way, and thus cause someone else to stumble because of my impatience and because of my lack of understanding and compassion.  I need to instead give people the benefit of the doubt, try to hear a person out thoroughly and strive to help the person from all different angles, outside of the way I tend to think.

What are some ways in which Christians of today can be dull toward the sensitivities of those who are from different backgrounds, or who have specific areas of brokenness?

One of the ways in which Christians of today can be dull toward the sensitivities of those who are from different backgrounds or who have specific areas of brokenness is by making a lot of ungrounded assumptions and judgments regarding people’s behavior and character.  I have made assumptions about why people must be the way they are, and be quick to draw unfair conclusions about a person without knowing or understanding their background or the full context in which the person might be coming from.  This has led to mistakes in judgment I’ve made about a person as well as insensitive things I’ve said that may have hurt people or cause relational tension.

Through the years I am continuing to learn to understand people more through learning about their family and cultural background as I try and learn to place myself in their shoes.  And the more I’ve come to deal honestly with myself and my own past, I am learning to be more understanding and persevering with people in my life through prayers, and through wrestling with how I can find creative and different ways to minister to the person, especially asking God for His wisdom.

What are some ways I can limit my range of freedom in order to love others (cf. Galatians 5:13-14)?

The ways I can limit the range of freedom in order to love others are very wide.  One practical area is in the way that I spend money in general and even in the area of how I use gift cards I’ve received.  When I receive a gift card, it is with the heart behind the giver of the gift that I spend it to purchase something for myself.  So I am free to spend the gift card on something I desire, however, even though the gift card was given with such a spirit, I am not free to just spend it on whatever I want, but rather I can steward such gifts to treat others, to purchase things for those who are needier than I am, or save them for future gifts or needs for others.  I can also limit the range of my freedom by not placing boundaries on what I designate is time just for myself, but rather making myself available for others to interrupt my schedule or plans to hear someone out, to meet a need or encourage someone, or tend to a situation that needs my full attention and involvement.

How seriously did Apostle Paul take the issue of sinning against fellow believers?

Apostle Paul took the issue of sinning against his fellow believers as equivalent to sinning against Christ Himself because he recognized that each believer is a precious brother, for whom Christ paid the highest cost to redeem by laying down His own life.

To what length am I prepared to go in order to not cause others to sin?

To not cause others to sin in my daily life requires that I be a person who is immersed in being other centered and battle against indulging in my own desires.  As a spiritual leader, I am constantly facing and dealing with various issues among different people and I’ve come to see the power of temptation and the detrimental effects of sin in people’s lives.  One area I really want to work on is the area of my speech as I have a tendency to be overly sarcastic, negative and pessimistic, which can hurt others, incite hard feelings, and discourage people.  Since this is an area that is directly related to my pride, I commit to pausing to ask myself whether it is necessary for certain words to leave my mouth and to seek to build up people, rather than trying to protect my own ego.  This also includes being a person who is quick to apologize and own up to my wrongs rather than give excuses or try to ignore my actions.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, you have challenged me to take my role and responsibility as a member of the body of Christ seriously.  Forgive me, Lord, for my lack of care, sensitivity and love for others by often wanting to insist on my own rights, comforts, and to preserve my ego.  As you remind me that each person within your church is someone for whom Christ died, I commit to embracing the life of self-limitation by constantly inviting the needs of others above my own so that I can build others up in love.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by John L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

1 Corinthians 8:1-4

Why would knowledge (which is a good thing) cause some to be puffed up?

Knowledge can cause some to be puffed up because it can lead to someone feeling superior in some way to others around him. This negative aspect of knowledge can be held by someone to feed his ego and feed that person’s sense of superiority and advantage over others. This is ever so true in social and business settings, but it can also be the sad state of how some can interact with others in the church as well.

Reflect on the contrast between knowledge that puffs up and love that builds up.  Have I been pursuing things that add value to my ego in some way, or have I been pursuing love that focuses on others?  What would it look like for a Christian to pursue knowledge in love?

Knowledge that puffs up is completely selfish as it feeds his ego while it distances him from others. The sad result is the weakening of relational bonds with this person and in the context of the church it leads to disunity. A proud man whose ego is puffed up only becomes more unattractive to others, and he becomes diminished in his identity as a witness of the gospel to others.  On the other hand, love that builds up is other-centered.  It leads to the benefit of others and promotes unity in a church since such actions and attitude brings people together while generating trust and closeness.

As I reflect on these two disparate aspects of knowledge, I’m challenged to evaluate whether I’ve been pursuing things that add to my ego or whether I am pursuing love that builds others up. It’s painful to see how often I am selfish and not focused on the love that builds others up. Especially in the context of our small church plant, I can either be a catalyst that brings us closer together or a disruption that leads to disunity. I think this is particularly true when I am clueless to the needs of the brothers around me and I’m not making the effort to build connections and trust with them. This starts with how I am humbly opening up my life and in the process lowering the barriers among the brothers of our team. When I am holding onto my own life and focused on what is going on in my life only, I am essentially holding onto the false pretense that all is ok with me even though that is never true. By keeping the barriers up in my own life, I am hindering closeness from forming and hindering the possibility of pursuing love that focuses on others.

There are many ways I can be a Christian brother who pursues knowledge in love. One way is to make the effort to know what others are going through so that I can be a source of encouragement or guidance, and to pray for the other brother. It takes effort and intentionality, and of course setting the example by letting my guard down and sharing first. I must strive to be a man who cares enough to ask questions and to find out what is going on in another brother’s life. Yet this is how I can grow in my care of others and help foster a loving environment at our church. Also, a Christian who pursues knowledge in love also does his best to grow in his grasp of the Word so that he can grow in wisdom and be a source of strength and guidance to others. My greatest source of authority and guidance is the Bible. I need to make the effort to grow in my knowledge, to review my notes after a message or Bible study, and to be faithful to memorizing key verses so that it can be a constant source of guidance and truth for myself as well as for others.

1 Corinthians 8:9-13

“The ‘weak conscience’ was not a poorly developed sense of morality or propriety, as modern use of the expression might often imply, but rather the over-scrupulous restrictions they placed on believers’ freedom in Christ. Their inner thoughts unnecessarily accused them and led to feelings of guilt or defilement.” [Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 162.]

Apostle Paul urges the Corinthians not to behave in ways that cause fellow Christians to sin.  What are some ways that the “exercise of [my] freedom” can “become a stumbling block to the weak?”

There are so many ways that the “exercise of my freedom” can “become a stumbling block to the weak.” As a church, we abstain from drinking because we live in a culture, especially in the college setting, where there are so many negative connotations that go along with drinking.  We are free to drink yet we also recognize how drinking comes with such a huge baggage to many who either personally struggled with it or suffered because someone they loved had such detrimental consequences because of it.  On a more personal level, I’m reminded that how I use my money can be a stumbling block to others. I may be free and able to go out and upgrade my life to feed my desire and own the latest gadget, but I need to constantly fight my own internal and society’s urge to seek the comforts and luxuries of life. It is folly to think that I am immune to the effects of such pursuit on my relationship with God and that I will not stumble others and my own heart.

What are some ways I can limit my range of freedom in order to love others (cf. Galatians 5:13-14)?

I have freedom granted me through Christ, but the purpose of this freedom is so that “through love [I can] serve others.” The most obvious way I can do this in my life is to maintain a standard of lifestyle that is simple and humble.  In some areas, this is really obvious–like not driving around in a luxury car. But some very easy way to apply this is how I spend my money in everyday basis.  Rather than using my finances to buy the latest and greatest, I need to be content with what I have, and if it works and it’s not broken, I do not need to upgrade or add to what I have. There’s so much clutter in my home and this is evidence to how my life is really full of a lot of things I don’t necessarily need. Also, I do not need to treat myself to nice meals or fancy coffee drinks, rather, my attitude ought to be that I need to strive to be simple and when I do spend my money, it ought to be to treat others. I want my goal to be a brother who is frugal to himself but generous to others. There’s nothing more powerful in generating unity and trust than being generous and I must be proactive in seeking ways to be generous to others. Another area where this applies is how I spend my down time. I have the freedom to just relax and catch up on life when I do have some time, but such freedom in my schedule can be used to encourage or draw closer to others. I can make the effort to call someone, find out what’s going on in their lives, or to find ways to see if I can use my time and energy to serve others.

How seriously did Apostle Paul take the issue of sinning against fellow believers?

Apostle Paul points out that Christ died for this weak brother, and when someone destroys that brother’s faith, he is sinning against Christ himself.

To what length am I prepared to go in order to not cause others to sin?

I am reminded through this passage that I can go about my day oblivious to how my actions can be so detrimental to others. I have to make the effort and daily make the commitment to keep this in mind. What I say and do can cause others to sin and I need to be willing to set aside my preferences so that I do not cause others to sin. One area that I can definitely change is my words and how I interact with the other brothers in my speech. Am I a source of encouragement or am I quick to point out faults and mock others? I think I’m much better at the latter and this is an area that I can definitely change and also help set the right setting for the brothers around me. The other area that I already touched upon is how I handle my money. I can be a lot more proactive in being generous and at the same time being a lot more frugal to myself. Also, I need to be a lot more alert about the example I set in my zeal and selflessness. In light of the new school year around the corner, I need to be mindful of the example I am setting through my zeal and excitement for the work ahead of us. Passion is contagious but so is mediocrity. I pray that I can be vigilant in setting the bar high in my service and zeal so that I am a source of encouragement for the brothers around me, and not a stumbling block and discouragement. Ultimately, this requires self-denial and pushing myself to do the hard things that I’m not necessarily comfortable with.

Personal Prayer

Father, thank you again for the reminder that my actions can either be a source of stumbling to others or expressions of love that builds their faith. Whether I am being generous with my money or in my willingness to lower the barrier with my own life so that I can help foster closeness and unity among the brothers, help me to set aside my own preferences so that I can indeed be a source of love that builds up those around me. In Jesus name, Amen.

Craig Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, The NIV Application Commentary Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994) 162.

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