2 Peter 1:16–21 (NRSV)
Eyewitnesses of Christ’s Glory
(Mt 17:5; Mk 9:7; Lk 9:35)
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.
For the past few weeks we have been looking at the discussion that Paul had with the church in Corinth. This church which was situated in a city around the size of our own, which was filled with all the pleasures of the flesh that one could imagine. It was a city and a culture that was dedicated to trade, tourism, athletics, and lust. Paul praised the people of Corinth about their increase in knowledge, and that their testimony and influence was widening. But Paul also criticized them because they were letting the personalities of men distract them from the central message of the Gospel. That message is that God so loved the world, that he gave his only son not to condemn the world but to save it and give it eternal and fulfilling life. That life comes through belief in the Son, but those who choose not to believe condemn themselves.
So, the church in Corinth was being distracted from this central message, because they were beginning to branch off from it to follow the teachings of men who they find speak to their personal preferences. It is not wrong to find a worship style that speaks to your personal preference, but they were using their preference to judge those around them. They picked their personality and they began to develop a community around them, and then began to look down on others that disagreed with their positions, which brought disunity into the church. They spoke of these leaders in awe, I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas (Peter) and we are the people of Chloe. Each of these groups focused on a perspective of the truth instead of the truth behind the perspective.
This phenomenon was not something that was only witnessed in the church of Corinth, it was something occurring throughout the early church. We see hints throughout scripture and today we see the same discussion through the eyes of Peter.
Paul stated that he did not speak to the people of Corinth with words of wisdom but used words of demonstration. This means that if he spoke of a concept of discipleship, he backed it up by personally living by those words amid the people. Peter also faced similar struggles as he neared the end of his life. A question comes to mind when I consider this. Paul and Peter both speak of distractions of the Gospel, within the first generation of the Church. Why was this happening?
If we are to hold to the traditional timeline we would assume that Jesus was born around the first year of the current era known to us as AD, Jesus was believed to have lived to be thirty-three years of age which would have placed the closing of the Gospel narrative at around the year thirty-three. Archeological and they historical record show that the city of Jerusalem was razed around the year seventy AD, with the destruction of the Jewish temple. So, for approximately forty years the apostles of Christ lead the church. If these men were approximately the same age of Jesus, this would make most of the apostles around seventy years old. They were in the twilight of their lives if they were still living at the time of Jerusalem’s fall.
Why does this matter? It helps us put the writings into context for one thing. Many scholars would lead us to believe that the writings of the New Testament were written nearly one hundred years after Jerusalem’s fall, but I would question this because scripture does not mention the destruction of the temple which would have been important since Jesus told them that not one stone would remain standing of the temple of God. So, I would venture to say that all the new Testament, if written by apostles would have been written prior to this, meaning that all the New Testament would have been written within forty years of the life, death, resurrection, and assentation of Jesus.
But the men and women who had first-hand knowledge of Jesus, were getting older. Even today many of our people do not live many years beyond the age of seventy. And Jesus said that all things would be fulfilled within this generation who were quickly approaching their Golden years. The apostles were aging and Jesus had not yet returned. People began to question this, and as the questions were raised they began to wonder if maybe they had the wrong idea. Maybe there return of Jesus was not going to be a reality, maybe there would not be a judgment of the living and the dead, maybe the apostles were just spreading stories and lies.
The church was being filled with doubt, and these doubters were using the wisdom that they had from various sources to teach a different gospel, the gospel of denial. They denied the return of Christ because it had not happened and if the return of Christ is in question then what should they do? They began to compromise their beliefs to integrate back into the world from which they were living in exile. Peter tells them that he like Paul did not speak with worldly wisdom, but simply spoke of his experience. We did not cleverly devise myths, he says, but we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord.
Peter knew the power of Jesus. He was one of the original disciples of Jesus. He was chosen by Jesus to follow him. While Jesus walked along the shore of the sea he come to the boats in which Peter was working and personally asked Peter to follow. Peter dropped the nets, jumped out of the boat and for three years spent nearly every waking hour with Jesus. He watched Jesus heal lepers and the blind. He saw Jesus cast out demons who were afflicting their countrymen. Peter ate the miraculous bread and fish that Jesus passed out on a day where 5,000 people gathered to hear him teach. And he with the others ate from the twelve baskets of leftovers from that gathering. Peter witnessed these things and he shared those stories with those around him.
Peter reminds the people of the church that these are not mythical creations, but he along with others witnessed these things. They followed Jesus, walked along the paths that Jesus walked, ate the food that Jesus ate, they sat around in the evening around campfires discussing scripture and life while they laughed with their Rabbi. But peter was getting old, and Jesus had not yet returned. Everyone was hoping for the restored Kingdom of Israel. They believed that Jesus was the personification of the hope. Then he was crucified. Their hearts fell and they hid themselves in a room fearing for their lives. Then a group of women came and told them that the tomb they had laid the corpse was empty. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for sure, and returned to that room baffled. Then Jesus met with them. For forty days Jesus interacted with the Disciples and then he took them outside and told them that he would be going to prepare a place for them. During this time, Peter lost hope. He returned to his old lifestyle taking up the nets once more. But Jesus called him and the others out, telling them to wait again. Then something happened that could not be fully explained a wind rushed about them, and fire rested on their heads and they spoke with power and authority, they left the upper room singing and praising God, the world perceived them as lunatics and Peter began to preach. The church began to grow. People began to believe and they thought that they would see the return of Christ and the restoration of the kingdom within their lifetime.
But they were aging. Questions were being raised and someone needed to provide answers, because the hope that they had was suddenly beginning to feel like falsehood. What they thought to be true was not happening like they thought it would. They placed their hopes on a perception and not on truth. The truth is that Jesus proclaimed that the kingdom of God was here, it was all around them because the influence of God resides in the hearts of mankind not on tracts of land. The Kingdom of God is lifestyle dedicated to praising God, prayer, and service to mankind. They hoped for a physical kingdom and now the apostles were dying and they were still waiting for their king.
I want us to consider this for a moment. Everything that these early Christians thought they knew was being turned upside down. They had hope, but that hope was not becoming reality. What they thought they believed was beginning to look like lies. An era was coming to an end and they did not know what to think. Peter encourages, by telling them that they did not make up myths, but they told them what they had heard and saw. If God has the power to raise Jesus from the dead, simply trust him. If your perception differs from your faith, maybe your faith is misplaced and check it. If you think this is all a myth, maybe you are not seeking the world around you through the eyes of the Spirit of God.
We too are facing a significant change in our culture. For most of my adult life I have heard constant reports of how the population of our nation is withdrawing from church. We constantly hear reports of how the young adults are no longer going to church and we are asking questions about why. We attempt to hold back the exodus of the younger generation with flashy programs, and good music, with powerful preaching yet they still go. Why? Like those people at the close of the apostolic age the world is not exactly what we thought is should be. So, we begin to battle, we begin to retreat, we begin to draw lines and quarrel amongst ourselves. But have we lost track of the true gospel? The fact that the kingdom of God is all around us, and if we would slow down and just follow Jesus we would begin to see that of God in the people we encounter and encourage that spark of light through the sharing of our own story.
We are at a crossroad in history. I cannot say for sure what the future will hold. Will we see the return of our Lord within our generation, maybe or maybe not, I do not know nor should I. What I do know is that we are called. We were drawn to God by his very Spirit and we were blessed with gifts to expand the influence of God through Christ. We know what we have seen and what we have heard. We know our experiences just as Peter knew his own. Peter had the benefit of walking the earth with our Lord, he had the privilege to hear the voice of the Father on the mountain telling him that Jesus was His son and that he should listen to him. We do not have that benefit, but what do we have? Something even more powerful, we have God within us directing our paths. Listen to it. We have struggles where our faith carried us through to the other side. Share it. We have testimonies of God helping us and protecting us. Proclaim it. We have our stories, and we have our journey. No matter what happens around us hold to that, take on the lifestyle of Christ and reflect the light of Christ to all who we meet. Loving the unlovely, encouraging the discouraged, helping the hurting. Calling them to follow as we follow, to hope as we hope, to trust as we trust. We are friends and serve a resurrected king and God, do we truly believe? Do we believe that if God can raise Christ then he can cast out all fear and can expand his influence in our community through us? The church began with a bunch of scared men huddled together in a room, and it expanded when they allowed the Sprit to direct them. Let us trust like them as we leave here and serve those around us.
1 Corinthians 3:10–11, 16–23 (NRSV)
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
“He catches the wise in their craftiness,” 20 and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
21 So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.
This week like many the study of scripture has been awe inspiring. Just when I feel like I am beginning to understand what I read well, I dig a little deeper and suddenly a whole new world begins to open before my eyes. This is why I believe that God strongly encourages us to chase after lady wisdom throughout the scriptures, because when we stop learning or seeking greater wisdom our curiosity and imagination begins to die. And when these things begin to die we become cynical people. We begin to feel that the world is spiraling into chaos, and that the best days are behind us. This is why Jesus says that we must approach the kingdom of God like a child, for a child everyday holds a radically new possibility that they cannot wait to grab hold of. They are constantly seeking and asking questions, pushing themselves just a little more. Climbing one step higher, watching you as you perform a task so that they too can do it. If you want to know what it means to be a disciple I encourage you to hang out with a toddler, and allow Tash and DeWayne some free time. Do we seek God like a child?
Today’s passage is one that I have looked at many times. I saw it on the list and I almost thought how boring, because the lectionary listing skipped the part about the building materials that were going to be consumed by fire. So I sat praying, and one single word kept bothering me. One word. By looking at this one word in the proper sense everything changes. What is this word? You!
I know, how could I interpret “you” incorrectly? It is easy to do, in our language you can be singular and plural. You can represent an individual or a group. When I say you, I could mean one person sitting in the congregation or I could mean everyone. This is why there is a danger in using vague pronouns. But this was not the case in the language that Paul wrote, and from my understanding those in the Southern regions of our nation probably would not have a problem either. Because what is translated “You” is the plural form of the pronoun. So in the south we would translate it not as y’all but all y’all. Paul is speaking not of an individual, but all y’all. “Don’t y’all know that all y’all are God’s Temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in all y’all.”
A seemingly simple thing which changes what is being said tremendously. So often we look at faith as being something personal, my faith. This is not wrong because we must all stand before God alone on the day of judgement, but what Paul is getting at is that there is something even greater when individuals come together in community. It is when a community of faithful meet together where a church is formed. And it is the Church the corporate gathering united together with a common purpose pursuing a common goal where the miraculous happens.
Paul is speaking to a group of people, a group that is predominately Gentile, with various cultural backgrounds. Some say that the city of Corinth during the apostolic age had a population of 700,000 people. According to the most recent statistics Kansas City, Missouri has a population of 450,000 and the metro has a population of approximately 2 million. So we are talking of a first century city that is approximately a third of the size of our metro area, and larger than the city our Meeting House sits. This is two thousand years ago. It was also the sight of the Isthmian Games which were held in the first and third years of the Olympiad. The religious cult dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite was central in this city, with over 1,000 slave priestesses serving the various erotic rites. All of these things revolved around the massive shipping industry. I want to continue to remind you of the city this church was in because it speaks volumes about the power of God when the community unites together. At least fourteen percent of the population was a prostitute. At least third of their economy revolved around the exploitation of women. Imagine it, this was not an innocent city. This was a church filled with broken people loved by God.
Paul continues to remind them that they have grown in wisdom and knowledge, their influence has increased along with their witness. They have done much right, but they have become divided by the personalities that are among them. I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Peter. Different personalities who all have great influence. They are all working toward the same goal promoting the same cause. They are builders upon the same foundation, which is that of Christ.
When Paul came to Corinth he did not come with worldly wisdom, but he came with words of demonstration. He became a living example of the lifestyle he taught and he encouraged others to join with him as he lived this lifestyle with them. When he says that he laid the foundation on which others built, and that that foundation is Christ, he is saying that Jesus is the cornerstone of all that is being build.
The cornerstone is what begins the construction of ancient buildings. It is the stone from which all other stones are guided into place. This one stone determines how well a building will stand the tests of time. The wise man built his house upon a rock, is a reference to building a building using a good cornerstone so that the foundations would be secure and level. If Christ is the cornerstone of the foundation, it means that it is through Jesus that all other determinations are tested. I mentioned last week that many scholars believe that Apollos could have been the author of the letter to the Hebrews, if this is the case then all three of the major personalities providing influence to the church of Corinth agree on this one thing. Because the writings of Peter, Paul, and possibly Apollos all point directly to Christ as the authority to lives of faith.
So, Paul states that he is the master builder, the foreman of the construction crew, who laid the foundation of the church of Corinth. He goes on to say that everyone else built upon this foundation. Some built with stone, and others used other materials. All these materials were used for different reasons but they all work together to form one finished product, the Church.
This is where the term you come into play. “Do you not know that you are God’s Temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you.” Paul did not lay a foundation for an individual to become the temple of the Holy Spirit, he laid a foundation to build a community within this city that would change this city of sin into a city devoted to God. Yes, the Spirit of God dwells in individuals but it is when all those individuals come together, linking their various gifts and talents together on the foundation which is directed by the lifestyle of Christ that something great happens. It is this linking of lives where the Church is formed. Do you not know that you are the Church, you all are the place where God’s Spirit dwells and when you all are in unity in Christ you all can become the sanctuary where the broken and hurting people of this world can come to find rest and healing?
When we work together, when were move forward in unity a little group of people can do things that were once were thought impossible. When each of us uses the resources, we have individually and share those with the community we all can profit. We only need to look outside and see the witness of that concept, or look in front of us. In all the wisdom of the world we did not have the worldly resources to do what we have done for this property, yet we did. We were in unity and the kingdom has potential to expand through us because we worked together for the kingdom of Christ. These are the things that Paul wants us to focus on. These places where we witnessed the power of God overcoming the fears and hopelessness the world instills in us. But there are times where one person or a group might cause disunity within a community. We have experienced this as well. What is the difference? Unity build where disunity rips apart.
The temple of God is Holy, and that temple is all of us. If the temple is holy then that is held in the highest regard, it is passionately protected because it possesses the highest honor within the community. You are the temple, not you as an individual but you all. We are the temple collectively, and the collective community which is the temple of God is more important than our individual whims. This is why the Meeting for Business in the manner of Friends makes its decisions based on prayer and a sense of the Meeting and not of the politics of a vote. Because it is not the will of a majority, or the tyranny of a minority that determines the direction of our ministry, it is instead the guidance of the Spirit of God which is plumbed with the foundation of our Church which is built with Christ as its corner.
When we fall victim to ourselves we are building on a different foundation than that of Christ. When we begin to use the wisdom of the world around us as our guidance instead of the wisdom we glean from the teachings and the example of Christ, we no longer house the Spirit of God but we become a house of wisdom of man. Filled with the anxieties, fears, lusts and exploitations of every organization that has ever been built on the wisdom of humanity.
When we place our trust in the leadership of man, we become a temple of man. It is not too difficult to see where that will lead. Walls, wars, exploitations, slavery, hate, and fear all dwell in the temples of man. They want what is mine, they are wanting to destroy what we have built, they threaten my perception of life. We fear because our trust is not in God but in ourselves and we become fools. If we truly believe what we say we believe then why are we living in fear? But Jesus teaches a different way. He shows us a different lifestyle, one that is not governed by fear but on hope. He sees the image of God in those around Him and he encouraged them to see it in themselves. He then showed them that that same image is in their neighbor. So, he encouraged them to encourage others to see the image of God, that of God in all humanity. The desire to create, the desire to be loved and to love, the desire to excel and to imagine are all aspects of the image of God in all mankind. But this image is intensified when it is used for the mutual benefit of the community. It is intensified when God’s joy becomes our joy and we repent or turn again toward him.
Paul tells us not to boast about earthly leads, because those rise and fall. But instead to focus on the truth. All things are already ours. We already have everything we need to be who we are. We have our past, our present and our future, we have our life and we have our minds. We have hope today and hope through death. Everything is ours because all is Christ’s, through whom all things were made. We belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God. Let us build with Christ as our guide, uniting together as we each add our gifts and our talents to expand his influence around us. And let us express our love for God in our praises, let us embrace the Spirit in our times of prayer and let us live the love of Christ with others as we use all that we possess to minister to the various needs of those around us. And most of all let us imagine, let us pursue, and let us embrace life with the sense of adventure like the toddlers among us.
1 Corinthians 3:1–9 (NRSV)
On Divisions in the Corinthian Church
3 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
I speak often of the emerging church. There is or was an Emergent Church movement which was basically a network of non-denominational churches that came together because they wanted to larger fellowship but did not quite fit in with other denominations. I liked that movement. It spoke to many of the conditions that I had boiling in my heart. They would often reach across the denominational lines and if they found something that was beneficial they would incorporate it into their worship. But there is a negative aspect to this as well, they often pick and choose what they would believe theologically. Some of the most influential authors and speakers that have encouraged me were part of this movement, and most of them have found themselves in theological controversies because they questioned commonly held beliefs. What happened after these controversies occurred is quite interesting. Some left the church and pursued careers that focus on universalism, while others have remained within the church and continue to minister. These that remained are the ones that I have found to be the most encouraging. One of my favorite books when I was trying to come to grips with my faith and my calling was “Blue like Jazz” written by Donald Miller. In this Don explains his journey of faith, which is very different from my own, yet there are similarities that inspired me. Don has gone on to start a ministry called Storyline, a ministry that helps people realize the power their life story has in the Kingdom of God.
Another author, Wm. Paul Young, who has written three controversial novels: The Shack, Cross Roads, and Eve. Each of these books have been criticized for containing heretical teachings, yet each of these books have caused me to engage in scripture and prayer to a greater degree. They raised questions and it was as if Jesus was calling me to follow Him to the truth.
These authors as well as others have encouraged me to enter a conversation with God about faith, at times I have found that the questions they raised I find myself accepting while others I cannot. I enjoy these writers because they raise questions. Even authors like Lee Strobel with his “Case for…” series, which is not as controversial, encourage me to question, seek, and find.
There is a reason that these controversies have been coming up. I believe that we are amid a revival, we are approaching the next great era of Church history and when revival happens those within the church renew their focus. They find their center, they reevaluate what they have done in the past and seek the Spirit to move them forward. As these eras cycle through there tends to be a renewed interest in eschatology or the theology of the end times because as questions are asked and traditions challenged, as culture shifts around us and the methods of presenting the gospel to the lost change we begin to think that the world is chaos and the church is failing so Armageddon must be on the horizon. It might be, I do not know the time or date of the end. What I do know is that within this emerging church, there are people who love God and are seeking to build His kingdom here.
But this does not change the fact that we are in an interesting time. As era’s change and as questions are asked sides are often chosen and lines are drawn. All too often those lines are around secondary issues, issues of interpretation or preference, and in the midst people are distracted from the central theme of faith.
Paul spoke to the church of Corinth and reminded them of how far they had come. They were a church living in a city that was filled with worldly pleasures and distractions. Yet through all of that their knowledge grew and their witness expanded. People whom we would never have thought would come to faith in Christ came. Paul reminded them of that. Then things began to change, the church was becoming more accepted both among the Jewish population and among the Gentiles. As the popularity grew and as more people were being exposed to the Gospel more difficult questions were being asked. Answers were being given from various groups, some by an eloquent preacher by the name Apollos who some scholars believe to be the author of the book of Hebrews. Other answers were being derived from Peter’s teaching, and from the words of Paul. People within the church grouped themselves together around these teachers from whom they received the answers that they perceived to be the most to their liking and they began to debate amongst themselves as to whose teaching was the most correct. Eventually these debates drifted from a friendly discussion and morphed into something more sinister. People with differing points of view were regarded as less righteous to the point the church was divided.
The church was dividing, drawing lines over concepts and interpretations derived from the minds of men and women. The questions being raised and the answers being derived were the foundation of our faith, the beginnings of what we regard as theology. There is nothing wrong with seeking answers to your questions, I myself ask many and listen to many various answers. So why would Paul be upset about the pursuit of knowledge?
Scripture teaches us that we should pursue wisdom, it speaks of wisdom in romantic terms like the courtship between lovers. It even gives wisdom a name Sophia. Wisdom is the lady to be pursued, all the great patriarch of faith pursues her. It is the ultimate quest that is said to be the pursuit of God. To pursue wisdom to gain knowledge is to fear God and to fear God is the beginning of wisdom. Paul would not disagree with this, in fact he encourages it. But what do we do with the wisdom we gain?
Paul says that the wisdom of God is foolishness to those of the world. He says that those that grow in the wisdom of God gain a secret knowledge, knowledge of the Spirit and that no one knows the Spirit unless it is connected to the one that possesses the Spirit. You cannot know my spirit unless I allow access to my spirit to you. And even if I give you access to portions of my inner mind you will never know my spirit fully because as a human only I can know my own spirit. But God can know my spirit, and through His spirit we are opened to the mind of God. As we grow in this knowledge, the secret knowledge that can only be sensed through intimacy with God, we begin to reflect more of God’s mind and less of our own. This is what happens with intimacy, as we grow closer to another our sprits begin to unite, I become less and we become more. This is the mystery of marriage, which is the mystery of our relationship with God.
But at times I want to exert myself in the relationship. I am important, I have needs, and you are not meeting them. When this happens, there is a facture in the intimacy of a marriage, this fracture causes division and instead of two becoming one, one becomes half. This is not God’s desire for us. God created us to have fulfilling lives. He wants us to have joy, he wants us to have pleasure. But this only comes through mutual profit within a relationship. Two becoming one. Every relationship has some aspect of intimacy, in business my profit should be equal to the profit of those that purchase the goods or service. If there is inequity there is exploitation. Where there is exploitation there is no relationship only my flesh seeking that which it has no right to possess. Corporations can exploit their customers, customers can exploit corporations, employers can exploit labor and labor can exploit their employers. Individual can exploit others if they desire more from a relationship than they are willing to give. Inequity is exploitation, mutual profit is justice.
Why do I speak in this way? Because sin is inequity. Sin is placing my desire above that which I am willing to give. There is no relationship when we live in this manner only exploitation. And this is the core of what Paul is speaking about. Who is Apollos? Who is Paul? And why is there jealousy between them? These factions within the church are focused not on their relationship with Christ and the kingdom of God, but they are focused on who is right. If one is right, then the other is wrong and if one is wrong then they must be cast out if they do not agree. There is a desire for power, control to be the broker of grace and proper doctrine. These factions were formed around the perceptions of man to exploit not only their fellow men and women, but God. In a sense, they say I am the gate keeper no one comes to the father except through me. Do you see the sinfulness in that? These factions are taking on the very roll of Christ. They are taking the authority of Christ from God and placing it in their own hands. Where then is Christ? What is His role? If I am the one who extends and retracts grace, then why do I need a savior when I have myself? And if I am my own god then why do I need a relationship with others?
John 3:16–21 (NRSV)
16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.”
God loved us so much that he gave his son to save us, to give us eternal life through him. The most interesting thing about this is that he did this for everyone. Everyone has the same opportunity to respond to the love of God or to reject the love of God. We can debate over the nuances of this theologically, but ultimately that does not matter. God is doing it. God wants the relationship because it brings him pleasure, he offers it to us because it will make our joy complete as well. So, what is sin? Jesus taught that there is only one unforgivable sin, all other sins have been forgiven when Jesus said it is finished. The only unforgivable sin is rejecting God, or grieving the Holy Spirit. The only unforgivable sin is placing ourselves in God’s place and taking what is not ours to exploit God and man. When we do this, for whatever reason we condemn ourselves because we have turned our backs on God.
Paul tells the people of Corinth, that they have increased in knowledge and their influence has expanded yet they live in the flesh because they live in division. They have sought knowledge and wisdom to exert power over others, when that knowledge and wisdom should have drawn them deeper into the grace of God. They sought to exploit those around them by being the gatekeepers of grace, when Jesus taught that the only access to the Father is through him. Through their divisions, they removed the cross, through their arguments they had turned the eyes of the world away from God instead of drawing them into His loving embrace. They believed but then they allowed the great divorce to fracture their relationship once again and where two became one the one became less.
We are living through the ending of an era, but we are also living in the beginning of another. We era that is closing is one that has been fractured by the wisdom of mankind, but there is a revival about to emerge. The revival comes when we return to the center. Not by crying out for our religious right, but by returning to Christ the true gatekeeper of hope and grace. Revival will come when we seek to believe in Him, when we not only know His words are true but to entrust every aspect of our lives to him. Trusting that through the intimacy with God that we have we will have mutual profit and joy with the divine. Revival will come when we follow Him. Do you believe?