AN “I” EXAM: Restoring Our Vision for Christ’s Mission – The “I” Exam
1 Corinthians 11:17-30 (p. 799) April 24, 2016
It’s something I wasn’t aware of…and man! There are a lot of things I’m not aware of, but when I got back from Florida, after being out in the sun my scars were a lot more visible…evidently they don’t tan like the rest of my skin…so they were more and more visible because of what the sun had done to the rest of my face.
And I shared some of this at communion on that day, but it seemed a perfect fit for this study.
Spiritually speaking it’s even more true when it comes to my scars. The more time I spend in the sun (SON) the more clearly I can see my scars. The more time I spend in the presence of Jesus…the more time I spend in His Word the more clearly I can see my sin…my selfishness…my pride.
With the Son of God’s holiness as the radiant backdrop…my unholiness is clearly visible.
Have you ever had a white T shirt you thought was clean? Maybe you have 7 or 8 that you’ve had for a while…you wash them, fold them…keep them in the same drawer…and then for your birthday Aunt Patsy gives you a brand new 3 pack of undershirts…you pull them out…put them in the same drawer…and man!!! The old ones don’t look white…they don’t look new…they look old, grey and stained…compared to the new.
God’s Word says something humbling about every single one of us…It doesn’t matter who we are: men, women, Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, old, young…it says “All of us are old, grey and stained T shirts or at least that’s my translation of Romans 3.
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless. There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
No matter how clean and good we think we are…this truth from Isaiah remains “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Is. 64:6)
You see all “the good things” we do look like those old T shirts when held up next to Jesus…who is the only one who is really “good.”
It’s that “I” exam that God and His Word perform in believers lives…In this world we like to compare the “cleanliness” of our lives with others…usually finding someone with a lot more stains…so we can say “I” am good…but that’s not a comparison that helps us…in fact it hurts us…giving us a false impression our T shirt of righteousness is “pure.”
To refocus our vision so that we can restore the mission of the church…a mission of making disciples and teaching believers to obey Jesus’ commands…
I. WE MUST STOP CREATING US VERSUS THEM SITUATIONS
In the church at Corinth there was clearly a problem with this issue…Right after the Apostle Paul says in his opening of the letter: “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” He says this:
1 CORINTHIANS 1:10-13 (p. 792)
These early believers began to compare themselves to each other in regards to who was worth more…They began to form groups that separated themselves from the whole…Each group bragged about how spiritual they were…how clean their T shirts were…I follow Paul…I follow Apollos…I follow Peter!” Us versus them…I bet when they met together they felt so “spiritual” maybe they even gave their groups special names like “Paul’s Peeps” and “Apollos’ Apostles” or “Peter’s Rock Group” but the fruit that comes from these groups caused division instead of unity…They emptied the cross of it’s power.”
So when it came time for worship and for the assembly to remember the Lord during communion…their meetings did more harm than good…the divide got wider…Listen:
1 CORINTHIANS 11:17-22 (p. 799)
Each group…each person had forgotten that it took the power of the cross to make them clean…the attitude that permeated the spirits of people meeting together “in Christ’s name” was “I’m here for me and my group…I’m worth more…my preferences are paramount…I want nothing to do with those who aren’t part of my “clique.”
They had the cup and bread there…they did religious things…under the false belief, that it was “church” but division and differences, selfishness and self focus made Paul say, “This isn’t the Lord’s supper you’re eating!!!”
Those who claimed to follow Paul were probably the old guard…the charter group, after all Paul planted Corinth, those who followed Apollos, who assisted the apostles in Acts 19 here were probably younger since Apollos was younger…and those who claimed to follow Peter, the most popular and influential of the original 12, probably thought that way….like people who pull for New England in football or the Yankees in baseball.
The mission of the church died when each person and group made their part more important than God’s whole.
Verse 21 talks about “private suppers.’ That makes my stomach hurt after 37 years of ministry. These aren’t healthy intimate small groups or welcoming SS classes. They are closed groups…people are selected as worthy or wealthy enough to attend…like the mafia…“It’s our little thing.” Private suppers allow sin to be hidden (or so they think). You feel “special” if you’re invited…and like garbage when you’re left out. Us…and them…Paul says “these groups cause the church of God to be despised by humiliating those who are left out, because they have nothing.
This is exactly what Paul meant when he said:
II. IT’S ESSENTIAL WE DISCERN OURSELVES IF WE DON’T WANT TO COME UNDER JUDGMENT
Do mean people know they’re mean? Do self centered, selfish people know they’re self centered and selfish? What do you think?
[My wife loves shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice.” I sometimes watch them with her…or at least in the early stages of the competition when the coaches are first picking…or when the ticket to go forward is passed out. Those auditions crack me up…Like this guy
SHOW AMERICAN IDOL AUDITION VIDEO
I used to think…those folks have to know how horrible they sing, right? But I’ve changed my mind…I think many believe they’re the next Carrie Underwood…or Jordan Smith because all of us usually think “I’m awesome…I’m right…I’m good.” We don’t usually have much trouble loving ourselves…it’s loving our neighbor as much that we struggle with. When someone says, “singin’s not your thing, Dawg” we just brush it off…because we “know” it is! Discerning ourselves is one of the most difficult things we do…because we don’t want to see the truth if it hurts our pride.
The Corinth Church was just like Gardenside…It was filled with a lot of different people…Different personalities…different economic levels…different pasts…different attitudes…different Holy Spirit given gifts…to show God’s approval and fulfill God’s never changing mission. Different is essential for the body to be whole…many parts…one body…But division destroys the unity of God’s plan…When one part says it doesn’t need another part…or that other parts aren’t as necessary.
1 Corinthians 12:12 says “just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all it’s many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.”
The Lord’s Supper…or communion, isn’t just about remembering the body of Christ, which died upon the cross for our sins…it’s also about remembering how He made us one. How we also died to self so we could live for Him and others.
What I mean is you cannot be a divisive…me focused…others condemning person and partake of this unifying meal in a worthy manner.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:23-30 (p. 799)
When we examine ourselves…It’s essential we discern the truth about our relationship with “the body of Christ” the Church.
1. You and I will never do that if we only surround ourselves with people who tell us we’re awesome…because we’re just like them.
2. You and I will never do that if we hold on to hurts and an independent spirit.
3. You and I will never do that if we forget the mission of Christ…“Go make disciples and teach them to obey my commands.” It’s about others.
4. You and I will become spiritually weak and sick, even dead in our faith if we don’t deal with this truth.
Paul evaluates the spiritual condition of Corinth’s members and says “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” (vs. 30)
If you think it’s hard to change a tire in the middle of a snowstorm…It’s even harder to change this issue in the body of Christ…Why? Because each of us has made it a habit…surrounded ourselves with people who tell us we “sing great” and affirmed how wrong all the other groups are…even as we press that cup to our lips and taste that unleavened bread.
There is a spiritual cure…something that really can be done to change our hearts and bring unity around the cross…and His table…something that will let the world look at the church with amazement and longing instead of judgment. Listen:
EPHESIANS 4:29-32 (p. 816)
1. You and I will have to make this a habit if we want to change…it won’t come naturally either…it will only come “supernaturally.”
2. You and I might have to change some relationships and friendships…because the group we associate with is unhealthy and makes us spiritually sick.
3. You and I will have to get rid of “gossip, grudges, slander, bitterness…every form of malice and start practicing “compassion” and “forgiveness” because it’s what God did for us in Christ…and makes His body healthy and mission focused…others focused.
Several years ago in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, George and Vera Bajenksi’s lives were changed forever. February 16, 1989. A very normal Thursday morning. The phone rang at 9:15 a.m. “There’s been an accident…” It involved their son Ben.
As they approached the intersection of Adelaide and Simcoe Streets near the high school, they could see the flashing lights of the police cars and ambulance units. Vera noticed a photographer and followed the direction of his camera lens to the largest pool of blood she had ever seen.
All she could say was, “George, Ben went home—home to be with his Heavenly Father!”
Her first reaction was to jump out of the car, somehow collect the blood and put it back into her son. “That blood, for me, at that moment, became the most precious thing in the world because it was life. It was life-giving blood and it belonged in my son, my only son, the one I loved so much.” The road was dirty and the blood just didn’t belong there.
George noticed that cars were driving right through the intersection—right through the blood. His heart was smitten. He wanted to cover the blood with his coat and cry, “You will not drive over the blood of my son!” Then Vera understood for the first time in her life, one of God’s greatest and most beautiful truths…why blood? Because it was the strongest language God could have used. It was the most precious thing He could give—the highest price He could pay.
Communion is the intersection where we encounter Christ’s death…we proclaim it until He returns again…His body…His blood…given so a new covenant of grace and forgiveness could make us one with His father and each other. We’d better be aware of how we come through this intersection.