Christ: The Wisdom and Power of God

As I read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 last week, a number of things crossed my mind. First, “…the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” is a good reminder that the idea of God sending His Son to die for our sins seems foolish to those who have no relationship with Christ. But to those of us who believe, we recognize the importance of this decision and its life-giving impact on our souls.

To unbelievers it seems simply unbelievable that God would love the world so much that He would give up something as precious as His one and only Son for us. It’s unbelievable to them, because they cannot imagine doing it themselves, and struggle to understand when they see others actually love in a similar manner. In fact, sacrifice, forgiveness and reconciliation are often such foreign concepts to the unbeliever, that when it occurs they simply can’t accept it; they think there must be some ulterior motive behind the act.

Secondly, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God,” (vs 27-29). We see this as evidenced in Jesus; a Savior, born into the world as a lowly babe in a stable. He didn’t come from a wealthy or influential family, but He was the power and wisdom of God personified.

I also can’t help but think of others considered insignificant, meek, or simple…ordinary people like you and I, that God uses to exemplify His glory. For example, remember when God chose Gideon to save Israel, and the angel spoke to him, “the Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:11, ESV)? And after having been told that God would help him lead Israel from the hand of their enemy, how did Gideon reply? He said, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house,” (Judges 6:15, ESV, emphasis added). If you want to know how this story ends you should read Judges 6-8; but I can tell you, God uses Gideon.

Again, God uses the weak and foolish things of this world to shame the wise and strong. And He continues to do so today! So often we respond to the callings God places on our lives in a similar manner: who am I? I’m just a _____. BUT GOD is telling us it’s not on us, it’s through HIM.

I always say, “It’s not about perfection, it’s about obedience.” This stems from my personal experiences with perfectionism, which, in the past, have kept me from walking in obedience. I believed the lie, that if I couldn’t do something perfectly, I shouldn’t do it at all. However, God isn’t calling us to be perfect, He just wants us to act in obedience and allow Him to shape and perfect that which is beyond our ability.

Lastly, I note that God chooses to use the foolish, weak, low and despised for a reason. Because if He chose the wise, the strong, powerful, and well-loved they would be tempted to boast in, and of themselves; and God wants us to recognize His power and authority. Now, I do believe that people of power and influence can be used by God if they walk humbly before Him (Proverbs 18:12, 22:4, 27:2; James 4:6, 10; Luke 14:11; Romans 12:3; Philippians 2:3-4). Unfortunately, it’s more common for those of power and influence to downplay the role of God in their lives, because they’re afraid to lose the very power and influence God gave them. But they were given for a purpose, and when we don’t use the gifts God gives, we run the risk of losing them.

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A Servant’s Heart

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. ~ (Mark, 10:43-44, ESV)

God desires that each of His children have a servant’s heart. However, we currently live in a self-obsessed culture, that doesn’t often see the needs of those around us; including the needs within the church. But I believe if every individual served in some capacity, in the church, every need would be taken care of within; and we could focus on doing even more minstry and outreach outside the church.

Sadly, the excuse used most often, is that we don’t feel called to a particular type of ministry. Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in the idea of being “called” that we never act, and miss the God-given opportunities, standing right in front of us. The Word tells us to serve (Matthew 20:26-28, 1 Peter 4:10, Philippians 2:3-8). The Word tells us to preach the Gospel (Mark 16:15). The Word tells us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). The Word tells us to take care of widows, orphans, and the poor (Luke 12:33, James 1:27). The Word tells us to pray for the sick (James 5:14). The Bible gives us many (more) commandments, yet we wait for further instruction, without being obedient to what He’s already called us to do. We must first be faithful with the areas of responsibility He’s already placed in our lives, before He will give us more (Matthew 25:14-21).

Years ago, I heard Christine Caine speak at a Passion Conference. She spoke about (King) David, and how there was so much time between when he was anointed as the next King of Israel, and when he actually took the throne. Yet, David didn’t just stop working because he’d been anointed. David continued to tend the sheep and protect them from bears & lions. He played music before King Saul. He battled against Goliath, and won! He was a warrior and commander in Saul’s army. And later, when he was on the run from Saul, he became the leader of a rebel group of 600 men. Christine described his experiences as a “dark room,” where David was developed (like film). More recently, I heard a message by Andrew Scott, head of Scatter Global, and he said “We’re not ‘called’ into the Purposes of God; we’re created for the purposes of God.” In other words, God develops us little by little, through experiences, time, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we might display His glory. This doesn’t just happen over night!

If we want to know what God’s purpose for our lives is, we need to begin stepping out in obedience and faith (James 2:26). We should be serving both within and outside the church in some capacity. Even if it means being behind the scenes (which, is often where the most help is needed), taking care of little ones, or tearing up and breaking down equipment. We can’t ask God to do big things in us and through us, and remain in a constant state of “waiting.” We must do something. We must ACT.

There’s an old review on a book titled I Will, by Thom Rainer, that I shared two years ago, which describes the modern-day believer as a consumer instead of someone who serves. (If you’ve never read the book, I recommend it.) I don’t know about you, but when I read the New Testament, I see an early Church who served, and preached, and gave all that they had to the church and the cause, because they believed so strongly in the truth of the gospel. They weren’t focused on self, they were focused on establishing God’s kingdom! As should we!

 

Treat People the Way God Treats You

Don’t treat people the way they treat you. Treat people the way God treats you. ~ Dave Willis

The other day I saw a meme shared by Focus on the Family in my Facebook news feed, with the above quote. I immediately shared it, thinking “Yes! Someone else gets it!”

The truth is, we live in a society in which we measure out things like, love, grace, and respect in the measure that it’s given to us; but the Word tells us to live otherwise.

In Matthew 7:12, Jesus Himself, says “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (We talked about this previously, in my R-E-S-P-E-C-T post, about a year ago.)

So, why are we revisiting this? Because we always need to be reminded, and like I said in a previous post (The Lamp of the Body), we’re called to be a peculiar people. We’re not supposed to think and act like those in the world. Is this difficult? Yes; but, again, we’re not doing it on our own, but by the power of the Spirit of God living within us. The verse we’ve been returning to again and again, in church this year, has been Zechariah 4:8: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord. This ties right in line with what we’ve been saying here for years.

Give Grace

So, what does it mean to treat others the way that God treats us? I believe it means that we’re showing people grace, as God shows us grace. The word grace itself, is described as free and unmerited favor, meaning it’s undeserved. God doesn’t provide grace for us because we deserve it, He provides it because of Who He is. In same, we shouldn’t offer grace towards others based on merit, but because of who we are in Christ; we forgive others because we’ve been forgiven (Matthew 6:14; Ephesians 4:32).

Discipline in Love

Secondly, it means that we discipline in love, the way God lovingly disciplines His children. Proverbs 3:11-12 and Hebrews 12 talk about discipline. I think we often equate discipline with corporal punishment, but as I believe we’ve briefly discussed before–in Correction–this is more like training and teaching than anything else. Basically, we’re talking about speaking Truth, gently and lovingly, into people’s lives and letting God do the rest of the work. Again…Our job is simply to share it, not to force people to believe (for more on this check out, For All to Hear).

Treat all Equally

Third, it means we treat all equally and with respect. Jesus died for all, not just a few of us and He gives us all equal opportunity to become children of God (Romans 2:11; Galatians 3:26-29; John 1:12; John 3:16-17; Acts 10:34). James asks in chapter 2, “how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others?” This could be based on financial or social status, as it was in James’ time, but it could also include race or ethnicity. The Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ is global. There will be people of all races and tongues in heaven, whether we were rich or poor, married or unmarried, U.S.-born, Middle Eastern, African, raised in the church, or became a believer in our old age; none of it is going to matter when we’re all standing before God (Revelation 7:9).

Treat Others as Better than Ourselves

Lastly, it means we treat others as better than ourselves. In Philippians 2:3-8 (NLT), Paul writes:

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Jesus, Himself, showed us what it looked like to pour out His life for others. Remember when Jesus washed His disciples’ feet in John 13?  He told them to use it as an example, and to wash each other’s feet as He washed theirs. Elsewhere, we’re told that we are to serve one another in love, to love our neighbor as our self, and to give to those in need, period (Leviticus 19:33-34; Galatians 5:13; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 12:31; Romans 12:20; James 1:27). And to top it all off, we’re to expect nothing in return (Luke 14:12-14).

Will this be easy? No. Will this be possible? Absolutely. But only by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. Are you up for the challenge? I know Paul was when he stated, “But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy” (Philippians 2:17).

Let’s act accordingly.