We have a guest post this week as Sunday’s preacher was a visiting speaker. Here’s John James’ notes.
A friend – let’s call him Dave! has an anger problem. He has been a Christian for a while. He reads his Bible, he has joined a church, he prays and can see areas of his life where there have been real changes. But he struggles with fits of rage. Sometimes it all bubbles up inside him and he explodes.
How do we grow?
When I was a kid I planted an orange pip. I was so desperate to make it grow, I would try anything
I put it under a lamp, watered if every ten minutes, dug into the soil to check it was germinating
When it emerged, it was the most crooked, stunted, bonsai-esque orange tree you have seen.
- As Christians, many of us will relate to Dave’s problem, many of us will be desperate to grow!
- This weekend, two of my children have their birthdays. They are excited about growing up…
- But how? If we tinker with the wrong things… our Christian lives may end up hideously deformed!
God Says: He Grows Us Through His Gospel
V1. The Corinthians are a church with a growth problem.
Born of the Spirit of God, with the mind of Christ. But don’t look like it! They are still infants.
V 3-4 Jealousy, quarrelling, and division. Elderly groupies, loyal to a particular Christian hero
We saw it back in Ch1 – Apollos the compelling preacher, Paul the courageous missionary.
You should be growing up, and if you are not, it is because you are not feeding on the right stuff.
How do we grow? God Grows us Through His Gospel
- Feed on The Gospel
V2 It could read: there are two diets, aptamil milk formula, or steak and chips, and you are not ready for the good stuff yet. As though there is gospel level 1, and then gospel level 2.
However, what is this so-called ‘milk’ he has been giving them? 1:22-25
What he is saying is this: “You think the gospel is milk, when it is solid food.”
You are not growing because you are not feeding on the gospel. It is the formula, and the steak.
The Corinthians are concerned about preaching style, and impressive gifts, and in comparison the good news of Jesus seems bland and basic.
- They are aligning themselves with their favourite sensation, and not their faithful saviour!
- And their disunity is a key sign that they are not feeding on the gospel.
If we are not feeding on the gospel, what are we feeding on?
Our ego. That is why it is producing jealousy and quarrelling. When one says “I follow Paul” and another “I follow Apollos,” they are saying, “I have found the secret! I am smart enough, blessed enough, unique enough, to see the secret to growth, and as a result, I am better than you!
Sound familiar? Not just with preachers, but anything we might use to elevate ourselves above others and may ourselves appear superior, more mature, more spiritual? The gifts we have? Our role in church? The evangelistic opportunities we take? The story we can tell of our own conversion?
Wonderful things, not to feed our ego, but to point us to Jesus, that we may feed on him!
GOSPEL: The measuring stick is not others, but God! We are nobodies next to Him.
We deserve not to flourish but to perish. Christ, took the punishment we deserve.
We become people of the Spirit, free to live truly spiritual lives for him!
Non Christian? The good news of Jesus is not for people who think they are better than others, but for people who know they are not. The ground is level at the foot of the cross.
In Christ, we will grow, and that will look like large hearted, generous attitudes that make peace, avoid quarrelling and jealousy, and refuse to act divisively. Why?
- Because God Gives The Growth
V5 Gospel ministers are “servants”. Disunity = forgetfulness of where the growth comes from.
V 6-7 God gives the growth. View ministers rightly, then look up and see the true giver of growth. In comparison to God gospel ministers are ‘nothings’ (just as chapter 2 explained!)
Illustration -you get off a plane to a wonderful reception only to realise it was intended for the queen.
V8-9 We are his farm labourers. Co-workers, under God, and owned by God.
As gospel ministers our lives should be so shaped by the gospel, that we give ourselves entirely to God’s service – knowing that success comes from him, and so does our reward.
I am only the envelope the letter comes in, the wooden pallet the delivery comes on, the donkey bearing the goods! A servant, and a nothing. Right to respect and honour, but you get the point!
If we are not looking to God to grow us, then we have not understood the gospel!
1:26- 29 Where else are you going to look? Not to us? Not to another human? We are weak fools, ‘not’ things, nothings, called by God used by him for his glory!
How do we grow? God Grows us Through the Gospel
How do we do it? Feed on the Gospel Because God Gives The Growth
Humbling: A mature Christian is easily edified. It should not be that difficult for God to grow us.
It may be that we are struggling with a particular area of sin in our lives.
We don’t need to find the perfect church, the best preaching, or most impressive gifts.
We just need a faithful church, with gospel preaching, with the gifts God has chosen to give, for the service of others, to his glory. That sounds like Bearwood Chapel!
Liberating: The progress of the gospel, in our lives and Bearwood is God’s work.
We need ministers, structures, relationships, tools and resources.
They provide the context, but they do not provide the power.
Only God gives the growth, we are useless without his power, and we don’t have to pretend to be something we are not.
He delights to use weak nothings for his glory!