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Sep 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 19, 2021

Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us posses knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

Intro: Are you like me, when it comes to reading the Bible?

I will come to a sentence and immediately my attention drops off – for instance:
The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ishmael. These are their genealogies: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebaioth, and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam . . . (the list goes on – 1 Chr. 1:28-31)
– yes, it is still scripture, but it doesn’t interest me
• that happens when I read this first line in chapter 8
Now concerning food offered to idols
◦ I’ve never done this, have never been tempted to do this, have never even thought of it
• it would be easy to write-off the whole chapter and move on
◦ but that would be a mistake – I’d lose valuable insights
– this was a very real and practical concern for the Corinthians
• but it is not a cause of concern for us
◦ we do have our own situations that raise the same question
◦ “Is it alright for Christians to practice yoga?” “. . . to dance?”
• so the way Paul addresses their situation is relevant for ours

Although what Paul has to say is valuable, that will not be our focus
– we are listening to Paul for enlightenment regarding spiritual development
• for instance, what do we need in order to know God? the answer is in Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him (Ep. 1:17)
◦ we need to receive the intangibles of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation
what do we need in order to know our true selves? again, the answer is in Paul’s prayer:
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe (Ep. 1:18-19)
◦ we need to have the eyes of our heart opened — and
to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ep. 4:22-24)
– all the way through this series we have seen that there is a larger reality than the world we inhabit
• and what we need is a new perception, a new consciousness of that other dimension and eternity
◦ and it is possible for us to have this new perception
• so what does Paul want us to discover in today’s revelation?
◦ what have we missed? What do we need to see?

Paul alerts us to the illusion of knowledge and frees us from it

Knowledge is a key theme in this chapter
– in these thirteen verses, “know” or “knowledge” occurs nine times
• Paul himself had received an advanced education in the Hebrew Scriptures
◦ he studied under Gamaliel and knew the value of his education (Acts 22:3)
◦ and after his conversion he continued his studies, looking for Jesus in the Scriptures
• later, this was the tradition carried forward in the first monasteries
– monks were required to have a general knowledge of scripture
• and a more specific understanding of the gospels and the Psalms
◦ they had to learn the way of life in the monastery and its remote wilderness setting
• they also learned the teaching of their abbots and elders
◦ and most likely listened to conversations between the most enlightened monks
◦ there is great value in having a foundation in scripture and theology

But here Paul gives us a different perspective
– he talks about the relative value of knowledge
• do you remember what he said about the wisdom of God? (1 Cor. 1:22)
• to the world it looks like nonsense – foolishness
– here he warns of knowledge acquired for its own sake; that it puffs up
• it inflates the ego and will always present a risk of arrogance
◦ we’ve all known people like this
◦ arrogance undermines spiritual development
• personally, I have a strong negative reaction to spiritual conceit
◦ these are the people who say,
“Keep to yourself,
do not come near me, for I am too holy for you”

◦ such a person is like smoke in [God’s] nostrils (Isa. 65:5)

Paul exposes the truth about knowledge
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (v. 2)

Richard Fynman, who made significant discoveries in quantum physics, said, “I think it is safe to say that no one understands quantum physics. Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, ‘But how can it be like that?’ because you will go “down the drain into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped. Nobody knows how it can be like that.” “I’m smart enough to know that I am dumb.”
The same is true for most every subject — including spirituality
– a lesson we learned from Jesus is that spiritual development dissolves the ego
• he who is the greatest of all made himself the servant of all
• he tells us
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Lk. 9:23-24)
– how I understand this: we have a sense of our “self”
• we see our self as a person in this world, trying to make a life in it
◦ we have all our personal traits; our personal fears and hopes
◦ but that is our psychological self – not the true self
◦ a person who has been conditioned by this world, for this world
• our true self is spirit – not our thoughts, not our conditioning
◦ our aware self – and we must step away from the psychological self to find it
◦ at first this comes in flashes, then longer periods of awareness
– I don’t think we’ll ever be able to sustain our focus on the aware self continuously
• our nervous system won’t allow it
◦ we still have to live in this world, and that requires a certain kind of thinking and acting
• but I also think that’s why Jesus said take up cross “daily”
◦ we revisit our aware self every day, and in our aware self we experience a larger reality
◦ and in that larger reality, we encounter God – that is where we pray and worship

If knowledge by itself is not our guide, then what?

Love builds up, Paul says
– an inflated self or ministry is all air – it is propped up by unfulfilled promises
• a built up self or ministry is solid
◦ the help it provides others is substantial
LOVE IS THE GOAL OF LIFE IN THE SPIRIT
– for me, mystical Christianity is fascinating and exciting
• there’s a multitude of authors who want to teach it to us
• but the question I need to ask myself at end of every day
◦ is not “What have I learned today?” but “Whom have I loved?”

By itself, knowledge cannot take us where we want to go
– and where is that? To where we are known by God
• where God recognizes us as his children
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you . . .” (Mt. 7: 21-23)
• God does not know us through the knowledge we get from Bible studies
◦ it isn’t a prize for the brightest or most educated
◦ it is the person who loves that is known by God

Religious knowledge without Christian love can be dangerous
And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died (v. 11; cf. Rom. 14:15)

We need to really grasp the difference between knowing truth and living the reality of truth
– the difference between the idea of goodness and a lived experience of goodness
• spiritual knowing isn’t same as biblical knowledge or theological knowledge
• in fact, the goal of theology is not to be well-informed about God
Marshall Davis, “This is more than a theological doctrine. It is a living awareness available to everyone. Christian theology is practical and not theoretical. Theology is best understood as a description of our experience of God. To say that God is omnipresent is not just saying something about the nature of God. It says something about our experience of God. It describes my experience of God.”

Conclusion: Paul turns our world upside down

One of the chief values of our American culture is the freedom to assert our rights
– we know our rights and insist on exercising them
• Paul says, our rights cannot always determine our actions
But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak (v. 9)
◦ it is not always about you
• we can forgo our rights in service to others
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never ear mean, lest I make my brother stumble (v. 13)
– what happens if we do not press our rights in order to serve others?
• and if and our hearts are sincere?
◦ sincerity is important because people can be charitable when their goal is to win recognition
◦ or if they feel that serving others enhances their spiritual status
• but if we deny our rights to serve others,
◦ and we do it because the action is the right thing for us to do,
◦ we can gain a scrap of enlightenment
We may leap from our psychological self to our aware self
We are taking up our cross, and in doing so we lose our false self and find our true self

People who have taken the time to visit someone in the hospital,
or taken a meal to someone who was ill,
or volunteered in a soup kitchen,
frequently report that they feel a little bit of guilt
They say, “I think I received a greater blessing than the person I served.”
They may not be able to describe the blessing,
but it had to do with the connection they made with the other person,
and what they learned from them

We practice contemplative prayer to nurture awareness
And we have other practices, like the spiritual reading of scripture in Lectio Divina
A spiritual practice that often goes unnoticed
is service to another person
But this too can be a significant eye-opener
It frees us from the old self and enhances our perspective of that larger dimension

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 (Mk. 10:43-45

Sep 12 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 12, 2021

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Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 1 Corinthians 7

Intro: If you have ever read this chapter and felt frustrated, you’re not alone

A few verses in it make good sense and are immediately helpful
– but the rest is strange, confusing, or upsetting
• this chapter is the reason some people give up on Paul
• but you and I cannot give up on him
◦ his spiritual insight has been too helpful to walk away now
– so we take a deep breath, cool our heals, and pray
• we ask God’s Spirit to walk us through the rough spots
• in time, it will make sense

Several background factors will help clarify what we find here

First, Paul was responding to prickly issues Corinthians had raised (vv. 1 & 25)
– they wanted his apostolic insight, and that’s what he gave them
Second, marriage and singleness, and sex and celibacy were serious concerns
– in some places, celibacy was considered the ultimate devotion to God
• it was assumed that a single person would have a single heart, as single passion and devotion
• the Essenes comprised a Jewish sect that held practiced celibacy
– later, of course, it became the rule for monks and nuns
• even a number of husbands and wives chose to be celibate
• you can see why this could become a concern to Corinthians
◦ some perhaps wondered, could a person be married and a Christian?
Third, some of Paul’s remarks are confusing even for biblical scholars
– they cannot agree on what he’s talking about in a couple of places
• a problem may be that we do not understand the cultural context
Fourth, there was a pending crisis in Corinth – also unknown to us
I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is (v. 26)
This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short (v. 29)
– perhaps there were indications of an outbreak of persecution
• circumstances could turn so that normal behavior would be suspended
• like when signs tell us, “In case of emergency use stairs” or “In case of emergency break glass”
◦ surviving an emergency would be easier for people who were not responsible for a spouse or children

Remember, this is not a Bible study

It’s more like sitting around Paul as we listen to him enlighten us
– his passion is to wake us up to our true selves in Jesus
• remember, he had told the Corinthians, I could not address you as spiritual persons
◦ but that was the very thing he wanted for them – and would want for us
. . . my little children, for [you] I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! (Gal. 4:19)
◦ his role was like that of a midwife – to assist a new birth
• in these talks, our interest lies behind the text
◦ we want to find the basis for what he is teaching us
– typical of Paul’s letters, he first gives indicatives (who we are to be in Christ)
• then the imperatives (what we re supposed to do)
• what we’re looking for is the indicatives
◦ how do we become the kind of people who can live what Paul teaches?

In the practical instructions, Paul address our relationships and attachments
– our connections to “people” and to “things”
• we learn to work out our life in God in these various arenas
• that may be why this chapter is so long
◦ singleness and marriage, celibacy and sex pose major challenges
◦ they also impinge on other attachments
But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife (v. 33)
– so what were the basics according to Paul?

Now as a concession, not a command, I say this. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has his own gift from God, one of one kind and one of another.
To the unmarried and widows I say that it is good for them to remain single, as I am (vv. 6-8)
His personal preference was that everyone would lived single and celibate
– fortunately, he says that it is no sin if we marry (v.36)
• however, he recognized that celibacy was a “gift”
◦ when the disciples learned there should be no easy divorce, they said,
“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it (Mt. 19:10-12)
◦ celibacy is not difficult for some people
But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed [unmarried], he will do well (v. 37)
• Annmarie Kidder is a Presbyterian pastor
◦ in her youth she had boyfriend for four years and lived with another for three years
◦ after breaking up, she had no further interest in sex, boyfriends, or marriage
◦ so mother sent her to therapist (but she didn’t want to be “cured”)
Kidder, “That was in Germany. A year later I moved to the United States, and things changed radically. . . . I soon started attending church . . . and what I heard stunned me Preachers were telling their flocks, among other things, that sexual immorality, which included living together and having sexual intercourse outside marriage, was wrong in God’s sight and would never get you to heaven. ¶ Such a perspective was news to me, but in my present condition, it was good news and a great relief. . . . over the next five years the notion grew in me that living the single and celibate life provided immense freedom and was worth keeping.”
• this should not be shocking to us, but celebrated

Each one of your should remain in the condition in which he was called. . . . So, brothers, in whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (vv. 20 & 24)
Paul wanted them to learn contentment
– that it doesn’t come through changing your situation in life
• but through accepting your situation as God’s gift
◦ then finding his grace in it and placing your trust in him
. . . for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Php. 4:11-13)
◦ contentment doesn’t mean you do nothing regarding your situation
Paul was no slouch
◦ what contentment means is that the world doesn’t own you
• Paul referred to a “secret” regarding contentment – one I hope we can discover
◦ if you are here, then live here; if you are there, live there;
if you are rich, be rich for God; if you are poor, be poor for God
◦ in all things, belong to God
My mom once told me, “I believe the temptation in the Garden of Eden was discontent.”
◦ it was certainly present in the three temptations Satan used with Jesus

From no one, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.
I want you to be free from anxieties (vv. 29-32)
This issue is related to contentment: to be free from attachments
– attachment is not about owning things or owning nothing
• it is about our the stuff our hearts and minds hang onto
◦ it is not material or personal things in themselves, but what they mean to us, how important they are to us
◦ what they represent (status, security, our worth as persons, and so on)
• Paul’s idea is, do not be so tied to things that you cannot let them go
◦ or if losing them robs your joy and ruins your life

A major goal of spiritual development is discovering our true self

Let me illustrate what I mean in a text my son sent me and my response:

Will: Dad, I want to thank you deeply for going through with sharing what you did yesterday. So much of my memories of Gramps and Grams makes sense to me now. I have had wave after wave of revelations and I don’t expect them to stop anytime soon. I feel like I finally have the perspective to understand a missing piece of who they were to me. I realize how self-centered that sounds, but I feel like I’ve understood what they meant to others for a while now.

Me: No, no, no Will! Not self-centered at all. God provides us these insights to help us discover who we are. In that discovery, two things happen: First we learn that for better or for worse (and probably both) the influence of our family is with us forever. Secondly, when we see the wrong that was done to us by family, we are then free to let it go, change it, take our own path. We gain the freedom of choice.
Had I not become my own person, I would not have been able to give the message that I did.

Human cultures influence deep structures of our minds
– we are bound to assumptions we think are our own
• assumptions regarding our value as persons
◦ our cars, our homes, our clothes, our level of education, our careers
• but these are not our assumptions – but our culture’s myths
◦ there’s no need for nano-technology – we’ve been brainwashed from birth
◦ and it continues until our death, twenty-four hours a day
• the more imbedded we are in mass culture,
◦ the more difficult it will be to see celibacy as a valuable, viable and empowering life choice
◦ and the more difficult it will be to learn the secret of contentment
– we depend on others to helps us work out our problems
• parents, doctors, experts – people with training and experience
• advertisers and politicians exploit this need – the implicit message is:
“Trust us and depend on us to meet your need and provide what you are lacking”
◦ they play on the unconscious assumptions that they have implanted

We need awareness of the interplay of life on surface and below surface
– our daily embodied life is surface – spirit is below surface
– discovery of who we are, frees us from the prison of assumptions
• we discern what is of our true self and what is of our culture

Conclusion: I hope it doesn’t bother you, I keep repeating myself

The next step of our spiritual development is learning to see
– that’s always the next step – to be awake and aware to present moment

The whole world is like a stained glass window
In some places where the glass is thick and dark
the light is dim and can barely penetrate the glass;
then we must look hard to see
In other places the glass is thin and the colors bright,
and the light floods through
The light shines everywhere

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you,
that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5

Sep 5 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 5, 2021

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When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have not standing in the church? 1 Corinthians 6:1-4

Intro: I read through 1 Corinthians in June,

Tracking how Paul was guiding these Christians to the mind of Christ
– but when I came to this chapter, I felt disappointed
• here, the subjects he addresses are so “unspiritual,” so this-worldly
• a civil court, wrongdoers, and curbing sexual appetite
– but then I noticed a revelation underneath the text
• you know how a card might come with a sticker you have to peel off,
◦ and when you do, you find a code?
• looking underneath the text helped make sense of what’s on surface

For instance, the wrongness of litigation within the church

Paul acts astonished that one Christian would sue another
– even the most honest and wisest judge in world, isn’t qualified to handle spiritual disputes
• the relational dynamics of Christian spirituality are different
◦ justice is not the only criterion in deciding our cases
◦ there’s forgiveness, mercy, and the will of God revealed by Spirit
• there’s a backstory to this whole issue (see Acts 18:12-15)
◦ a judge in the civil court of Corinth refused to try a religious case
◦ this does not say that Christians cannot pursue a civil suit with unbelievers
(however, it may not be irrelevant to such cases either)
– Paul’s first piece of advice makes rational sense
• find someone in the church with the wisdom and discernment to resolve the dispute
• it can be handled like normal arbitration, only,
◦ with a mediator familiar with Christian faith and practice

So far, so good
– however, Paul’s second piece of advice is harder to digest
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (v. 7)
• what can possibly prepare us to accept a personal act of injustice against ourselves?
◦ to put up with the wrong done to us, or be defrauded without a reprisal?
◦ or to turn the other cheek, as Jesus taught?
• this is an extremely difficult adjustment for us to make
◦ we assume the courts are there to guarantee our rights
◦ when wronged, it seems impossible for us to let it go
– one of my kids was involved in a law suit that went on for a year
• it was bogus from the outset – an obvious case of insurance fraud
• reading Matthew 6 one morning, it seemed right to give up the fight
◦ what amazed me was the peace that came to me after making that decision
◦ much more peace than all my fantasy plotting of bringing down corrupt lawyers and the whole judicial system in California

A second example in this chapter
“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” — and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. . . . Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For as it is written, “The two shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. . . . Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (vv. 12- 18)

Paul assumed the men in Corinthian church would steer clear of prostitutes
– and why? Because their own bodies were appendages of Jesus’ body
• not only that, but each one’s body was a temple of God’s Spirit
• but were any of those men aware of being a temple before Paul told them they were?
◦ we do not find these same concepts in Jesus teaching,
◦ or anywhere else in the New Testament prior to this letter

So, like I said, at first I was disappointed when I came to this chapter
– but as I meditated on it,
• I realized how much I needed the revelation behind the text
◦ like the Corinthians, I needed:
1. to be shown what I did not know
2. to learn why I had not known these things before now
3. and I could come to the knowing of these things
• I intentionally said “knowing” rather than “knowledge”
◦ knowledge is static; knowing is dynamic
◦ and what needs to be known has a spiritual vitality
– like God’s word, these truths are alive and powerful

What was it that the Corinthians did not know–and neither did I?

It is simple, really: My perspective is too limited and warped
– our perspective depends on our vantage point
• the more you see, the larger your perspective
• also, what we have been conditioned to see, we notice
◦ what we’re not conditioned to see fades into the background
– perspective affects everything
• how we think, what is important to us, how we respond to events
◦ I know my perspective is too limited to discern some things
◦ I have partial color blindness–certain shades of red, brown, and green do not exist for me
• we cannot make right decisions regarding what we cannot see
◦ we cannot even have the right attitude or feelings when our perspective is limited
◦ if something does not exist for us, it cannot influence us

I doubt that the Corinthians knew being defrauded was even an option
(certainly not an attractive one to our human way of thinking)
– Jesus taught his followers, they did not have to retaliate
. . . if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well (Mt. 5:40)
• this sounds really silly – give them more than they demand
• it sounds silly, because our perspective doesn’t allow room for it
– Jesus was bringing the kingdom of God into view
• if they could see the kingdom it would change their perspective on everything

What limited the Corinthians’ perspective until now?

I will try to break this down for you
– the way we reason our way through challenges, depends on certain factors, that are bound in a cause and effect relationship:
• I perceive x,y,z
• I react to x,y,z
• my reaction leads me to do a,b,c
◦ usually this process goes on automatically and unconsciously
– why do I perceive only xyz?
• there are twenty-three other letters that could be factored into my perspective
• but I have been conditioned to perceive only xyz — it’s a reflex

In high school, one of the books that was a required reading was The Red Badge of Courage. It was set during the time of the American Civil War. The story is filled with the carnage caused by new types of rifles and cannons. At one point two soldiers stand near a dead body. One of them makes the observation (in essence) that life is filled with risks and ends in death, and in the meantime the best thing to do was to look out for number one.
– that theme has been given priority in our culture
• you have one life, it’s short, watch out for yourself
• advertisers drum this theme into our brains
◦ self-centeredness is a North American cultural virtue and priority

Parents, school, and culture are the prime influences of our perspective
– Israel’s prophets always maintained some distance from culture
• they stayed close enough to be well-informed regarding its flaws
◦ but not involved enough to be controlled by same flaws
• the minds of most people are immersed in cultural values,
◦ they’re not aware of how those values dominate their thinking and control their lives
◦ even when their thinking is anxiety ridden or depressive, it’s all they know
– pastors who are captive to same values, cannot offer much help in enlarging our perspective
• the Corinthians’ perspective was limited by a lack of awareness

How could Paul guide the Corinthians to a new perspective?

This is a huge challenge, because a new perspective requires a new vantage point
– and that vantage point basically consists of seeing him who is invisible (11:27)

The main thrust of Paul’s efforts to broaden their perspective was to challenge the range of their insight
– to do this, he repeated asks them, Do you not know . . .?
Do you not know that the saints will judge the world (v. 2)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? (v. 9)
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? (v. 15)
Do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? (v. 16)
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you . . .? (v. 19)
• know translates the Greek, eido: to perceive with the eyes – or perceive with the senses
◦ or to know from experience
• Paul questions them regarding the spiritual breadth of their perspective

Paul also challenges them to rethink some of their cultural slogans
All things are lawful for me (v. 12)
(he does this again later: “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up (1 Cor. 10:23)
– it was true that not being under the law, but in grace, Christians experienced a new freedom
• however, exercising that freedom carelessly could have negative consequences
◦ it could blind them rather than enlighten them
◦ it could break them down rather than build them up
– another slogan: Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food
• this also required careful handling
• they needed to have greater awareness in order to have a broader perspective

Paul wanted the Corinthians to see!
– to see that they were joined to Jesus
– to see that each person’s body was a temple of the Spirit

I’m convinced that Paul wanted to awaken them to their true selves – the aware self or spirit
– he wanted more for them– more than his enlightened perspective alone
• he wanted them to become the spiritual persons they were not, but could be (1 Cor. 3:1)
• the aware self does not have to be not imprisoned by thoughts or feelings
◦ it can be aware of its thoughts without being defined by them
◦ it can be aware of its feelings without being controlled by them
• the aware self is the believer’s new vantage point
◦ if developed, it will yield a broader perspective
The aware self:
– discerns automatic patterns of thoughts and behavior
– discerns cultural influences for what they are
– is not defined by thoughts or feelings
– is not material, but spiritual; not transient, but eternal
– lives in a larger universe – and so, has an array of new options,
because the aware self is free of earthly and personal restraints

Conclusion: While taking a walk yesterday evening,

I was reflecting on my body as a temple of the Spirit
– the thought occurred to me that in the Scriptures
pagan temples had idols, but no breath (ruach: breath or spirit; Ps. 135: 15-17; Jer. 10:14)
God’s temple had no idols, but breath
The living breath of God in us changes everything

Okay, so we did not learn this on our own
Paul gave us a look at a cheat sheet
Sometimes we need this kind of boost
from someone more enlightened than ourselves
At any rate, now these truths are ours
And they can help us increase our awareness of our world
and our lives in it
They can help expand and extend our perspective
And they can help us experience the truth of things for ourselves
We just have to wake up

Aug 29 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 29, 2021

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a may to have his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you 1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Intro: Some of you do not know about my friend, Fr. Romuald

I was born and bred in a Christian home and had served three decades in ministry,
– when I met a Benedictine monk, who opened my eyes to Jesus more than any other person
• after our first long talk, I began recording our conversations
◦ this introduction to contemplative spirituality went on for two years
• later, I invited friends into our home to share with them my conversations with Romuald
◦ several of us discovered a new horizon of our faith
◦ we learned we could ask questions freely and explore new ideas without being lectured or corrected
– as we came to the last conversation I had with Romuald, my friends asked, “What are we doing next?”
• we had become a “we” — a community that bonded in the life of Jesus
◦ a couple of years later, we started Reflexion
• my last conversation with Romuald two weeks before he passed, went like this:
Romuald: “I’m ready, and I keep asking God why I’m still here.”
Me: “I keep asking it why it’s okay for him to take you, when I have known you such a short time, have gained so much from your insight, and still have so far to God.”
Romuald: [smile] “Chuck, I am not your teacher, the Holy Spirit is your Teacher.”
and then, as an afterthought, he added, “The virtues are fundamental to spiritual direction.”
◦ he mentioned a book that was an exposition on the virtues, by Sr. Mary Margaret Funk
Thoughts Matter: The Practice of the Spiritual Life

Now here we are, going through Paul’s letter to the Corinthians
– he was definitely like a pastor and teacher to the Corinthians
• but also like a spiritual director
◦ his purpose was meant to deepen them in God’s Spirit
• beginning in the third century, believers began visiting visited monasteries to receive spiritual guidance
◦ the monks and nuns who directed them are remembered as abbas (fathers) and ammas (mothers)
◦ Paul saw himself in this role with the Corinthians
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15)
– M. M. Funk gives John Cassian’s description of a good spiritual adviser
Funk, “When an elder is recommended to us that person should be known by the fruits of his or her life. Has he or she struggled with afflictions and thoughts, and calmed the mind? Can he or she read hearts? Can he or she actually see into another’s heart and not have a preoccupation with himself or herself?”
• we need spiritual parents who help keep us grounded and growing
Arthur Deikman, “The beginning student is not expected to be completely free from interfering desires or from egocentricity, but these factors must be sufficiently controlled so that they do not prevent the teaching process from operating. For this reason people approaching mystical science must first go through a preparatory stage of ‘learning how to learn.’” ¶ “The virtues are means to an end, an end reached by a developmental process . . . .” ¶ “But piety, for its own sake is not the point. In mystical science, virtuous behavior is prescribed as a necessary step in the development of intuitive perception.”
◦ he says virtues are important, because development begins with a “purifying of the heart”
◦ like where where Jesus began in the sermon on the mount
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
• I believe purity of heart was a central concern of Paul’s for the Corinthians
◦ and it emphasizes the importance of his teaching in this and the coming chapters
For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a pure devotion to Christ (2 Cor. 11:2-3)

What was going on in the Corinthian church?

The city of Corinth had a reputation for promiscuous sexuality
– but the situation in the church that Paul addresses would be shocking even for them
• a man was having an affair with his step-mother
– what concerned Paul even more than the scandal,
• was attitude of the Corinthians,
And you are arrogant! . . . Your boasting is not good (vv. 2 & 6)
• they assumed they were pretty decent people, to let this go
◦ to accept the offender him without confronting or correcting him

I am going to run down briefly how Paul handled this

1. First, Paul brings up the report of what was going on
• he tells them they have not dealt with it in the best way
2. He then tells them what they need to do (vv. 3-5)
• in their next meeting, formally remove the offender
3. He explains the reason for taking this action (vv. 6-8)
• notice his analogy of leaven
• finding and using appropriate analogies is a gift
◦ it is the only way to represent the invisible and intangible
4. He points out that this is a dif. policy than with outsiders (vv. 9-13)
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with [discerning] outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to [discern]? God judges those outside. (verses 9-13)
5. At the end of v. 13, he reiterates that they are to remove this person

I don’t think sexuality was a more difficult problem for them than it is for us

Nor is it more difficult for us than it was for them
– the fact is, sex has always presented a struggle for believers in every era
• chastity is second on the list of virtues identified by Cassian
• Jesus addressed it, so did Paul in several of his letters
◦ in Acts, apostles made it a requirement for Gentile Christians (Acts 15:29)
– in the next chapter, Paul will explain why a Christian should not sleep with a prostitute
• the argument he makes is not moral, but spiritual
• in chapter 7 he will give his opinion regarding marital sex
◦ and it is more liberal than you might expect from him

Most of us must deal with our sexuality to develop spiritually,
– we must confront its reality and risks, and respond in righteousness
– So here in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, which guides them to truer, richer spiritual lives
• he includes these instructions regarding how to deal with this person
• which is at the same time a challenge to face their own struggles

What else is revealed here in this chapter?

There is the challenge of mercy and judgment
– I’m the guy, that if I err, I want to err on side of mercy
• one reason is because Jesus taught that the criteria we use to evaluate others will be used when God evaluates us (Mt. 7:1-2)
◦ I do not want God to be hypercritical of me
◦ Jesus with another parable demonstrated how we need to forgive because we’ve been forgiven (Mt. 18:21-35)
• he also quoted Hosea on two occasions,
I desire mercy, and not sacrifice (Mt. 9:13 & 12:7)
– the problem is, I can be wrong:
• about my assessment of what is mine to forgive
◦ I can forgive an injury done to me – in fact, I must, for my own sake
◦ but ignoring or excusing harmful behavior is not mercy, nor mine to forgive
• about my “generosity” in showing mercy
◦ my real intention may be to appear merciful to others
◦ in other words, my concern is for my image
• about what is best for the wrongdoer and others
◦ Paul warns that the harm done by not addressing the situation could have a ripple effect
Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? (v. 6)

How did they–and how do we–miss these important aspects of mercy?
– by not turning the light of discernment on themselves

One time a group of people traveling together on foot. At one point they had to cross a river. When they reached the other side, they took count to make sure all had made it safely across. Unfortunately, one was missing. So they went up and down the river looking for the missing member, but found no one. The leader then asked someone else to count the group, and again they were one person short. When a stranger was walking by, they asked him to count them, and this time they all were there and no one was missing. It turned out that each one who counted failed to count himself.

• this is the mistake we make when we try to help others,
◦ but do not take time to discern our own thoughts and motivations
◦ it is like Jesus’ parable regarding the attempt to remove a speck from another’s eye, when there is a log in our own eye (Mt. 7:3-5)
– this is one of the experiences we have in contemplative prayer
• we observe our thoughts as they arise, and see them for what they are, what they reveal about us
M. M. Funk, “We can redirect our thoughts. We can notice our thoughts at the first instance and can get control of our mind. A mind in control is at peace.”
“Attention to our thoughts reveals our intentions. . . . Discernment is our ability to do the right deed with the right intention or motivation.”
• discernment is a subcategory of judgment
◦ it involves a process of investigating, weighing, and reflecting
• judgment, typically serves to either condemn or acquit
◦ discernment seeks to produce the best outcome
◦ to benefit all parties involved

There is one other verse in this chapter I would like to explore

The problem is, I lack the spiritual depth to grasp the details
– v. 4, how was Paul’s spirit with them in their assembly?
• was an apostle’s authority necessary for the action they had to take?
◦ is this no more than a figure of speech?
◦ I doubt that the power of our Lord Jesus was a figure of speech
• but what then?

Conclusion: I am circling back around to where we started

What is the spiritual potential of a meeting conducted in the name of Jesus?
These are not simple words that when we hear them we nod our heads and move on
When they are spoken, a realization comes to us
that Jesus is really present
and he brings with him a spiritual energy to change our lives
But neither are these words incantation, a magical word formula
We cannot presume on the presence or power of Jesus Christ
We can only surrender to him,
and trust him with our lives

One of the first lessons Fr. Romuald taught me was,
“‘Jesus’ is not merely a word, but a person. To say his name invites him into my corner. Saying his name intersects two realities. The way [forward] is not through will power, but through grace power.”

Remember that

Aug 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 22, 2021

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This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 1 Corinthians 4:1-4

Intro: Paul is considered Christianity’s first and foremost theologian

What is not always recognized–and is an embarrassment to some pastors–, Paul was also a mystic
– this was Albert Schweitzer’s assessment in his work The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle
Schweitzer, “. . . when all is said and done, Pauline personal religion is in its fundamental character mystical. . . . its own essential life lies in the mystical.”
“Paul is therefore a mystic.”
• I see this too – how could Paul not be a mystic, given his conversion encounter with Jesus Christ?
◦ his letters are as mystical as they are theological
◦ he fills them with the message of what had been revealed to him
– this is why Paul can guide Corinthians into a deeper experience of God
• they had a certain kind of religious experience and spiritual knowledge,
◦ but still, Paul could not address them as spiritual people (1 Cor. 3:1)
• what they needed was not more information or new information
◦ but a new awareness, a new consciousness of God
◦ he opens some of those doors for them in this chapter

They needed to understand Paul and his role

The “us” Paul refers to in verse 1 was himself and the other apostles; especially himself, Apollos and Cephas (1 Cor. 3:22)
– they are servants of Christ and stewards
• a steward was a slave who had been given the position of household manager
◦ this person handled all of the master’s personal finances and belongings
◦ it is obvious why the steward’s primary qualification was to be found faithful
• what belongings did Paul and the others “steward”?
the mysteries of God – (Greek, musterion, something secret or hidden)
◦ Paul has already used musterion – in 2:7, secret wisdom

A mystic knows mysteries – truths that are hidden from the rational mind
– years ago, during a prayer meeting, I had a vision
• it wasn’t a fall-down, angels with trumpets, Book of Revelation vision
◦ at the time, I was enamored with theology
◦ I felt like I was learning all these wonderful truths about God
• then, the vision, which at first I assumed was only my imagination,
◦ but when I put it out of my mind, it kept coming back–I so went with it
◦ when vision ended, I heard a clear inner voice say, “I am not a concept”

We all have beliefs about God – what we’ve been taught as Christians
– but if you think about it, these are merely pieces of information
• I think lots of people pray to their concept of God
◦ they pray to the God inside their heads, the God defined by their doctrines
◦ and such prayers rarely move out to the God who IS (the “I am”)
– it is not that our concepts are wrong, but they’re inadequate
• and that means they are also misleading
• the emphasis of evangelical theology: God is person, and so our beliefs are relational
(we talk about having a personal relationship with God)
◦ the emphasis of Eastern Orthodox theology: God is mystery, and so their beliefs are reverential
(they talk about the inability of the human mind to comprehend God)

God is not a concept – and you are not a concept
– you’re not an object that can be studied and reduced to raw information
• your inner-self, that is your spirit, is hidden
– our North American society tries to avoid mystery
• even in our Christian faith, we try to “clarify everything”
◦ it’s easier to be a pious Christian than a mystical Christian
• piety allows us to obey the rules and ease our conscience,
◦ without ever having to face God
◦ or get close enough to him to be scared
• mystery takes us down a path we cannot control

We come to terms with mystery when we accept not knowing
– I don’t know how God is with me when I pray, but I want to be there
• I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I’m here now
• saying, I don’t know is a way of giving up control
◦ as we practice saying it, we begin to see world differently,
◦ because we never know where mystery might appear next

They needed to stop pronouncing judgment
Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God 1 Corinthians 4:5

Our minds were designed to make quick judgments
– recognizing and reacting to danger could be the difference between life and death
• but our judgments have a tendency to run amok
• we feel we must judge everything, either affirming or condemning each thing

Two reasons why we need hit the brakes regarding judging others:
1. we don’t know everything, and definitely not enough to get it right
2. it’s is not our job
• we can learn to catch ourselves, discern why we judged,
◦ and immediately let it go
• this doesn’t mean we trust every stranger or ignore our gut
– in verse 3 Paul says, I do not even judge myself – a few of us need to learn this
• he’s not saying he never does anything wrong,
◦ or never apologizes, or never corrects his behavior
◦ but he does not condemn himself
• we do not have to judge every thought or feeling,
◦ or always be thinking, life “should” better, or “ought” to be different
◦ we can simply hold our thoughts in awareness before God without grading them

They needed to learn receptivity
For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? 1 Corinthians 4:7

We cannot congratulate ourselves or take credit for a gift we’ve been given
– we cannot treat what’s been given to us as an accomplishment
• the most important things in life come to us through grace
• for instance, our relationship with God and relationships with others
– it turns out that receptivity is what unlocks the mystery of the Spirit
• our usual conscious state is not one of acceptance of all that is
◦ our minds tend to be active, reactive, biased, and grasping
◦ our attention is focused on our immediate need or goal
• in the receptive mode, our minds are not trying to grab things
◦ our attention is relaxed and focused on what is in front of us

Sometimes these two modes of consciousness are referred to as doing and being
– doing is: goal oriented, controlling, temporal (past, present, future), material, segmented, and looks for closure
– being is: experience-oriented, surrendered, present moment, spiritual, holistic, and remains open
Henri Nouwen was meditating on Nathanael’s encounter with Jesus (Jn. 1:43-51)
• Nathanael came to see he saw Jesus, but when he came to Jesus he discovered Jesus had already seen him
Nouwen, “The story speaks deeply to me since it raises the questions “Do I want to be seen by Jesus? Do I want to be known by him?” If I do, then a faith can grow which proclaims Jesus as the Son of God. Only such a faith can open my eyes and reveal an open heaven.
Thus, I will see when I am willing to be seen. I will receive new eyes that can see the mysteries of God’s own life when I allow God to see me, all of me, even those parts that I myself do not want to see.”
• we cannot make God show up
◦ we can only watch so that we don’t miss him when he does make his presence known
◦ we can welcome him and surrender to him in the moment he is near
◦ the watching and waiting pleases him and conditions us to be awake

They needed to loosen their grip on the world
Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. 1 Corinthians 4:8-9

Paul is using sarcasm to make his point – he made the same point clearer in Romans
Do not be conformed to this world (Ro. 12:2)
– Paul gives example from his own life (vv. 10-13) – his values were other-worldly
• a teacher who is caught up in and conformed to world, can hardly help us escape its grip|
◦ that person cannot guide us into Christian mysticism
• preachers who offer training in how to succeed at worldly goals, become financially secure, or the best versions of ourselves,
◦ can hardly help us find the meaning and purpose of our lives that we crave
◦ the Teacher in the Book of Ecclesiastes declares these very pursuits to be meaningless
George Muller, “A servant of God has but one Master. It ill becomes the servant to seek to be rich, and great, and honored in that world where his Lord was poor, and [humble], and despised.”

They needed to be more than talk
But I will come to you soon, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:19-20

I do not think he’s referring to a visible power,
– but to a hidden work of the Spirit that makes a person real

Conclusion: Sometimes we turn on music for background noise

That way we feel less alone or less bored while doing other things
But when we really listen to our favorite music,
we are sometimes in that receptive mode
and the music enters us, speaks to us, and changes us
The same is true when we sit and look at the ocean
or stare at the stars
Receptivity to God in the present moment,
allows him to enter us, speak to us, and awaken us to himself

Aug 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 15, 2021

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A Primer In Things Unseen
But I, brothers [and sisters] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now your are not yet ready. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3

Intro: I’m sure most of you know the history of my dad’s ministry

The explosive growth of a small congregation into mega-church overnight
– hippies poured into it from the streets, turning from drugs to Jesus
• during that time of the “Jesus Movement,” several strange spin-offs appeared
• cults and individuals who alleged they had been in Satanic cults
– one young man gained notoriety for supposedly being a former Satanist
• he claimed that his directors used him to infiltrate Calvary Chapel and attract hippies
◦ he also said that the church of Satan funneled money through him to start Maranatha! Music
◦ some churches were happy to hear his message
• mostly those who doubted Jesus’ love for hippie freaks

My parents got word of a church in Pasadena that hosted this person regularly
– Mom decided she had to hear for herself what he was saying
• so we drove up there with a couple of friends and my cousin (Chuck Fromm)
◦ hearing his nonsense, she found it impossible to sit back and do nothing
• she stood up in the middle of the church, she interrupted him,
◦ calling him out, she rebuked him, identified herself as the wife of Chuck Smith
◦ and then delivered a scathing message against lies and misrepresentations
– later, my cousin told me that Mom was awesome
• he said, “You know how your mom is when she gets prophetic
◦ Oh yeah, I knew — I almost felt sorry for the guy

You may have heard that Mom passed away two days ago
– I’m not going to talk about that or about her life right now
• but only say that at times she could be brutally direct
• many people who heard her speak appreciated that about her
◦ they knew where they stood and what they had to change
◦ I think they also knew she was open and honest because she loved them
– I thought of Mom when meditating on the verses I just read
• Paul is being brutally direct with his Corinthian friends
• he lets them know:
◦ what’s wrong, what needs to change, and the next step they need to take

Paul’s assessment: You’re not as spiritually advanced as you think

At the end of chapter 2, Paul identified two types of people:
– the natural person and the spiritual person
the natural is simply out of the loop regarding things of the Spirit
◦ these are normal human beings without any awareness of spirit
◦ natural translates psuchos: the soul or animal life-force
the spiritual discerns the realm of the Spirit
◦ beyond animal life, they have the mind of Christ
◦ this suggests the possibility of a direct awareness of spiritual reality
– now, in chapter 3, Paul identifies a third type of person
I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh
• like natural (psukikos) and spiritual (pneumatikos),
of the flesh is one Greek word: sarkinos
◦ this is the lower level of human nature
• so the Corinthians were within the realm of God’s Spirit,
◦ but they weren’t living or behaving within it
For while there is jealousy and strive among you, are you not sarkinos?
◦ that behavior had stunted their spiritual growth

This is a miserable place for Christians to find themselves
– my dad would say,
“They have too much of the world to be happy in Jesus,
and too much of Jesus to be happy in the world”
• if anything heartbreaking has come to light in last two years,
◦ it is how much of American Christianity fits this description
• a retired Baptist preacher wrote Experiencing God Directly
(a work that I find uncharacteristic for a person of his background and education)
Marshall Davis, “Evangelical Christians are not born again. That is my assessment from ministering among evangelicals for most of my life. . . . I have known evangelicals–clergy and laity–for a long time. My opinion is that very few are ‘born again’ in the way that Jesus describes it.”
“I am not suggesting that evangelicals are not ‘saved,’ in the way in which they understand salvation–in terms of life in heaven after death. Evangelicals certainly believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and they trust in Christ for eternal life. If that is what it means to be born again, then evangelicals are born again. That is what evangelicals mean by the term ‘born again,’ but that is not what Jesus meant when he used that phrase.” “According to Jesus, being born again means to see the Kingdom of God.
“Would any evangelical say they see the Kingdom of God? Not too many that I know!”
– that may seem to have a hard edge, but it’s not any harsher than Paul saying,
You are infants in Christ
• it was the truth that needed to be told and the Corinthians needed to hear

Why were the Corinthians stuck in this condition?

They had not seen the problem in themselves,
– so without knowing any better, they were following the wrong protocols and using the wrong tools
Paul asks them, are you not sarkinos and behaving only in a human way?
• “behaving like every other human person?”
– I think this took them by surprise
• every day they would get up and go about their business
◦ doing their chores, going to work, shopping in the marketplace
◦ they would haggle with vendors, gossip with neighbors, and so on
• in other words, they were living normal lives in the world
◦ doing what had to be done in the only way they knew
◦ and that is how they approached life with God;
the same way as they took on every other human task

I mentioned last week – that when Jesus scolded Peter he said,
you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mt. 16:23)
– perhaps it would help if we heard this from a different version
You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not Gods (NLT)
• Jesus and Paul use the same word, anthropos (the root of anthropology)
• there is nothing wrong with being a human person,
◦ but we trip up when we approach God’s things in our normal way
Francis Schaeffer, “We must do the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way.
“There is no source of power for God’s people—for preaching or teaching or anything else—except Christ himself. Apart from Christ anything which seems to be spiritual power is actually the power of the flesh.
“A person cannot be a Christian without first recognizing his need of Christ. And as Christians we too must comprehend something of our need for spiritual power. If we think we can operate on our own, if we do not comprehend the need for a power beyond our own, we will never get started.
“If we try to influence the world by using its methods, we are doing the Lord’s work in the flesh.”
– Paul asked the Galatians, Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal. 3:3)
• he described for them how the Spirit and flesh work against each other
◦ as long as that battle continues, it renders us powerless (Gal. 5:17)
• do we realize how much we’ve been conditioned by our culture?
◦ the way of the Spirit calls us to transcend culture

How could Corinthians get unstuck and grow up?
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? Verse 16

Christian spirituality requires a certain kind of knowing
– it is not like the knowledge we get from school or books
• it is not something our brains think up, but that our spirits discern
• it is knowing more than we can gather with our senses,
◦ or than we have learned or can deduce through reason
• it is knowing that has a “special kind of contact with ultimate reality”
◦ an immediate experience of God’s transcendent presence
– almost every Christian I know has had a moment,
• when they had a strong impression to pray for some else
• this knowing is something like that

We need vital contact with God’s Holy Spirit
[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5-6)
– as a child, I imagined that poured out would look like the day Pentecost (Acts 2)
• I had seen dramatic manifestations of emotional release in Pentecostal meetings
• looking back – it wasn’t as supernatural as I imagined — it was more like group hysteria
◦ Pentecostals and Charismatics want miracles, they want signs and wonders
– the Corinthians were also eager for manifestations of the Spirit (14:12)
• and they could produce noise and flash
• but Paul wanted them to find an energy in the Spirit,
◦ to change lives and build up other members of their Christian community

In the Titus passage, Paul says we receive the Spirit through Jesus Christ
– Paul stresses the centrality of Jesus here also, in 1 Corinthians 3
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ Verse 11
• spanning the dimensions of our universe and also the greater dimension of God’s realm,
◦ Jesus is always our bridge to the Spirit of God and the things of God

Conclusion: You know what? I am encouraged by Paul’s criticism

I am grateful for God’s correction
– when he names my problem, I realize he also has a solution
• he corrects me, because he wants me to live closer to himself
• it is frustrating to constantly resist the forces of culture, consensus and conformity
◦ but there are moments when I find myself not in a fight, but in a flow
◦ those moments are when I’m in a state of a fuller awareness of God’s presence
Then nothing in this world concerns or entices me

Floating is a different experience from standing on your feet in shallow water
Floating for the first time creates a new experience of water
And it can introduce you to a new world of experience,
swimming, snorkeling, or scuba diving

Practice floating

Aug 8 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 8, 2021

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And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-10

Intro: Is there a foreign country you’ve always wanted to visit?

Russia was never on my bucket list – it seemed dark and foreboding
– a man I kept running into at conferences pressured me to visit orphanages in Russia
• one morning I felt like God told me, “Do this”
• so twenty years ago this summer, I made my first trip
– a small part of my experience was what I expected
• but there was a great deal more I had not anticipated
◦ mile after mile of incredible natural beauty
• but most of all, underneath language and cultural differences,
◦ Russian men and women were like us
◦ the have the same dreams, the same love of poetry and music, the same national pride

Travel is a unique education – you step into history, geography, and culture
– it is an education by immersion
• what I am getting at, is a specific challenge Paul faced
◦ and how he had to provide a unique education to those he led
◦ to inform them of intangible realm that could not be seen, heard, or imagined
• the only way they could know it, was to experience it — to have an education by immersion
– last Monday, while reading in Colossians I came across these verses
. . . pray for us, that God may open a door for the word to declare the mystery of Christ . . . that I may make it clear (4:3-4)
◦ I scrawled my meditation, and here is some of what I wrote:
“This is my current challenge, to communicate the mystery of Christ. Much of Jesus’ story is comprehensible, because like us he was a human person in the world. Yet his entire existence is enveloped in mystery. John’s gospel demonstrates this from the start. How do I make clear a reality that words cannot describe? A reality that can only be experienced, but not explained?”
Arthur Deikman, “According to mystics, the fundamental reality underlying appearances is not accessible to the senses. It cannot be described in terms derived from the ordinary world, but it is accessible to mystical intuition. The perception of that underlying reality gives meaning to individual existence and does away with the fear of death and the self-centered desires that direct the lives of most people.”
• a couple days later I came to an answer–we’ll get to it,
◦ but first I want to go over a few intriguing phrases in this chapter

“Plausible words of wisdom” (v. 4)

To me, plausible sounds like “credible” or “believable”
– here the Greek word it translates means “convincing,” “persuasive”
• Paul avoided the known rules for winning arguments
◦ centuries earlier, Aristotle had identified elements of a persuasive speech
• Paul perceived a potential weakness in using those tools
so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God (v. 5)
◦ if people can be argued into the faith, they can be argued out of it
– however, there was a deeper wisdom running through Paul’s message
• that brings us to another intriguing phrase

“Not a wisdom of this age” (v. 6)

Here is a German word you can use to impress your friends and terrify your enemies
Zeitgeist: the “spirit of the age”
• zeitgeist is the defining thought or mood of a particular period of history
◦ in verse 12, Paul says we have not received the spirit of the world
• what God imparts to his people,
◦ cannot be found in curriculum of any college class
◦ cannot be examined in a lab or explained intelligibly
– spiritual wisdom is unknown to the rulers (“authorities”) of this age
. . . for if they had [understood this], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
• they just don’t get it
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned (v. 14)

Now, we cannot assume this isn’t a problem for us too
– the world we inhabit in our daily lives is the world of human culture
• we live in it like a fish lives in water, often unaware of its presence
• we don’t think that much about culture or its influence,
◦ until we bump into another culture
– the more our minds are absorbed with this fabricated world,
• the thicker the wall between us and God will be
even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this world had blinded the minds of the unbelievers (2 Cor. 4:3-4)
◦ do you remember when Jesus said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me?
◦ why was Peter a hindrance to Jesus?
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man (Mt. 16:23)
◦ the spirit of the age is a powerful narcotic
• over-exposure to an environment that is exclusively material and human,
◦ a world devoid of God can wreck a person’s faith
◦ it interferes with our awakened experience of God
◦ even a Christian of many years can stop believing in God,
◦ or at least behave as if living in a world where no God existed
Arthur Deikman, “The Sufis made the particular point that most people are ‘asleep,’ because their consciousness is taken up with automatic responses in the service of greed and fear. The brain, thus occupied, is said to be incapable of the special perception whose development is the true destiny and task of human life. Thus, ‘the secret protects itself.’”

The next intriguing phrase: “we impart a secret and hidden wisdom” (v. 7)

Paul is not saying that God unlocks for us the secrets of universe
– or enlightens us to hidden mysteries of supernatural realms
• rather, God makes himself known to our spirit
• we pick up this wisdom through our encounters with God
– some churches teach: “Test your experience by theology”
• I agree, but I would add: “Test your theology by experience”
◦ if your beliefs are ideas you can only think about,
◦ they are somehow flawed
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (De. 29:29)
◦ divine revelation demands a human response
• God gives himself to us in an experiential knowing

“these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (v. 10)

This is where things get tricky
– we can hear about Christian salvation (the “gospel”), perhaps from an evangelist
• we can understand the basics, and we can respond to the message
◦ but what happens next is inward–invisible and intangible
◦ as Jesus said,
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:8)
• no one can say “how” the Spirit works God’s life into us
– we have received “the Spirit who is from God” (v. 12)
• how are we awakened to this?
◦ some people are ready for it, and it just “happens” – for them, it seems to be an intuitive awareness
◦ others of us need a wake up call (a near-death experience can do it)
◦ all of us have to practice “receiving” God’s Spirit
• not with our greedy hands and not with our rational minds
◦ but with our spirit
(of course, that means we each need to find our spirit)

“We impart this in words” (v. 13)

Again Paul emphasizes the message is not framed by human wisdom,
not taught by human wisdom, but taught by the Spirit
– now, back to my meditation last Monday – it kept me thinking of the Bee Gees’ song
“It’s only words, and words are all I have”
• I know that I use too many words
some of what I wrote in Wednesday’s meditation included the following:
. . . you received the word of God . . . not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you (1 Thes. 2:13)
“Recently I have been concerned for our Reflexion community; that my current talks will be of little benefit. I can communicate ‘ideas,’ but we need more than that. Education in ‘things unseen’ does not bring us into the experience of those things. We can thumb through a travel brochure, but never visit the country described in it.
But what do I get from the gospels or the letters of Paul? Words! Ideas, concepts, information. But how are these presented? In stories, parables, statements that challenge our worldview, and so on. The words of Jesus are the foundation for a solid life in God; they are seeds that grow into fruit-bearing trees. Paul tells us that the words he used were not his, but God’s. And with that word there came the power of the Spirit to give his words life–and to bring life to those who heard.
My words, lame as I am, can help people wake up to life–to God’s presence. My words are not everything, but neither are they nothing.”
– the last line of verse 13 is difficult to translate
• I take it that the way God teaches us is by combining spiritual things with the human spirit
• or, God communicates with us Spirit to spirit (cf. Ro. 8:16)
The Message Bible, verse 13 reads like this: We didn’t learn this by reading books or going to school; we learned it from God, who taught us person-to-person through Jesus, and we’re passing it on to you in the same firsthand personal way.

Conclusion: A weakness of mine is that I’m always thinking I need more information

I need another book, do more research, ask more questions,
but eventually all of that gets in the way
What is working for me presently
is that I am training myself to be receptive
One day last week, while walking the dog, I asked myself,
“What am I seeing?”
and then I noticed the world around me,
simply experiencing the sight of it, without labeling anything
Then,
“What am I hearing?”
and I listened
“What am I smelling?”
“What am I feeling?”
“What am I thinking?”
that question reminded me to let go of my jumble of thoughts
and return to the sensate experience of the world around me,
finding my place in it,
and opening myself to God and his Spirit

We do not raise ourselves up to God,
he comes to us
We just need to clear stuff out of his way,
That is one way that we train our spirit
to be receptive to his Spirit

Aug 7 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT!

If you are planning to join us in person for our Reflexion meeting this coming Sunday, August 8, we are requesting that you wear a mask. This is in compliance with the Center for Disease Control’s recommendation for all indoor meetings. If for any reason you do not want to wear a mask, our service will be available for viewing on Facebook at 10:00 Sunday morning as usual.

We will also have a different seating configuration to maximize social distancing and protect all our members and visitors. I am certain that you understand our decision to make these changes to our normal routine is motivated by the biblical teaching that we are to love others as ourselves. And besides that, we don’t want this damn virus!

So thank you for your kind cooperation. Stay smart, stay well.

Aug 1 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 1, 2021

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For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but life to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men 1 Corinthians 1:17-25

Intro: My wife, Barb, and I were told something lives in our home,

Something bad – and invisible to humans
– so a guy came to our home with a small electronic device
• it could supposedly detect the invisible presence
• we had to take his word for it — I had no idea how his gizmo worked
– this was not a “haunting,” and the technician was not a psychic
• we had water damage to our home and it had to be treated for mold
• the mold detector collected and measured spores in the air

We accept this story because it is grounded in rational science
– we cannot say the same thing regarding 1 Corinthians
• if not grounded in scientific fact, what then?
• one page back,
Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God . . . . (Rom. 16:25)
and Ephesians
. . . the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ (Ep. 3:3-4)
– mystery in this context is not like a riddle – it is not a problem we can solve
• it is unknowable, because it belongs to another reality
◦ the only way it can be known is if it is revealed
• only way it can be trusted, is if we have a broader perspective of reality

Paul is leading the Corinthians into the realm of mystery

Christian education is not what we have be led to believe
– it is not Bible reading, Bible study, or Bible memorization
• it is not learning to decode clues that shed light on the end times
• it is not training in apologetics so we can defend the faith
– it is becoming conscious of another dimension of reality
• it is a process of coming to know God whom, we are told,
alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see (1 Tim. 6:16)
• the Bible is vital to our education, but it is not the goal
◦ if we do not wake up to God, we’ve missed the point
◦ we aren’t transformed, but stay same, only with a Bible education
(may God protect us from narcissists who are well-versed in scripture)

Paul is trying to bring the Corinthians along, but their growth was stunted
But I, brothers [and sisters], could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1)
– in this first chapter, he begins to unfold the problem
• to me it feels like Christian Spirituality 101
◦ or as I introduced this series last week, “A Primer In Things Unseen”
• one of the first lessons that must be learned:
◦ our concept of reality is too narrow
◦ we have to be open to more than the eye can see or the ear can hear
– this means our standard methods of knowing our world will break down
• they won’t work in this new reality
◦ it’s sort of like quantum physics
◦ the physics of Isaac Newton do not work at the quantum level
• for instance,
But 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. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
God chose . . . things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are . . .
◦ that is not possible in our four-dimensional universe

Paul uses two well-known worldviews to illustrate the situation

The Jewish approach to truth and the Greek approach (vv. 22-23)
– we make similar distinctions: East/West, Oriental/Occidental
– Paul is addressing two systems of thought, that I will call, first:

A philosophical worldview – demands rational evidence

Paul says, Greeks seek wisdom, which is quite true
sophia (wisdom) + phileo (love) = philosophy or “love of wisdom”
• wisdom to Greek philosopher covered all that existed
◦ therefore, in its entirety it was was beyond the capabilities of the human mind
◦ however, philosophers could know something of it
• they developed methods of reasoning
◦ Socratic dialectic – use questions and criticism to challenge and clarify ideas and concepts
◦ Aristotle’s syllogisms – a way to test a statement’s logical validity
– a belief had to be “reasonable” for a philosopher to accept it
• before coming to Corinth, Paul had been in Athens
◦ there he had an interesting experience
◦ he was invited to address Epicurean and Stoic philosophers
Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new (Acts 17:21)
• Paul began with their shrines and an altar inscribed “To the unknown God”
◦ he described the God revealed in the Scriptures
◦ but when he began talking about Jesus, the meeting broke up
Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst (Acts 17:32-33)
◦ he knew by experience that the message of Jesus crucified was foolishness to them

The journey of philosophy has progressed from then until now
– for the most part, it has moved even further from finding any kind of deity
• many cannot overcome arguments against God’s existence
• so all the wisdom of the philosophers has brought us no closer to God
– we cannot reason our way into God’s presence
• nothing in our prior has prepared us for the mystery of God–so get used to it
If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know (1 Cor. 8:2)

A religious worldview – demands supernatural evidence

We might assume the religious mind is more open than the philosophic mind
– but it can become biased and shut off to truth
• the central problem is that religion falls into human hands
◦ the tendency is to bottle spirituality – like a genie in a lamp
◦ then release it only under strict control – to grant wishes
• even our most wonderful spiritual experiences can lose energy
◦ but religion tends to hang onto those milestones of the past
◦ and then it suffers from a “hardening of the categories”
– institutions require management – but we cannot manage the Spirit
• so something new comes along, religion says, “prove it”
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven (Mt. 16:1)
• it is often assumed that a miracle will win any argument
◦ but that is not what we see in the gospels
◦ Jesus’ miracles intensified the hostility of Jesus’ critics (Jn. 12:9-11)
◦ they credited his exorcisms to the devil, not God (Mt. 12:24)

Science was not on Paul’s radar

But we could add that worldview to our own challenge
– here I will only offer couple of quotation
• the subject has to do with the worldview of psychology
Arthur Deikman, “Freud’s view of reality and that of most contemporary theorists of psychotherapy is based on a nineteenth-century physical and biological scientific model that is far too narrow to encompass human consciousness. Consequently, certain sources of suffering cannot be dealt with from within a Western framework. We are faced with major problems that call for broadening our perspective and extending our science.”
“Human beings need meaning. . . . The religious framework that formerly defined meaning has been replaced by a scientific world view in which meaning does not exist. . . . According to this view, human beings are complex biochemical phenomena, of considerable scientific interest but not essentially different from anything else that science examines.”

Paul says that he was called to preach the gospel, but
not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (v. 17)
– for Paul, worldly wisdom did not enhance his message,
• but undermined it – nullified its power
• we’ve inherited a legacy from the Reformation
◦ and that is the attempt to clarify everything
◦ but some of the most important things cannot be clarified
– learning to drive – when you first pressed your foot on the accelerator,
• were you ready for the car’s response?
◦ we did not learn how to drive by studying it in “driver’s ed.” or a book
◦ we learned by feel – and today we drive our cars by feel
◦ spiritual education is not the same, but it is similar
• we need to wake up to the fact:
◦ there’s more to universe and ourselves than we have known or experienced

Conclusion: How do we go forward?

In the first part of this chapter Paul refers to Jesus repeatedly:
Christ Jesus, our Lord Jesus Christ, and simply, Christ
– Jesus was the lens through which Paul first saw the invisible God
And Jesus is the lens through whom we will see both God and ourselves
Jesus walks us into mystery, enlarges our perspective, and shows us his kingdom
For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery which is Christ, in who are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:1-3)
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:1-3)

So now we are on our way,
and it is going to be a wonderful journey

Jul 25 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

July 25, 2021

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And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart Luke 18:1
– And he told them a parable –

Intro: Wednesday night, this was the first verse we read in our Lexio Divina meeting

Immediately I knew I would be reading it today, because of what had been on my mind
– Jesus gave people what they needed
• he gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf
◦ health to the lame and to the lepers
◦ he gave hope and forgiveness to the sinners
• and to everyone, Jesus gave parables
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything (Mk. 4:33-34)
– Jesus used parables to introduce people to kingdom of God
• in John’s gospel, Jesus used “hard sayings” (Jn. 6:60)
• why did Jesus use these obscure ways to deliver his message?
◦ because he spoke of things outside their everyday world
◦ a reality that none of them had ever experienced
They had to learn a new way to think

There is something I would like you to know about me
– if we were to trace my spiritual journey it would be scribbled all over the map
• I’ve logged many hours in the Bible and commentaries, theology, and a dash of philosophy and physics
◦ I am deeply interested in psychology and neuroscience – especially theories of human consciousness
◦ besides all the rational stuff, I have at times revisited the charismatic experience
• all my exploration has been driven by one passion
◦ a desire to have a real and continuous awareness of God’s presence
◦ I have wanted to learn: Is awareness of God always a gift of grace
or is there an innate capacity in the human brain that can open to God’s nearness
and that can be developed?
– I have often thought about a footnote in the Old Testament
Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he said, “Come, let us go to the seer,” for today’s “prophet” was formerly called a seer (1 Sam. 9:9)
• if you want to know about a seer – stories of Elijah and Elisha
◦ just knew things – saw more than human eyes could see
◦ was that given to them or was there a combination of potential and purposeful development
• during that same time we learn about a prophetic community
the sons of the prophets – were they devoted to learning and developing spiritual sight?
◦ Arthur Deikman captures the question I have been asking 30 or forty years:
Deikman, “. . . is there any evidence supporting the idea that human beings can develop in themselves a new form of perception, one that is latent but requires special conditions for its development?” “Are we possessed at birth of neuronal circuits with a developmental potential for the kind of direct, intuitive knowing that mystics say is possible? . . . Can that potential be revived by specific exercises that would make special demands on the organism?”

A recent trend among a few theologians and Christian writers

They have adopted a materialist view of the human person
– we are a biological organism, that’s all – no spirit
• what can be said of them is same Deikman, regarding some psychologists
Deikman, “Western psychotherapy, in basing itself almost exclusively on the world view of scientific materialism, has impoverished its model of human consciousness and lost the meaning and significance of human life.”
• the biblical worldview is supernatural
◦ it reveals a larger view of the universe and larger view of the human person
Deikman, “. . . it is possible that the conclusions of scientific materialism are wrong. From time to time we sense a larger reality than the one science provides, a subtle perception pointing to a better, meaningful existence.”
– our normal methods of science, research, and education,
• cannot give us access to this larger dimension
◦ it is not like learning math or history
◦ Paul argued that God
determined allotted periods and the boundaries of [mankind’s] dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for
“In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:26-28)
• we need to develop a different kind of perception
◦ we need new eyes to see and new ears to hear

Chuck Kraft is a very rational theologian and anthropologist

I once heard him give a lecture on listening to God’s Spirit
– he emphasized that this requires a shift from our normal patterns of thinking
• I asked him how we could make the shift from the rational to nonrational
• he gave two answers:
◦ “a credible guide” can assist you in the process
◦ and, “analogy can be useful”
• Jesus used parables, riddles, metaphors, paradoxes, hard sayings
Kenneth Leech claims that an “essential feature” of mystical teaching is “the process of ‘illumination by metaphor’, that is, a way of knowing based upon an intuitive grasp of situations, an openness to the myths and symbols of experience. The spiritual guide speaks the language of myth and metaphor.”
– on the first day of 1988, I wrote on the first page of my daily journal,
“Heavenly Father, when I asked You for a credible guide . . . You spoke to me through Psalm 32:8,
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”
• God’s Spirit is the teacher and guide who brings us along (Jn 14:26)
◦ but God has also appointed teachers in church (1 Cor. 12:28)
◦ Jesus has given us “shepherd-teachers” (Ep. 4:11)
• what I have in mind for us over the next few weeks is “A Primer In Things Unseen”
◦ a beginner’s course – Paul provides us with a foundation for the development we desire
◦ we can learn the basics – or at least have a reliable starting point

What can we hope to gain from a shepherd-teacher?

To awaken us to everything we have missed
– if we never see beyond the material world and our lives in it,
• we will be brainwashed by it and obsessed with it
I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (Mt. 6:25)
• this “more” is the larger dimension that we have missed
◦ life is more than what sustains it
◦ the body is more than a biological organism

We may find that our teacher rejects us – this is not unusual
– the disciple is told, “This is not for you,” “You won’t be able to do it,” “You’re not qualified,” “You’re not strong (determined, sincere) enough”
– at first the student may argue or try harder, but will eventually fail
• sometime later the student returns to the teacher and says, “You were right, I cannot follow this path”
• and teacher says, “Now you are ready. I will take you on as my disciple”
“. . . choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” ¶ Then the people answered, “ . . . we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he s a holy God. . . . And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” (Jos. 24:14-21)
◦ we have to realize that nothing in our past education prepared us for this new education
– a shepherd-teacher enables us to see what helps and hinders our progress
• we will be forced to look at our motives
Deikman, “Most people bring to meditation an acquisitive, self-centered orientation that is the cultural norm. According to the mystical literature, such an attitude determines the outcome of meditation. For this reason, the instructions that accompany the classical descriptions of meditation deal first with the necessity for ‘purifying the heart’–developing a selfless orientation–before aspiring to special powers.”
◦ notice, this is where Jesus begins his lessons in the Sermon On the Mount,
Blessed are pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5:8)
• our guide will question our basic assumptions
◦ just as Jesus challenged the religious assumptions of his hearers
You have heard that it was said . . . But I say to you (Mt. 5:21-22)
– our guide helps us see the limitations of the rational mind and overcome them
– our guide is someone who is where we want to be
• at least two steps ahead of us
– our guide can hear our questions, objections, and concerns
• and respond with the wisdom of that larger realm of understanding
• they answers may not be satisfying rationally, but they will be right
– our guide will help us discover our spirit–our aware self–and how to instantly return to that self
• we will be awakened to God, in whom we live and move and have our being
• we will discover how our spirit is a bridge, between the four-dimensional world and the spiritual dimension
– our guide will help us discern our most effective ways to pray
– our guide will challenge, console, and lead us to our own discoveries

Conclusion: We will follow Paul through 1 Corinthians

This will not be a “Bible study”
– we will be looking for specific insights into the life of the Spirit
– many Evangelicals are discouraged, disappointed, frustrated today
• they are longing for that larger dimension in God
• they are looking for a faith that, as Jim would say, produces lovers
◦ lovers of God, lovers of others, lovers of all that God has made
– this is where we can go when all the resources of what Evangelicalism offers have been exhausted,
and we are still hungry, thirsty, and desire more

I want you to imagine Jesus with Nicodemus
That poor Pharisee must have been so frustrated,
misunderstanding Jesus because he took literally what the Lord told him
But Jesus was patient, wanting Nicodemus to learn to see

God will provide us what we need
to find our way to a more certain experience of his presence,
that persists through every sort of situation
We will have to stick with the process,
until we get our breakthrough,
our miracle