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Oct 24 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 24, 2021

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If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Intro: In chapter 12, Paul told the Corinthians they were body of Christ

That they should not be surprised at the diversity within the church
– they were not all the same, because they were not supposed to be same
• each person had his and her own place
• the body is a living example of diversity within unity
– after listing a variety of gifted people, Paul says,
And I will show you a still more excellent way (1 Cor. 12:31)
• chapter 13 is the more excellent way for us to be the body of Christ

Until now I have concentrated on the mystery of Christian spirituality
– the transcendence of God, the hiddenness of our own spirits,
• and a “secret wisdom” unknown to the rulers of this age
◦ this mystery is the spiritual foundation underneath this letter
• now we are going to see how the hidden life of the Spirit is manifested in our ordinary world
– first, let’s look at a negative example;
• what I mean is, how can you tell if the hidden life of Spirit is not present?
Paul has told them, I could not address you as spiritual people, but as people [who belonged to this world], as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not ready, [because you still live as the people of this world live]. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not [people of this world] and behaving only in a human way? (1 Cor. 3:1-3)
• in other words, there is physical evidence of what lies below the surface
◦ a person without life in the Spirit acts like any other human
◦ so what is the evidence points to the spiritual person?

Some assume the supernatural comes to surface only in signs and wonders

That God reveals himself to the world through miracles
– plagues, divine healing, walking on water–that sort of thing
• those spectacular phenomena are not the normal Christian life
◦ miracles are a rarity – Paul made that point clear
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? . . . Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? (1 Cor. 12:29-30)
• in the Roman Catholic Church, to be canonized as a saint, a person must have worked miracles
◦ but in that tradition, only a few people rise to sainthood
◦ at any rate, God is not limited to the miraculous
Frederick Schmidt, “What we need . . . are not signs and wonders but a deeper determination to nurture the presence of God in the midst of the commonplace.”
“When we take the miraculous and the exceptional to be the measure of God’s presence, rather than think of God as an enlivening presence throughout creation, we do not [make the world sacred]. Instead, we confine God to its margins and gaps. The key to seeing God at work in our world lies not in defining the events that reflect the movement of God but in what Paul describes as the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2).
– I agree with this statement up to the last line
• the renewing of our minds is interior and not physically visible (although the results may be)
• so, when Paul asks, Do all work miracles?
◦ the answer is No – but all love
◦ and love is the evidence of the supernatural working below the surface

Love is the embodiment of God’s Spirit in life of the Church

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another (Jn. 13:34-35)
– any identification of Christian spirituality–regardless of how enlightened a person may seem or whether someone is performing miracles–
• falls short if there is no evidence of love like the Lord’s
• what does Jesus’ love look like? Well, it looks like the cross
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (1 Jn. 3:16)
◦ Paul gives more specific details of what Jesus’ love looks like here in chapter 13

He begins by exposing the emptiness of religious ambitions

There were believers in Corinth who made a big deal of speaking in tongues
– perhaps they felt special, because not everyone had that gift
• Paul tells them, without love, you’re just making noise
– others in Corinth were impressed with the gifts associated with the apostles:
prophetic power, understand mysteries, exceptional knowledge
◦ and then the extreme act of faith Jesus mentioned – faith that moves mountains
• but Paul concludes that none of these things make a person
◦ instead, he says if all this was his, without love he would be nothing
– of course, everyone is impressed by the devotion of martyrs
• but Paul says even that, without love, wins nothing

It did not take long for Christians to adopt attitude of Pharisees
– to assume their knowledge of Jesus made them superior to unbelievers
• or that acts of devotion and charity could be performed without love
• that is essentially a gesture of ugly religion
– Paul exposes the pretensions of our piety and the false piety of our pretensions
• love alone gives an action spiritual value
• love alone makes a person’s spiritual life meaningful

In verses 4-7, love is personified

It appears as an active agent: it “is,” it “does not,” “is not,” etc.
– of course, Paul is describing how love expresses itself in human lives
• it is also how love expressed itself in Jesus
• as young Christians, my friends and I found we could replace “love” with “Jesus” in this chapter and every verse was still true
– maybe Paul personifies love, because we are meant to be love personified

There may be another possible reason why Paul uses this form
– I don’t think he is telling us, “This is how you are to love”
• that would demand too much – it would set the bar too high
• rather, he is saying, “This is what God works into us”
– this is the summit of Paul’s insight into the secret wisdom
• Christian spirituality grows love and love grows Christian spirituality
Frederick Schmidt, “. . . a love of God and a romance with God nurtures in us a capacity to see God where God is present.”
• Jesus’ new command to love one another,
◦ has a different feel from “Be moral”
◦ it has a different motivational energy than a long list of rules
Love is the beautiful face of righteousness
The true face of holiness

I will limit what I have to say about verse 7
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things

Love really is the essence of a mature spirituality
– love endures the lows and the lulls; the disappointments and drudgery; the unfulfilled dreams and unmet needs; the physical or emotional distance
• love persists at times when we would rather that it not
◦ and other times we’re pleased when we find that it does persist
– love has no limits – it travels everywhere, from dungeons to the stars
• love can build bridges and also set boundaries
◦ but it does not do either only for its own sake
◦ love is the most God-like expression of a human life

In verses 8-1, Paul is simply saying love will outlast all other virtues

All the gifts and ministries listed in chapter 12,
– all these things that nurture and deepen our spirits,
• all the things that hold our lives together now,
• will come to an end – they will no longer be needed
– like old toys, we’ll pack them in a box and never again pull them out
• love is infinite and eternal, because God is love (1 Jn. 4:8 and 16)
• these are the three great triads of Christian spirituality: faith, hope, and love
but the greatest of these is love

Conclusion: E. Stanley Jones was an open-minded missionary to India

He once had opportunity to read 1 Corinthians 13 to Mahatma Gandhi
– Gandhi responded that it was the most beautiful statement he had ever heard
• so what will we do? How will we get there?
◦ how will the love described here come to characterize our lives?
• I have only one word of instruction: Receive God’s love
We love because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19)

Let Jesus love you the way he loves
You let Jesus love you when:
• you accept his forgiveness and stop condemning yourself
• you walk in nature and its beauty speaks to you
• you trust him with your anxieties
• you remember every good thing in your life is a gift

Give yourself a time-out
Relax the tension from every muscle and joint
Take slow deep breaths
Feel God’s love
Receive God’s love into every particle of your body and being
Love is the energy of authentic spirituality

Oct 17 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 17, 2021

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Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed 1 Corinthians 12:1

Intro: In the 1960’s, the Roman Catholic Church began a project of renovation

According to a friend of mine who is a priest,
“Vatican II, opened windows to allow fresh air to enter the church”
– in hindsight, we could say they missed a few dark corners
(but perhaps the changes made then set in motion the way that the Roman Catholic Church handles those things today)
• by the 1970’s, the Evangelical movement was placed under the microscope
◦ in 1970 Larry Richards published A New Face for the Church
◦ in 1975 Howard Snyder, published The Problem of Wine Skins
(religious systems that have become so rigid they are unable to accommodate the Holy Spirit)
• they argued that the biblical design was more relational and less institutional
– the church has always had its critics
• but also, it has always had its problems
◦ and it will always have problems, because the church is human
Fr. Romuald, “When people talk about Christian churches and how scandalous they’ve been throughout history (and in the present age too), that doesn’t bother me, because it’s the same thing again on a corporate level as the broken individual.”
• Church lives on, because there’s more to it than our failures

What keeps the church going is mystery

Paul begins this section with his concern that the Corinthians would be uninformed regarding spiritual gifts
– the Greek text does not mention “gifts”
• that is supplied because “gifts” appear in verses 4-11 as an example
◦ I don’t think Paul was thinking of gifts exclusively
• Greek says simply “spiritual”
David Prior, “Paul probably is referring to what today is, in a broad sense called ‘spirituality’”, i.e., all the many diverse ways in which we experience spiritual reality.”
– Paul is going to explain to the Corinthians what being a church means (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2)
• at the heart of it, there are spiritual realities
• these are the divine mysteries that make a group of people a church

The mystery of God
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

You’ve heard the saying, “Variety is the spice of life”
– if that is so, the church is well-seasoned
• Paul is saying, if we look at the Church, we see lots of diversity
◦ however, behind the diversity there is one source
◦ and that source ties every other thing together
– there is a rhythm to these verses, and the key words are varieties and the same
• but notice, what he says is “the same” in each time, is not the same
◦ instead, they are the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God
• this is where the mystery begins — with God’s nature
◦ the church reflects the nature of God
Fr. Romuald, “The fundamental revelation of the trinity is relationship.”
◦ and that is also a fundamental characteristic of the church

There’s a concept floating around that’s become popular among Christians
– that the nature of reality does not consist of bipolar opposites
• or at least when it comes to spirituality, all is one
◦ this concept is often referred to as “nondual”
• this has long been a tenet of Eastern philosophies
◦ it is a classic myth of overcoming contradictions
◦ it is itself a contradiction – “non” tells us what it is not
◦ i.e., dualism is not its opposite, and right there you have dualism (i.e., dualism and nondualism)
– dualism could be considered a part of the worldview of science and religious dogma
• everything can be divided into categories: up/down, in/out, back/front, etc.
• that you take things apart, name the pieces, and discover how all the parts make a thing work

The Christian view of God is neither dual or nondual
– it is diversity within unity
• we affirm the oneness of God
◦ but that oneness encompasses a universe of varieties
• the oneness is not sameness
◦ it is a union of many moving parts

The mystery of our lives in God
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:7 & 13

We can see why Paul would begin, I do not want you to be uninformed
– because what he describes is not obvious to us
• we are not always aware of God moving in and through us
◦ in exercising our “gifts,” our “service,” our “activities”
– explaining how the Spirit brought us to this condition, Paul uses a fluid metaphor
• we are immersed in the Spirit and drink-in the Spirit (he also refers to being filled with the Spirit in Ep. 5:18)
◦ life in the Spirit flows
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience described a person being “in the flow” when engaged in an activity that runs in a channel between anxiety and boredom. The challenge of the activity is neither too high to cause anxiety or too low to be boring. The same applies to the skills required to perform the challenging activity. He says, that when the flow occurs, “people become so involved in what they are doing that the activity becomes spontaneous, almost automatic; they stop being aware of themselves as separate from the actions they are performing.”
• I think when we are in the flow of the Spirit, it is something like that
◦ we can relax into it
◦ but most of the time, I don’t think we realize when the Spirit is at work in us

A few years, a dear friend of ours told Barbara, “You have a very important ministry.” Later Barb, who is a physical therapist, said to me, “I’ve never thought of what I do as a ‘ministry.’ I’ve just seen it as my job.” I replied, “Your job is assisting in the healing and rehabilitating of people in need, and you do it well because you are able to connect with them and demonstrate that you really care. That can definitely be considered ministry.”

Paul lists a few gifts here – he provides another list in Romans 12, and Peter also mentions a few gifts (1 Pet. 4:9-11)
– most of them operate in our interactions with each other
• in both formal meetings and informal conversations
• some operate in our everyday lives (hospitality or charity, for instance)
– I think these gifts include all our talents
• all our aptitudes, our natural abilities and attributes,
◦ and also all of our developed skills

One other thought: I believe we have underestimated the value of our brokenness as a spiritual gift to others
– those who have experienced brokenness are some of the most empathic people

Vv. 12-14 and 26-27, The mystery of our spiritual community
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. . . . For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it 1 Corinthians 12:12, 14, & 26-27

The analogy Paul uses here is the human body
– think of how that differs from the analogy of a flock of sheep
In Mental Hospital, researchers reported, “Built solidly into the procedures, techniques and even the language of the mental hospital is the assumption that patients are mere passive objects of treatment: they are to be ‘cared for,’ ‘protected,’ ‘treated,’ ‘respected,’ ‘handled,’ ‘controlled.’ Psychiatric administrative language consistently speaks of the patient as if he were not actively a participant, as if he were an unconscious or half-conscious body upon an operating table.”
• it struck me how much this sounds like pastors and churches
• sheep have to be led, tended, and fed
◦ members are not considered participants in the process
◦ they’re expected to believe what they’re told, and follow rules
– the analogy of the body tells us that all of our interactions have a spiritual potential
• that the Spirit of Jesus is using us with each other
◦ and that underlying all differences of our human personalities, there exists an essential union
• no one can break this bond
◦ it is an invisible connection to each other, and an invisible connection with Jesus that we share

There is a psychological disorder known as Messiah complex

A person believes he or she is destined to be a savior
– that their role is to save others now or in the near future
• in its most severe form it is a delusional state
• but I would say most pastors have at least a mild form of that
◦ they feel they must be everything to every person
◦ they must be everywhere, have all the answers, know all the solutions
◦ that the church could not survive without their constant busyness
– when Jewish priests were sent to interrogate John the Baptist,
• the first question they asked was, “Who are you?”
◦ and his first reply, “I am not the Christ”
◦ every pastor should have that motto posted on his refrigerator and office door
• you don’t have to be Jesus – you only have to be you
◦ you have Jesus – you have a community – you have us
◦ we are all part of the group and we belong here with each other
• and somehow Jesus embodies himself in all of us together

I am not concerned that some people have said,
– they have a more genuine experience of church in our Lexio Divina meetings than here on Sunday mornings
• I’m not offended, because I feel the same way
• every week I receive new perspective and new insights from the others in the group
– this is how Paul imagined the church functioning

Conclusion: “I do not want you to be uninformed”

Paul has given us useful tools for knowing who we are as a community
– he has given us several analogies
– but knowing is not the same thing as perceiving
• can we use this tool to awaken ourselves to a new consciousness
• a new way of perceiving our connection with each other
That even though we’re very different from each other,
we’re nevertheless “one,”
and no one can never say to anyone else, I have no need of you
Because the heart of Jesus beating in you, beats also in me

Oct 10 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 10, 2021

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Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world 1 Corinthians 11:23-32

Intro: Most of us, when reading Bible, will get lost on occasion

When that happens, we can stop and ask two questions:
– “Where am I?” and “What is going on here?”
• “Where am I?” is the big picture question – it takes us to the central theme of book
◦ you look at the whole map, then locate a general area on it
• “What is going on here?” is the here and now question
◦ if book were a wheel, “where” is the hub and “what” is a specific point on the rim
◦ this is sometimes called the “hermeneutical circle”
(and we keep moving back and forth on it, hub to rim and rim to hub; general theme to specific points and specific points back to the general theme)
– so where are we? In chapter 11, Paul moves to the next issue he needs to address
• the overall topic in next four chapters is their Christian meetings
◦ Paul writes “when you come together” repeatedly – vv. 17, 18, 20, 33; 14:26
• in this chapter, he gives his approval and disapproval
◦ v. 2, “Now I commend you,” and in v. 17, “I do not commend you”
◦ I read from the second section – the disapproval section

Paul reiterates the correct way to observe “Lord’s Supper” (Vv. 23-26)

This is the Christian ritual involving bread and wine
– or crackers and grape juice
• the Roman Catholic and “high church” traditions refer to it as “Eucharist,” to “give thanks” (v. 24)
• Evangelical and “free church” tradition refers to it as “the Lord’s Supper” (v. 20)
◦ or “Communion” (10:16-17), sharing or participating
◦ I’ll use the Lord’s Supper
– we know what happens in the Lord’s Supper from last week
• we renew a covenant bond with God through Jesus and with each other
◦ Paul adds here, we also proclaim a message
◦ between two events we connect with Jesus (re-member with him)
• but there are other mysteries they may not have realized
◦ and we may not have realized these mysteries either

First, participating in ritual we can do us more harm than good (V. 27)

It is really important that we are clear on this point!
– NO ONE is “worthy” to receive the body and blood of Jesus
• but it’s not that difficult to figure out what Paul means
◦ he has already addressed the problem
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not vv. 20-22)
• the wealthier members enjoyed a meal that was not sacred!
◦ breaking bread was an important social practice of church life
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts (Acts 2:42, 46)
◦ but in Corinth, that custom had malfunctioned
– just so we are clear on this:
unworthy manner is a failure to love and consider others
• it does the opposite of what is supposed to happen
◦ it divides rather than unites (vv. 18-19)

A second mystery is a “presence” that is experienced in the Lord’s Supper

A presence that can only be discerned, and must be discerned (v. 29)
– when believers come together in Jesus’ name, he is there
• not only in a mystical way; that is, spiritual and hidden
• but in a way that is physically manifest
◦ each person is a member of Jesus’ body (more on this in chapter 12)
– if I do not discern Jesus’ presence in this way,
• I will not receive all of the benefits of the Lord’s Supper
• all through this series, I have stressed the importance of awareness
◦ here we learn what being aware can open to us a new kind of vision of things unseen

We came to 1 Corinthians for Paul’s spiritual guidance

Way back in the fourth century,
– Christians began visiting monasteries for the same purpose that we’re following Paul
• they wanted to learn the insights others had gained from living in complete devotion to Jesus,
◦ spending whole life in scripture, prayer, meditation, contemplation, chanting the Psalms, and so on
• what could average Christian take from monastery that would help them fully immerse themselves in God?
– John Cassian spent years consulting with various monks
• he kept a journal of his conversations with them
• my favorite is titled his “The Conferences of Abbot Moses”

Abbot Moses explained to Cassian, there are three origins of our thoughts:
– they come from God, from the devil, and from ourselves
“We ought then carefully to notice this threefold order, and with a wise discretion to analyze the thoughts which arise in our hearts, tracking out their origin and cause and author in the first instance, that we may be able to consider how we ought to yield ourselves to them . . . .”
• he has a lot to say about discretion (in this context it means the same as discernment)
• he uses an analogy of determining whether a coin is real or counterfeit
◦ he describes discernment as an excellent quality and virtue
◦ and refers to it as the “mother of moderation”
– Moses told Cassian stories, both ancient and recent, of “shipwrecks,” others who
“were destroyed and hopelessly ruined, because they paid little attention to [discernment]” and that we make “frequent mistakes in matters that are plain and straightforward.”
• he also explained that discernment
“is no ordinary virtue nor one which can be freely gained by merely human efforts, unless they are aided by Divine blessing . . .” as Paul included “the discerning of spirits” among “the noblest of gifts”
• for our part, he said that we must approach discernment with humility
◦ and that confession is helpful, because “it brings secret thoughts into the light”

Biblical discernment requires spiritual awareness

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 Jn. 4:1)
– test translates the same word Paul uses here in verse 28, Let a person examine himself
• we find it again in Romans 12:2
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect
• discernment is a kind of examination
◦ but one that requires the help of God’s Spirit

How did Paul want them to exercise discernment?

First, in discovering the mysteries of the Lord’s Supper
– the mystery present in any Christian meeting – or anywhere
Second, in discovering whether a preacher, teacher, or guide is someone they should follow
I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough . . . For such are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ (2 Cor. 11:3-4)
Third, in discovering what is in our own hearts and minds
– the message of Haggai, Consider your ways
• or Isaiah, regarding idolatry,
a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isa. 44:20)
• I feel like there is something I should add
◦ Paul tells us to examine and discern ourselves–not condemn ourselves!
◦ self-condemnation won’t bring you any closer to your true self or Jesus

Conclusion: There is a special challenge in spiritual discernment

A westerner introduced radio to people who’d never seen one
– he first tried to explain it before they were shown a radio
• no one understood him and some people became angry with him
◦ then, when they saw and heard a radio, they were at first, confused – they thought it was a person nearby
“Finally, like us, they managed to develop the necessary discrimination of each [human voice and radio voice], such as we have. ¶ And, when I questioned them afterwards, all swore that what they had imagined from descriptions of radios . . . did not correspond with the reality.”
• we have a similar challenge when it comes to discerning spirits
– what do we mean “a discerning eye”? or “discerning taste”? or “a discerning touch”?
• the ability to detect the relative quality of something
◦ for instance, to distinguish real silk from synthetic silk
• we can train our spiritual senses
solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil (Heb. 5:14)

To practice, notice when there is an opportunity to exercise discernment
(there are many, like in how we are to interpret a biblical passage, or when we hear a Bible teacher on the radio and we are not sure if what this person says is the truth)
Pause,
relax your muscles,
draw in a slow, cleansing breath,
focus on the here and now–this specific moment,
listen for the inner wisdom of the Spirit,
then act in faith
With enough practice, we will start getting it right

Oct 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

October 3, 2021

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“All things are lawful,” but not all thigs are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.” 1 Corinthians 10:23-26

Intro: Paul has been circling the same issue since chapter 8

Is it okay for Christians to eat food that has been devoted to an idol?
– Paul has two answers, one rational and other relational
rational: idols have no meaning for us, so food is food
relational: some Christians are convinced that food presented to an idol is contaminated
◦ take their concerns seriously and don’t “offend” them
◦ at times love requires us to act contrary to reason or our rights
– why did Paul give so much space to this issue?
• I suspect that he anticipated a negative reaction from the Corinthians
◦ he knew they were intelligent and enjoyed a good argument
(they had written him regarding a number of controversies among themselves)
◦ and he knew how difficult it would be for them to put others first
• some of them would think, “It doesn’t make sense for those overly scrupulous believers to worry about idols and non-existent deities. Maybe they just need to grow up!”
◦ so he labored to help them get a new perspective

In this last stage of his argument, he shows them that the threat is real

He begins with a history lesson – Israel in wilderness (vv. 1-5)
– there are specific features to the story that he highlights
• the cohesiveness of their experience – they “all” (five times!)
• they experienced a symbolic baptism
• they were provided food and drink
• God was displeased with most of them, so they never reached goal

Next, Paul explains that they are examples for us (vv. 6-11)
• he makes this clear by stating it at beginning and end of this unit of thought
Now these things took place as examples for us . . . (v. 6)
Now these things happened to them as an example . . . (v. 11)
◦ he tells the Corinthians to avoid the mistakes Israel made
◦ then he provides a list that includes, Do not be idolaters

Then Paul makes two specific applications: a warning and an encouragement (vv. 12-13)

After that, Paul demonstrates a real problem with food devoted to idols
– it has to do with how people in those days understood sharing a ritual meal
• the purpose of the ritual meal was to create bonds
◦ first, create a bond with the deity to whom meal was offered
◦ second, create a bond among those who shared the meal
• he compares this with what happens in Lord’s Supper
◦ Christians are bonded with Jesus and each other
◦ but the gods in pagan temples are actually demons
• now we see why he mentioned Israel’s food and drink
What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons (vv. 19-21)

At this point, Paul returns to a statement he made earlier (vv. 23-30)
– the familiar slogan, “All things are lawful”
• how that applies in this context,
Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor (v. 24)
• he suggests a way to can handle this problem when it comes up

Paul ends this argument with a synopsis of our way of life
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (vv. 31-33; cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23)

Now let’s get back to our purpose for being in 1 Corinthians

Paul was graced with extraordinary spiritual insight
– he described himself as an administrator of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1)
• so we’ve been using him as a guide to developing spiritual insight
• what do we learn from Paul in this chapter?

When reading scripture, Paul’s focused attention was flexible

At times, Paul’s focus was sharp, analytical, and detail oriented
– his letter to Romans reveals his logical skills of interpretation
• other times Paul was able to focus attention behind the words
• his interpretation is more mystical than logical
◦ at the beginning of chapter, Paul said Israel was baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea
◦ that event is not even hinted at in the original story
• he also says the people of Israel ate spiritual food and drank spiritual drink
◦ (this connects their experience with the Christian experience of the Lord’s Supper in v. 16)
– this is a spiritual reading of the Scriptures
• it is not just concentrating on the meaning of a text
• it is listening for God’s Spirit to speak through the words
– the church fathers attempted to read the Bible this way too
• but instead of relying on the Spirit, they tried to find meaning with their rational minds
◦ and rather than find what was actually hidden there,
◦ they came up with allegories that revealed the creativity of the interpreter more than the spiritual insight behind the text
– it wasn’t so much theologians who rediscovered the New Testament spiritual reading of scripture, but Christian mystics
Guigo II, a 12th Century monk wrote, “When I was hard at work one day, thinking on the spiritual work needful for God’s servants, four such spiritual works came to my mind, these being: reading; meditation; prayer; contemplation. This is the ladder for those in [monasteries], and for others in the world who are God’s Lovers, by means of which they can climb from earth to heaven. It is a marvelously tall ladder, but with just four rungs, the one end standing on the ground, the other thrilling into the clouds and showing the climber heavenly secrets.”
• this is our Wednesday Zoom meetings – Lectio Divina
◦ we do not look intensely for the meaning of every word
◦ instead, we want our reading to be relaxed, reverent, and receptive
• what is the Spirit of God saying to us in this moment?
◦ like Paul, we want what is spiritual in text to stand out

Think of it like this: the Christian has two modes of experiencing life
– one is the psychological-self – all the programming of past experience
• the other is our spiritual-self – the new self we become in Jesus Christ
◦ the psychological-self is caught up in thoughts and emotions
◦ the spiritual-self observes thoughts and emotions,
without judgment and without getting trapped in them
• the spiritual-self is not defined by its thoughts or feelings
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Ro. 8:5-6)
– in Lectio Divina, we want to read in the spiritual-self mode,
• observing whatever is brought to our attention

I want to make brief comments on several other verses
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (v. 13)

Temptation can refer to any sort of hardship–pain, struggles, disappointments, and so on test our faith
– the escape is not out of the hardship, but within it that enables us to endure it
J.R.R. Tolkien responded to critics who referred to fairy-stories as “’escapist’ literature”
“Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories” and what critics describe as “Real Life” is something we should want to escape from once in awhile.
Tolkien asks, “Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison walls? The world outside has not become less real because the prisoner cannot see it. In using escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing . . . the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.”
– our goal is to find the way to escape, but not desert

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread (vv. 16-17)
Participation translates the Greek word koinonia, which means to share (in common), partnership, community, communion, communication
kononia is an intimate connection with Jesus and each other
– with that in mind we come to the familiar slogan in verse 23 with its catchy rhythm
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful.
“All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.
• in 6:12, Paul added “for me” to each line of the slogan
◦ there the concern was for his (and our) personal self-discipline
◦ here it has to do with the community and how we can either be unhelpful or build up others
• the sacrifices we make for others, the service we provide,
even the friction we sometimes experience,
are all necessary for our spiritual development
◦ we learn through what we discover together in the dynamics of our interactions

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (v. 31)
An author I am currently reading said that Peter’s exhortation to be holy in all manner of conduct “applies to recreational activities and relaxation as well. It applies to purchases, and even to our eating habits: ‘Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ Do my eating habits (and the resultant weight gain or loss) glorify God? Does my every activity adorn the gospel, and present an appealing advertisement for the Kingdom of God?”
(how appealing an advertisement is crucifixion?)
– when the Scriptures are given this type of application it produces Christian Pharisees
• that was not not what Paul meant
◦ he is saying that regardless of what you eat and drink, and whatever you do, plowing or preaching,
◦ be there for God
For the kingdom of God is not food or drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Ro. 14:17)
Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean (Mk. 7:19)
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink (Co. 2:16)
For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5)
– if we turn everything into “do’s and don’ts,” we lose sense of gift

Conclusion: We have inherited a flawed way of reading Bible

We go away
• pious and judgmental rather than gracious and merciful
• with rules to keep us moral rather than invitations to be relational
• burdened with guilt rather than blessed with forgiveness

We need to learn how to read all over again
so that we hear scripture from the lips of Jesus
and see it through new eyes, enlightened by God’s Spirit
Then we will experience the joy of it
and the power of it
that sustains our faith
and transforms us into better persons

Sep 26 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 26, 2021

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Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my workmanship in the Lord? If to others I am not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 9:1-2

Intro: For the Corinthians, this letter served to resolve controversies fomenting among them

But we have been reading it as “A Primer In Things Unseen”
– this idea makes some people uncomfortable
• what we can see is real, and if we can’t see something then it’s not
◦ for them, being a Christian is defined by what they do
◦ go to church, read the Bible, share their faith, and support ministries financially
• faith, however, has its own set of eyes, so Paul can say,
. . . we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2Cor. 4:18)
◦ the writer of Hebrews is explicit regarding faith-sight
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. . . . By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible (Heb. 11:1 and 3)
– so for us, being a Christian is defined by who we are or are becoming
• that is: followers of Jesus, God’s children, spiritual persons, our true selves, “saints”

We need to ignore the break between chapters 8 and 9

Paul had shown them that love means forfeiting our rights at times
– he brought his lesson to its climax in chapter 8, verse13
Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble
• he carries this point forward, using himself as an example
◦ in chapter 9 Paul makes one long statement regarding his own rights
• he leads each step of his argument with questions
Am I not free?
– it seems that freedom and asserting one’s rights go hand-in-hand
• so his first questions have to do with his rights as an apostle
◦ the apostles made up a special class of the followers of Jesus
◦ there were hundreds of disciples who followed Jesus, but he chose only twelve apostles
• in the Book of Acts, it was determined an apostle must be a witness to Jesus’ resurrection
◦ they were specifically chosen and called by Jesus
◦ Paul asks whether he is entitled to same rights as the other apostles (vv. 3-6)

He comes to his central idea when he mentions Barnabas
Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
– unlike the other apostles, they did not derive a steady income from their ministry
– he is still asking questions when he cites three examples of people whose situation parallel his
• v. 7, a soldier, a farmer who plants vineyard, and a shepherd
• give this verse some thought
◦ which one of the three would be most similar to Paul’s situation?

Paul’s next questions take us to the law (vv. 8-10)
Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake?
– this seems like a strange way to interpret the commandment
• the law contains straight-forward rules; thou shall and thou shall not
• it does not use metaphors — its language is technical, not poetic
– in Paul’s day it was common for Rabbis to find allegories in the law
• it seems to me that “technicians” tend to be rule-keepers
◦ they tend to have tunnel vision
◦ technicality does not inspire imagination or creativity
• not everything is governed by the rules we know
◦ Paul is exercising freedom to see new uses for the law

In this context, Paul gives two more examples situations similar to his:
It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop

In verses 11-12a we come to the crux of Paul’s argument
If we have sown spiritual things among your, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?

Notice, Paul’s metaphor is agricultural; planting and reaping
– for us, it may sound more like a commercial transaction
• they pay Paul in money or material goods for his spiritual ministry to them
– I’m going to sound off regarding this view of ministry
• anyone who chooses ministry as a career, doesn’t belong in ministry
◦ anyone who does ministry for “the money” doesn’t belong in ministry
◦ I’ve always loved the way Paul called these people out
For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ (2 Cor. 2:17)
– anyway, the point Paul is making here is that he had not made use of this right (v. 12)
• he had not taken advantage of the system–not with the Corinthians

Paul asks questions again (Do you not know?), bringing up another example (vv.13-14)
– priests and preachers received provisions for their work
• in verse 14, Paul is referring to Jesus’ teaching – for instance,
Acquire not gold or silver . . . for the laborer deserves his food (Mt. 10:9-10)
– Paul’s argument is the policy established of an even exchange
• but again he states, I have made no use of any of these rights (v. 15)
◦ and he was not going reviewing his rights in order to solicit support
– briefly – in honor/shame cultures of ancient Greece and Rome,
• it wasn’t offensive for a person to boast their virtues or achievements
◦ they did not think of it as bragging – but boosting their family’s honor
• vv. 16-18, refusing to exercise his rights, Paul considered an honor worthy of boasting
◦ that is, the fact that he refused to insist on receiving payment for ministry
◦ he could not boast in his ministry itself,
For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel
• what then was his reward?
That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel (v. 18)

In verses 19-23, Paul explains his strategic approach to ministry

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings (vv. 19-23)

Paul attempted to connect with his audience in their culture and context
– in ministry and Christian witness there are negotiable issues and non-negotiables issues
• the negotiable are typically cultural and the non-negotiable are usually theological
– we see Paul’s strategy in action in Book of Acts
• in the synagogues he quoted scripture – in Athens he quoted their philosophers and poets
• in my book, There Is A Season, I wrote:
“Paul tailored his message—and his lifestyle—to his audience. He spoke to Jews in the context of their religion, culture, and history. He spoke to Gentiles in a much broader context. The content of his message was always the same, but it was packaged differently for each audience. ¶ Paul was careful to speak in terms that were most relevant to the culture and context of his audience. In every case, Paul’s primary concern was winning and saving people through the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. If Paul made compromises to relate to people, his compromises were only cultural. He never compromised his integrity, theology, or the message of the gospel.”

Verses 24-27, Paul goes over importance of self-discipline

Paul’s life was more difficult than it needed to be
– had he insisted on his rights, it would have made life easier
• but his commitment to his mission would not allow him to do that
• in forfeiting his rights, he had to discipline himself to live frugally
◦ sometimes going without a meal; having to work an “outside job”; wearing worn-out clothes

I find it interesting that at times Paul asserted his rights as a Roman Citizen (cf. Acts 16:35-39; 22:24-29)
– but he chose to suffer rather than assert rights as an apostle
• he was willing to endure anything (v. 12) and would rather die (v. 15) than compromise his commitment
– why was he willing to accept difficulty and discomfort?
first, because the Corinthians were his workmanship in the Lord (v. 1)
◦ they were not merely his business or livelihood
◦ his commitment was to their spiritual development
second, insisting on rights could potentially interfere with the gospel (v. 12)
– Paul came to this decision based on his calculations
• this is the same process we use when buying car and at the most reasonable price
• but there was more to Paul’s calculations than worldly logic
◦ last week we identified the “psychological self” (psychikos, 2:14)
◦ it is our old self that has been shaped by the world and conformed to it
– but there’s a larger reality
Albert Schweitzer, introduced the idea of intellectual mysticism, and said, “It attains the power to distinguish between appearance and reality and is able to conceive the material as a mode of manifestation of the Spiritual. It has sight of the Eternal in the Transient.”
• this is faith-sight, and it impacts our calculations significantly
• it takes in all of the material and rational data, but also sees beyond them

Conclusion: Paul asked, Have I not seen the Jesus our Lord?

Paul’s encounter with Jesus probably lasted less than ten minutes
– but it changed everything – radically!
• we cannot live the life Jesus calls us to, we cannot follow Paul’s teaching in our worldly psychological-self
◦ after all, “We’re only human”
◦ we need the help of God’s Spirit to see Jesus our Lord
– we’re told that eighty percent of the information that the brain receives is through the eyes
• if so, then it is important that we develop our faith-sight
◦ this was what Jesus worked at — to open the eyes of all of his disciples (Mt. 13:16-17; Jn. 9:5 & 39; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 2 Tim. 1:10)
◦ Jesus is the light of the world, illuminating God for us

I pray that God will improve our faith-sight
And that we will be able to see our world with new eyes,
and see the larger Reality beyond our world,
and in doing so we find an enlightenment, a freedom, a new awareness, and a new set of priorities

Sep 19 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 19, 2021

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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