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Nov 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

November 20, 2016 – 1 Corinthians 2:12-3:3

Passive Prayer

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 1 Corinthians 2:12-3:3

Intro: The church in Corinth was being ripped apart (see 1 Cor. 1:10-2:11)

Torn by conflict, Christians had formed separate camps
– for Paul, this was a serious threat to God’s work in Corinth
• he asked them, Has Christ been divided?
• if not, how could they justify their division?
– the two primary weapons in their arsenal were: reason and rhetoric
• whichever group had the strongest intellectual argument
◦ Paul uses the word “wisdom,” in Greek: sophia
◦ Greece was the birth place of Western philosophy (“love of wisdom”)
• which ever group had the best presentation – speeches
– Paul reminded the Corinthians that these were worldly weapons
• Greek culture demanded philosophical verification
• Jewish culture demanded presentation – signs
◦ God ignored both and gave us Jesus, his Son, the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24)

Next, Paul reminded them of the message he brought
– it wasn’t bolstered by superior wisdom or speech
• in fact, he arrived in weakness, fear and much trembling
• in his message, he simply stuck to the story of Jesus and his crucifixion
◦ because this is the key factor in God’s salvation for humankind
◦ Paul’s words were energized by God’s Spirit and power (not human wisdom or communication skills)
– but they were not to think there’s no logic to faith
• there is, only it is a hidden wisdom, a mystery
• the only access we have to it is by God’s Spirit

This was his argument up to the verses quoted above

The conflict in Corinth was rooted in a deeper, personal conflict
– a primal tension that affects every believer
– to clarify his point, Paul describes three conditions:
“a natural man”psychikos; psyche is the soul
◦ a soulish person, having no hope and without God in the world (Ep. 2:11)
“he who is spiritual”pneumatikos (the Greek word for spirit is pneuma)
◦ the believer, in whom the Spirit of God lives
“men of flesh”sarkikois (the Greek word for flesh is sarx)
◦ “flesh” is a metaphor that represents a life controlled by physical appetites and soulish passions
◦ this condition is revealed in a person’s behavior
For since there is jealousy and strive among you, are you not fleshly . . . ?

Not only the Corinthians, but all Christians face the same conflict
– the spiritual self is frequently tripped up by the “carnal” (fleshly) self
• I refer to these two selves as pneumatic and sarchotic

Paul addresses this theme in several of his letters

To follow Jesus is not a casual stroll in the park
– we encounter resistance, which makes spiritual growth a struggle
• the problem is that we harbor an internal saboteur
◦ this creates the inner division and conflict

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. (Gal. 5:16-17)
For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace . . . those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Ro. 8:6 & 8)

• Paul also describes this as a conflict between our two inner persons

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him (Col. 3:9-10; cf. Ep. 4:22-23)

– wisdom (information, knowledge) is not the enemy
• our bodies (sense perceptions, functions) aren’t the enemy
◦ the “stumbling block” that trips up every human:
◦ is a spiritual virus that twists, misuses and abuses both wisdom and the body
• Christian spirituality entails a process of healing and purifying from the virus

Paul gives a detailed explanation of how this healing in Romans (chs. 6-8)

But the practical question is how do we activate it?
– where do we experience a real connection with God’s Spirit?
• prayer is our conversation and interaction with God
• a specific form of prayer is helpful, that is known as “passive prayer”
– Paul talks about sin as servitude (a modern equivalent term would be addiction)
• he also talks about being set free (not freeing ourselves, but set free by another)

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1)
Jesus said that he came To proclaim release to the captives . . . [and] set free those who are oppressed (Lk. 4:18)

• we are not totally passive through the process
◦ but something has to happen in us to enable us to make progress

One stage of the process integrates spirit and body

We know the dif between the life of body, limited by time,
– and the life of the spirit that opens out to eternity
• Evelyn Underhill referred to these as “two levels of life”
◦ there are the physical senses: “turned earthwards and selfwards”
◦ and there is “The ‘fine point’ of the spirit is turned Godwards”
– these are related to “two sorts of knowledge”
• one deals with the world which our senses show us
• the other brings to our souls whispers of the Spirit

Evelyn Underhill, “… in certain mysterious activities and interests…–in poetry, art, music, above all in the sacramental acts of visible religion–the two forms of knowledge mingle; and news from the world of the Spirit is conveyed by the channels of sense.”
“Bit by bit the all-demanding Spirit must achieve undivided sway over the surface-I, as well as over the eternal Me; harmonize and weld them into a single instrument of the Will.”

Conc: Passive prayer: A do not and a do

In passive prayer we do not want to resort to brute force
– we do not have to work up a special feeling or new stage of enlightenment
• feelings and insights will come to us, but from God’s Spirit and not our effort
◦ passive prayer is not about trying to make something happen
◦ it is about being with whatever is happening in the present moment
• engaging our will power typically produces an effect that is opposite of our desire
◦ have you ever tried to will yourself to go to sleep? It doesn’t work
◦ we do not want to fight with ourselves or our thoughts or feelings

If I asked you to look at your hand, would it be a struggle for you to do that? Would you have to use force or will power to turn your eyes toward your hand? In passive prayer we look at whatever presents itself to us in this present moment. And we bring nothing with us into the moment than what we already have. God will take whatever we have at hand and through it reveal something to us or teach us something (cf. Ex. 4:2-4). A pain, a worry, a thought, a feeling, a situation, an object, a scripture, or something else we catch our attention. By being with it for a moment we will know whether that is what God wants to use to bring us “news from the world of the Spirit.”

– if I cannot discern what God wants me to notice around me,
• I can assume that God is shining his light within me

The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,
Searching all the chambers of his body (Pr. 20:27)

◦ what “bubbles up” from my body, my thoughts, my emotions, my spirit?
◦ listening especially to body, emotions and spirit will tend to result in intuitions 
there’s hardly anything you will observe in this way that won’t teach you something 
◦ an ant, an itch, a horn blaring, a subtle breeze — God can speak through anything that crosses our path

Hold the magnifying glass of your awareness over whatever comes up
– but observe from the outside
• in the past, when a feeling occurred during my prayer, I felt it and then reacted to it
• being aware of a feeling creates a space between the feeling and myself
◦ awareness does something to the feeling — it somehow changes the feeling
– in 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about having “a thorn in the flesh”
• he does not say what it was, but it pummeled his body
◦ three times he begged God to relieve him of it
◦ what God told him was, My grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:7-9)
• when Paul stopped trying to get rid of that thorn, it revealed something to him
◦ God power worked through Paul’s weakness
◦ from then on, the thorn triggered a different response in Paul

This is the sort of change that takes place in passive prayer
and through many of these incremental changes,
over time and by degrees
we lay aside the old self and put on the new self
in our “from glory to glory” transformation

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