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Aug 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 22, 2021



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

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