Us Four and No More

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Us Four and No More

1 Corinthians 4:5

I would not give my church upbringing for anything. I learned so much Bible there, and it is where I gave my life to Christ. It was a loving church, for the most part, but like all churches, it had its problems. My mom always jokingly said that church would be a great place if it weren’t for the people. One glaring problem with the church I grew up in was that it was an “us four and no more” kind of church. They believed that if you weren’t us, meaning their variety of their denomination, you weren’t going to heaven. Sometimes they would even preach entire sermons and even sermon series’ about why other churches were wrong.

When dealing with the subject of other denominations and churches, we must keep in mind what Jesus said. In Matthew 7:3-5, He said, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We all get things wrong in scripture; we are human. That’s why I always encourage people to check everything I say against scripture because as I always told my kids, I could be wrong, I was once before. We can’t be so dogmatic about our beliefs that we are condemning others. I keep saying this because it is so important, the only doctrine that should divide us is that of salvation by grace, through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ, nothing else!

This is what the church at Corinth was doing, so Paul had to reprimand them one more time. In 1 Corinthians 4:5 Paul said, “Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” A more literal translation of that first line would be, “Therefore do not go on judging anything before it’s time.” It’s not our job to judge the world. Let’s look back at the first three verses of Matthew, chapter 7, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Matthew 7:1-3. Many religious people would say that they are ready to be judged by the same measure, but are you…really? Are you so confident in your pre-tribulation view over their mid-tribulation view, or your dispensationalism view, or your predestination view that you would be willing to be judged on it?

Notice back in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that it says, “before the time.” There will be a time of judgment, and Christ will be the judge. We need to stop worrying about what others believe and start making sure our lives are straight, we need to get our house in order as the prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah in 2 Kings 20:1, “In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” We will all die, and after this, the judgment.

What does 1 Corinthians 4:5 go on to say? “but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts.” We keep trying to judge each other, but when Christ judges us, He will bring to light all the things we thought were hidden in the dark, He will even show the motives of our hearts. But here’s the beautiful thing, 1 John 1:9 tells us, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” So, if we confess our sins, He will forgive them, but it doesn’t stop there. Look at Hebrews 8:12, “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.” We always say, “forgive and forget,” but there’s a problem with that. We can forgive each other, and we should, but we can’t forget. One of the many beautiful things about God is that when He forgives us, He can forget what we have done, it’s kind of like selective amnesia. He even tells us, “He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12. If you want to be encouraged today, stop and read all of Psalm 103, what a blessing.

Paul ends our text verse with these words, “and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5. We often focus on the judgment of God, and we should, to some extent, but I love that Paul ended this verse about judgment with this line. We don’t need to praise ourselves; we don’t need to go around tooting our own horns, all our intelligence and insight comes from God, so we are nothing but His tools. My handsaw doesn’t praise itself when it cuts a straight line; it cuts a straight line when I guide it that way, so why do we praise ourselves when we do something great for God? James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” There’s a lot in scripture about humbling ourselves, that’s a blog in itself.

So, this all comes back, as so many things in the New Testament do, to unity. As the body of Christ, we must stop judging each other and start loving each other. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” If we do not love each other, we don’t know God! That’s a pretty bold statement, but true. Stop judging your brothers and sisters in Christ and start loving them, and then, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35.

Not Seeking Approval

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

I’m Not Seeking Your Approval

1 Corinthians 4:1-4

I enjoy people. I like to talk with people; I like to interact with people. I enjoy just being around other people. I got my first management position when I was only 21 years old, and I wanted to be the best manager I could be. I showed up early for every shift, I stayed on top of the paperwork, and I got to know my employees very well. Now, here’s the thing, in my early days of managing I had a supervisor who told me, if my employees like me, I’m not doing my job. I didn’t agree with that philosophy then, and I don’t to this day but, in the early days, I went too far in the other direction. As I said, I enjoy the company of other people, and quite frankly, I like to be liked. As a result, I had a real problem with my employees taking advantage of me. If their productivity was down, I’d help them catch up; if they didn’t show up for work, I’d pick up the slack. My employees loved me, but it wasn’t long before I was doing most of their work. I even had two employees call off together one beautiful Spring day because “it’s too nice out to come to work today.”

I began to realize that my employees would like working with me and still respect me; it didn’t matter if they liked me as a person. I wasn’t there to be their friend. I began making them toe the line and would write them up if they didn’t. I began treating them the way I would treat my sons. If they did wrong, I would hold them accountable, but if they did right, I would praise them. I just began treating them fairly. As a result, they loved working for me. I would have employees call in sick, and when they realized I was the manager on duty, they would decide to come in because they didn’t want to leave me shorthanded. I was everyone’s favorite manager, even though I had fired more employees than any other manager. What it came down to is that I stopped caring what they thought of me and started caring about helping them do their jobs to the best of their abilities, things ran much more smoothly after that.

This is Paul’s point in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 4. In verse 1, he tells the church at Corinth to look at Apollos and him as servants of Christ. If you are a pastor, an elder, or a church leader of any kind, you must remember that you are just a servant of Christ who has been put in charge of those people. Far too often, church leaders let their authority go to their head, but if we think of ourselves as a doulos, a bondservant for Christ, we will keep that pride in check.

The first thing Paul tells us about being a leader is that we must be faithful. You see, in trying to make my employees like me, I wasn’t faithful to my company. I was trying to pick up their slack, but one person can’t do everything well. We must be faithful to Christ in our leadership. The writer of Hebrews even told the Church, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith.” Hebrews 13:7. If a leader is not faithful, the Church will have no example to follow. As leaders, we must remember our place. We are here for no other reason than to glorify God. John put it best when he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30.

Paul goes on in verse 3 to say, “As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.” I love this; he says that he doesn’t care what human authority might think of him; he doesn’t even trust his own opinion on matters of Christ. The Psalmist summed this up in Psalm 146:3-10 when he said, Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God. He made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them. He keeps every promise forever. He gives justice to the oppressed and food to the hungry. The Lord frees the prisoners.     The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly. The Lord protects the foreigners among us. He cares for the orphans and widows, but he frustrates the plans of the wicked. 10 The Lord will reign forever. He will be your God, O Jerusalem, throughout the generations. Praise the Lord! We are to respect and pray for our human authority but don’t trust in them, their time on this earth, as well as their time in power,  is limited. Instead, put all your trust in the Lord, who created all things.

Paul finishes this thought by saying, “My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.” 1 Corinthians 4:4. Paul’s conscience is clear, he knows that he is right beyond a shadow of a doubt, but he tells the church at Corinth not to take his word for it. We need to seek the Lord in everything! I say this all the time; I’m glad so many read my blog and listen to my podcast and have read my book, but don’t take my word for it, seek it out yourself. There are many pastors that I love to listen to and read, but I have a responsibility to check everything they say against scripture. God does hold pastors responsible for what they teach, but He also holds us responsible for what we do with it.

Everything Belongs to You

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Everything Belongs to You

1 Corinthians 3:21-23

 

There are several pastors to whom I enjoy listening. These are great men of God, and when I listen to them, I almost always walk away with something I had never seen before. But when they point out these things, I always go and study it out against what the Bible says, keeping it in context. I always remember that they are just people and can be wrong. I love learning new things, plus listening to these men helps me stay in the word since I always research what I learned. By the way, I hope everyone reading this blog does the same thing. Don’t ever take what I say as gospel, I am human, and as I always told my sons, I could be wrong, I was once before.

One of these pastors that I highly respect and listen to regularly does something with which I greatly disagree. It’s not any form of heresy, but it does go against scripture, though he clearly doesn’t see it that way. This man of God regularly talks about how he is a Calvinist; he even went as far as to name his son Calvin. Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with highly respecting another human, or even naming your child after that person. Michelle and I named our sons Joshua and Caleb, but to label yourself a Calvinist is the same as saying, “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos.” As we read a few weeks ago, “When one of you says, ‘I am a follower of Paul,’ and another says, ‘I follow Apollos,’ aren’t you acting just like people of the world?” 1 Corinthians 3:4.

Paul must have thought this to be an important topic as he repeats it at the end of the chapter. He wraps up this part of his letter by saying, 21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God” in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23.

I love what David Guzik has to say about this, “Let no one glory in men: How prone we are to glory in men! We are more excited about being with the influential and famous of this world than about being with God. We value the gifts and honors of men more than the gifts and honors God gives. How we need to hear, let no one glory in men!” This is so true, so often we take more pride in the humans we follow then in God.

Here’s the thing, because we are in Christ, all things are our servants, even death itself. Nothing but Christ is our master; we are no longer a slave to sin or this world. This verse says that everything belongs to us, we belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to the Father. This is why the Bible talks so much about our freedom in Christ. Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” Then he goes on to say, 13 For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. 14 For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” Galatians 5:13-15.

So, because we are in Christ, all things are under our feet. Due to this, we have freedom in Christ. But here’s the thing, our freedom in Christ is a freedom to do what pleases Him; it is not a freedom to sin. As we just saw in verses 13-15, we are never to use that freedom to satisfy our lusts, that will make us a slave to sin again and would mean that Christ died in vain. And, through our unity in the body of Christ, we can’t let our freedom become a stumbling block to weaker believers.

Michelle and I are preparing to go back to Cedar Key to do ministry. Cedar Key is the island community we planted a Church in back in 2009 and God is calling us back. Through our freedom in Christ, we could drink alcohol, despite what many legalists say, the Bible never says it is a sin to drink, but we are going there to minister to addicts and alcoholics. If we were to drink in front of them and cause some of the new believers who had been slaves to alcohol to stumble, that would be a sin. With freedom comes responsibility.

But going back to our text, because we have this freedom in Christ, because all things are under our authority through Him, why in the world would we take so much pride in following any man? All things belong to me because I belong to Christ, and he belongs to the Father. Paul summed it up well in Galatians 6:14-16 when he said, 14 As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. 15 It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. 16 May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.”

Why would we boast in Paul, or Apollos, or Calvin, or Wesley when, in Christ, all things in this life belong to us? Our Father is the King of kings; He is the Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. That’s what we should be boasting in!

The Smartest Man in The Room

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

The Smartest Man in The Room

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

My son has a friend; we’ll call him Rick, names have been changed to protect the identity of the annoying. Rick is one of those guys who, due to his insecurities, need to be the smartest man in any room. You know, that person who makes you ask yourself, “why does my son hang around him?” No matter what’s going on, no matter what the topic, Rick knows more than everyone else about that subject. And, he’s the guy that always says inflammatory things to see if he can get a rise out of people. No matter what the subject, he’s going to do his best to try to make you think he knows more than you.

Rick and I recently had a conversation about the Church in America, and every point I made he would come back with, “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I mentioned that, although Christ and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion, the Church today has become little more than a religious organization. What was his response? “Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.” I talked about how the Church today has become a corporation, and he came back with that same response. So, I asked him why Jesus ran the money changers out of the temple; he responded that they were making God’s house into a den of thieves…Hello!

We all know Ricks. We all know people who have that insatiable urge to top everyone else. But what does Paul say about this in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20? 18 Stop deceiving yourselves. If you think you are wise by this world’s standards, you need to become a fool to be truly wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As the Scriptures say, “He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.” 20 And again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise; he knows they are worthless.”

First, he tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. We can all end up in a place where we are deceiving ourselves, can’t we? I know there are times that I think I’m the smartest man in the room, but we need to keep our egos in check and realize that we can always learn from others, even guys like Rick.

This next statement seems to be a little contradictory, but Paul tells us that we may think we are wise by the world’s standards, but to truly become wise, we must first become a fool.

What Paul is saying here is that if you want to be truly wise, you must first renounce the world’s wisdom. You must be willing to look foolish in the world’s eyes; in other words, you must humble yourself to truly become wise. What does James 4:10 say? “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” We must humble ourselves first, then let Christ lift us up. Whenever we try to lift ourselves up, it doesn’t turn out well, even if we think it did.

The Bible talks a lot about humility. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.” Matthew 5:5. And, when Jesus was talking about who will be the greatest in His kingdom, He said, “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:4. In fact, in Matthew 23:11-12, Jesus said, 11 The greatest among you must be a servant. 12 But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” So, if you truly want to be great, serve others…the world will never tell you that. But if you don’t humble yourself, He will humble you! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be humbled by God…just sayin’.

Let’s face it, our ultimate example for everything in this world is Jesus, and He gave the ultimate example of humility. Look at Philippians 2:5-11, You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

What does it say in verse 8? In obedience to the father, Jesus not only died for our sins but He, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the creator of everything, humbled Himself and died a criminal’s death. What does Galatians 3:13 say? “But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.’” And, because of His humility, we read in verse 9 that God has given Him a name that is above every other name, and that at the name of Jesus every knee WILL bow and every tongue WILL confess that Jesus Christ IS Lord, and this will glorify the Father. Hallelujah!

So, when you feel that urge to try to sound wise to those around you, take a step back and think of ways you can humble yourself. Think of how you can serve that person. When I’m talking to someone like Rick, I get the urge to put him in his place, and sometimes I try to, but we need just to humble ourselves and, maybe we can learn something.

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