Scripture Passage- I Corinthians 3: 1-15
Description – Second sermon in the summer 2006 Series, “Being God’s People by Serving, Obeying, and Giving.”
(1) Well today is Father’s Day and the sixth anniversary of our first meeting. Time has gone by fast but like I said last week, I am glad to be your pastor and I am grateful for the work of God in our life together. My prayer for us this day is that we continue to experience God’s great and good work in our individual and congregational lives.
Speaking of Father’s Day I would be remiss if I did not note some important things about dads today. As usual, I searched the Internet for some very serious and wise things to say to my fellow fathers. Here are three things that I found, respectively, at twilightbridge.com and lukaroski.com:
It seems that a little girl was sitting in her grandfather’s lap as he read her a goodnight story. From time to time, she would take her eyes off the book and reach up to touch his wrinkled cheek.
By and by she was alternately stroking her own cheek, then his again. Finally she spoke. “Granddaddy, did God make you?” “Yes, sweetheart” he answered, “God made me a long time ago.”
“Oh she said,” then “Granddaddy, did God make me too?” “Yes, indeed honey” he assured her. “God made you just a little while ago.”
“Oh” she said. Feeling their respective faces again, she observed, “God’s getting better at it now isn’t he?”
Sex education is a very important issue in parenting and sometimes dad seems to handle the topic quite well as we read in two different situations, “Daddy, where did I come from?” the seven-year-old son asked. It was a moment for which his father had carefully prepared.
He took him into the living room, got out the encyclopedia and several other books, and explained all they thought he should know about sexual attraction, affection, love, and reproductions. Then, his dad sat back and smiled contentedly.
“Does that answer your question?” his father asked. “Not really,” the little boy said. “Michael said he came from Detroit. I want to know where I came from.”
Then there is the story of a three-year-old boy [who] went with his father to see a litter of kittens. On returning home, he breathlessly informed his mother that there were two boy kitties and two girl kitties.
“How do you know?” his mother asked.
“Daddy picked them up and looked underneath,” he replied, “I think it’s printed on the bottom.”
Then, a very important piece of correspondence between a dad and his college son was posted for us to reflect on and consider. However, for us to understand its significance I have put it on the video screen. (2)
The son wrote,
Dear Dad, $chool i$ really great. I am making lot$ of friend$ and $tudying very hard. With all my $tuff, I $imply can’t think of anything I need, $o if you would like, you can ju$t $end me a card, a$ I would love to hear from you. Love, Your $on
To which the father replied, (3) Dear Son,
I kNOw that astroNOmy, ecoNOmics, and oceaNOgraphy are eNOugh to keep even an hoNOr student busy. Do NOt forget that the pursuit of kNOwledge is a NOble task, and you can never study eNOugh. Dad
Finally, there is this wonderful story from the late Erma Bombeck that reminds us just how important dad is to the life of his children. She wrote, “When I was a kid, a father was like the light in a refrigerator. Every house had one, but nobody knew what either of them did once the door was shut.
My dad left the house every morning and always seemed glad to see everyone at night.
He opened the jar of pickles when nobody else could.
He was the only one in the house who wasn’t afraid to go to the basement by himself.
He cut himself shaving, but no one kissed it or got excited about it.
It was understood whenever it rained, he got the car and brought it around to the door.
When anyone was sick, he got the prescription filled.
He set mousetraps, cut back the roses so the thorns wouldn’t clip you when you came to the front door.
When I got a bike, he ran alongside me for at least a thousand miles until I got the hang of it.
I was afraid of everyone else’s father, but not my own. Once I made him tea. It was only sugar water, but he sat on a small chair and said it was delicious.
Whenever I played house, the mother doll had a lot to do. I never knew what to do with the daddy doll, so I had him say, “I’m going off to work now,” and threw him under the bed.
When I was nine years old, my father didn’t get up one morning and go to work.
He went to the hospital and died the next day.
I went to my room and felt under my bed for the daddy doll. When I found him, I dusted him off and put him on my bed.
He never did anything – I didn’t know his leaving would hurt so much. I still don’t know why.
Men, our work as dads impact our kids in ways that we do not imagine. Our consistency and availability are very important. Continue to ask the Lord for help in your fathering. I ask Him, a lot, for help with mine.
During my search, I also came across an interesting news release from Hallmark Cards regarding cards and Father’s Day.
It noted, “Humor typically has been the universal language when it comes to dad – the guy who always teased, cracked a joke, found lots of ways to make us laugh, and never passed up an opportunity to embarrass us in front of friends. Humor cards will continue to be strong, sometimes given along with a “serious” card.
It also reported that “Father’s Day is the fifth-largest card-sending holiday with 102 million Father’s Day cards expected to be given this year in the United States,” according to Hallmark research. The release also noted, “fifty percent of all Father’s Day cards are purchased for dads. Nearly 20 percent of Father’s Day cards are purchased for husbands. Other categories include grandfathers, sons, brothers, uncles, someone special, and a Father’s Day card for Mother.”
Happy Father’s Day to the dads here today!
(4) Two weeks ago, I suggested that we view (a) obedience as a foundational value, (b) service as a motivational value, and (c) giving as an operational value.
(5) Last week I suggested, in a roundabout way, that Paul, in I Corinthians 1:10-17 highlighted two barriers to serving the Lord. (a) There is the barrier of personality in which a popular or powerful figure, a pastor, a teacher, a church leader, even a family member, becomes more important than the Lord.
(b) The second barrier is the barrier of presentation in which the ability to speak well and with pizzazz can cause us to lose our focus on the power of God and the cross to save us and transform us into the persons and people of God. Paul sums up these two barriers very pointedly in 1 Corinthians 3:21 “So don’t take pride in following a particular leader.”
It is so easy to get caught up in personalities and words and lose track of the power of the cross (a demanding power I would add because it demands obedience, service, and giving). Yet the cross of Jesus Christ also represents a great power because it represents the power (and desire) of God to change lives.
When we read and study the first three chapters of 1 Corinthians, Paul seems to get repetitive about the same issues – personalities and the glitz and glamour that surround them –that cause him to come back repeatedly to the simple ness of the Cross and what it means.
If you did a double take at the sermon title this morning, please be assured that it was not a mistake. It is the same title from the week before. However, the emphasized word this week is servants whereas it was God last week. Last week, we focused on ‘who we play for,’ i.e. the Lord.
This week we focus on ‘who is playing for the Lord.’ We, His servants are playing for the Lord. We serve Him and others in His name. This morning there are a couple of things that we need to remember about being His servant.
We read in chapter 3 and verse 5, ‘Who is Apollos, and who is Paul, that we should be the cause of such quarrels? Why, we’re only servants. Through us God caused you to believe. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.’
(6) If we are to be a fully functioning and faithfully following church we do so by serving the Lord according to His plans and purposes. Paul begins chapter 2 by reminding his audience that ‘when I first came to you I didn’t use lofty words and brilliant ideas to tell you God’s message. For I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. I did not use wise and persuasive speeches, but the Holy Spirit was powerful among you.’
A servant does not dictate to the one he/she serves the terms of service. A servant says, “I am here to serve, where do you want me to go, what do you want me to do?”
In these two texts, Paul puts the issue of service in its proper context by reminding his audience that servants, in this case he and Apollos, are ‘only servants.’ They are not God, they are not superstars, they are only servants of God doing God’s work. ‘Through us God caused you to believe,’ wrote Paul. ‘Each of us did the work the Lord gave us.’
This work, this agenda was already set for Apollos and Paul. It was set by the Lord in places such as the Great Commission of Matthew 28 and in the command to be witnesses in Acts 1. Our agenda has already been set for us by the Lord; it is the same agenda of Matthew 28 and Acts 1.
Therefore, to be effective servants, we must follow the agenda set by the Lord as outlined in scripture. It is a non-negotiable agenda and it is agenda in which our agenda is not number one.
(7) If we are to be a fully functioning and faithfully following church we are to do so as a team not a group of individuals.
Please look with me at verses 16 and 17 (8) that say, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will bring ruin upon anyone who ruins this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you Christians are that temple.”
Notice the emphasized words, ‘all of you together’ and ‘Christians.’ They are plural and not singular in their emphasis and verb tense.
Paul is not singling out one or two people to talk to. He is talking to the entire Corinthian church. He is addressing everyone!
The Lord speaks to each of us individually because salvation is an individual choice. CS Lewis once wrote, “It was not for societies or states that Christ died, but for men.”
However, we need to remember that is was to a group of people, namely the Disciples, that Jesus gave the Great Commission to go and make disciples and to be witness. Go back sometime today and review the passages in which those commands are given. They are given in the plural tense.
If we have been born again; if we have been saved; then that is automatic qualification for entry into the Kingdom of God and the Church of God. And the church is a group of people who are to be of one mind and one spirit – God’s mind and God’s spirit.
To fully function and fully follow as a church, we must, we must come together. We need each other and we are to do ministry, in our individual and uniquely gifted ways, together.
A common saying these days is ‘There is no ‘I’ in team.’ There is no ‘I’ in church.
(9) And Paul goes onto to remind them in chapter 12 and verses 4 through 7, ‘Now there are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. There are different ways God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work through all of us. A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.’
If we are going to be the best and greatest church the Lord would desire us to be, then we need to come together for the same purpose and cause.
(10) That purpose and cause is to first: (A) fully follow the Lord. What does that mean?
In his book, Following Christ in the Details of Life, Patrick Morley takes us to a familiar Gospel story, the Rich Young Ruler. As he leads us through this story, he says this about the issue of total commitment to Christ.
“With Jesus, the terms of eternal life are a total surrender of our lives to Him. Jesus always holds to one central idea in salvation: ‘Follow me.’” He goes on to say, ‘But He also knows the hidden ambition in each one of us, the area which has become our stumbling stone. For the rich man, it may be his riches; for the poor man, his poverty.”
Then he says this, (b) “Jesus doesn’t offer eternal life in exchange for selling your possessions. Jesus offers eternal life in exchange for following Himself.”
Morley then goes on to conclude with a very important question stated two different ways, (11) (a) ‘What impediment to true faith is blocking you? (b) What is that thing which separates you from perfect devotion to Christ?’
Finally, he lists some of things that keep us from experiencing a fuller and more complete relationship with the Lord: “For some it is money. But for others it may be lifestyle, morals, temper, substance abuse, a secret thought life of lust and fantasy, personal ambitions, impure thoughts, selfishness, or wrong motives. Don’t let it block you; lay it at the foot of the cross.’
(12) The other part of our cause and purpose is to (a) fully function. What does this mean?
Let’s go over for a moment to chapter 12 and start with verse 12:
‘The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into Christ’s body by one Spirit, and we have all received the same Spirit.
Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.
And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body?
Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything?
But God made our bodies with many parts, and he has put each part just where he wants it. What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body.
The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.” In fact, some of the parts that seem weakest and least important are really the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect from the eyes of others those parts that should not be seen, while other parts do not require this special care.
So God has put the body together in such a way that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other equally.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.
(b) I want to repeat verse 27, “Now all of you together are Christ’s body, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” Paul did not say, ‘separate but necessary,’ he said, ‘separate and necessary.’
We need, as the church, to fully function so that God can work in and through us. One of the things that we in the Church of God strongly believe in is ‘the unity of all believers.’ That is happening in our community through the prayer rally that you have read about in our paper. It is not just a few from the First Church of God; it is also some from Harvest Community Church, St John’s Lutheran, Ligonier United Methodist, First Christian Church, Bethel Christian Baptist, and others. It is a team effort.
(Satan does not like it and He will, through a barrage of spiritual opposition that we need to counter with obedience and prayer, seek to discount it and undermine it. We cannot let that happen. However, God is very, very pleased!)
We need to function in the same manner. Not all of us are chosen by the Lord to be ‘leaders’ in the church. That is not where the Lord would have us serve.
But, we are all called to serve the Lord in the church. Serving is more important than leading. He has a place of service for all of us and for our church to fully function, we need to seek to find and serve in our place of service that God has given us the skills, abilities, and passion for doing. And we must do so together!
I spent this past Thursday and part of Friday at a retreat with some of my SHAPE partners (SHAPE stands for Sustaining Health and Pastoral Excellence) outside of Indianapolis. It was a great retreat.
One of the things that we did was to take five minutes and simply calm ourselves down through silence and meditation so that we could be more open to the voice of God. We are going to do that during one of our communion Sundays in preparation for communion. But, the Spirit used it to remind me to include an exercise that we are going to conclude with. It will take no more than a minute but I believe that the impression it leaves will be long lasting.
Please take the insert that has what appears to be a bunch of ink spots on it and put it comfortable in front of you as I read the following directions: (13)
First, relax and concentrate on the four small dots in the middle of the picture for 30 seconds.
Now, look at the wall nearest to you. (You may need to look left) You will see a circle of light developing.
Then, blink you eyes a couple of times, what or who do you see?
I conclude with a very important question, (14) ‘Who has our attention and focus in this church?’
May it be the Lord and only the Lord! Amen.
Father’s Day stories:
Lewis quote is from The Weight of Glory as quoted on page 185 in A Guide to Prayer. © 1983 by Upper Room.
Morley quotes is from Walking With Christ in the Details of Life, pages 80 and 81. © 1998