Sermon Notes- January 26, 2020

UNITY, NOT CONFORMITY

 

1 Corinthians 1:10-16,17-18

As we can see in our own families, every human being is unique. Even though our kids might have the same genetic makeup and the same home environment, all parents can attest to the peculiar eccentricities they’ve witnessed in their offspring.

In this regard, the church is similar. Even though every human being is valued, loved, and accepted by God, we are not the same. We don’t see the world the same way, mostly due to our individual perspectives that have been shaped by our temperament and experiences. Believe it or not, we don’t always view God the same way, despite having church doctrines and practices. This issue of diversity within the church is nothing new. In First Corinthians, the apostle Paul is writing to address contentious attitudes that were rising up based on whoever had baptized the members. Let’s take a look: [read I Cor. 1:10-18 NRSV]

What can we learn about unity in the midst of diversity?

  • Paul points out that all believers are in Christ and that there are no divisions. We can see that in this instance, the members were trying to see what “team” they were on. Were they on “Team Paul” or “Team Apollos”? Which team was better? It’s easy to recognize how silly this disagreement sounds, but consider how often our disagreements over minor doctrinal issues or other opinions foster negativity.
  • Paul also reminds everyone that baptism is simply a physical ritual to help human beings recognize their new life in Christ. Baptism is not judged more effective by who does the baptizing, nor does baptism have some sort of “magical” powers. Physical rituals like baptism and communion help to reinforce our understanding of where our new life comes from. They give shape and voice to abstract ideas.
  • Finally, Paul admonishes the Corinthians that by focusing on their differences, they were missing the power of Christ’s cross. That power is the self-emptying attitude of love, giving preference to others rather than serving the self. Those who are intent on boosting their self-image think that having a self-emptying attitude is foolish, but if we have moved beyond needing to be right or needing to have everything our way, we see that self-emptying is really the power of God.

Application:

  • Unity is not uniformity. Unity does not mean we all think the same, at least about the small stuff. It means that we need to incorporate a larger vision of our practices that includes influences from diverse cultural and generational backgrounds. Differences need to be viewed as assets, not threats. Maybe this means including some older hymns with our contemporary worship songs, or perhaps our traditional study groups discuss a current movie rather than a typical Bible story.

In this regard, the church is similar. Even though every human being is valued, loved, and accepted by God, we are not the same. We don’t see the world the same way, mostly due to our individual perspectives that have been shaped by our temperament and experiences. Believe it or not, we don’t always view God the same way, despite having church doctrines and practices. This issue of diversity within the church is nothing new. In First Corinthians, the apostle Paul is writing to address contentious attitudes that were rising up based on whoever had baptized the members. Let’s take a look: [read I Cor. 1:10-18 NRSV]

  • Listen more and listen better. Seeking to understand another’s viewpoint or preference without feeling the need to validate our own is a goal to work toward, especially for those in church leadership. Shifting our focus from ourselves to noticing where and how God is at work in another person’s life can help us stop emphasizing our differences, and instead, give praise for God’s individualized care for each human being.

Always remember that unity is not possible apart from the Holy Spirit. God in us seeks harmony, not sameness. Even as we somehow manage to love our children despite our differences, so we also can love one another in the church, permitting the safe expression of our diversity within the context of love and respect.

Other helpful links:

 


Additional Thoughts:

  • What Does LIGHT Have To Do With UNITY?

 

We’re in the season of Epiphany.  Our focus during the season of Epiphany is on the WORKS of Jesus Christ … as opposed to the BIRTH of Jesus Christ, which the theme of the Christmas season.

This week the THEME is FOCUSING ON THE LIGHT … but the title for the sermon is UNITY WITHOUT UNIFORMITY.

SPS … The question I want to address during the sermon, and hopefully answer, is WHAT DOES FOCUSING ON THE LIGHT HAVE TO DO WITH UNITY?

I didn’t realize the link until I was asked to give the sermon … and I started to prepare.  What I found was an epiphany of sorts … and one that I want to share with you.  To understand, we need to go back to last week’s sermon(s).

  • Anyone remember the theme for the sermons last week … It was COME AND SEE.
  • The point Mrs.Dawkins made on Saturday was based on Christ telling Andrew to “Come and see.”
  • The point Pastor Campbell made was based on the woman by the well telling Samaritans to “come and see” the Christ.
  • Interestingly, I thought the passage that Pastor Campbell used was the more appropriate … and I couldn’t understand why persons at GCI did not use that passage.
  • I couldn’t understand why they chose that passage … BUT I UNDERSTAND NOW.
  • Let’s turn there … to John 1:35-42

In v.39, Jesus told them to come and see … but see what exactly? His home? Where He lived?

I think it’s a little more than that … because they spent the day with Jesus.  I think Jesus wanted them to see (understand) Him … but what about Him exactly?  Notice some of the earlier verses in the chapter … John 1:4-9

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was JohnThe same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that LightThat was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

What are we seeing?

Jesus (and the life in Him) is the Light (vv.4,6,7,8) … Jesus is the true Light (v.9) … as Pastor Graham was showing us in the midweek Bible study … via some OT passages.  Note John 8:12 … Jesus says “I am the LIGHT of the world.”

  • Interestingly, Cf Matthew 5:14 … Jesus says “YOU are the light of the world.”
  • Which is it? How do you explain that?
  • See John 9:5 … Jesus says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
  • The explanatory phrase it “As long as I am in the world”.
  • Now that He is no longer in the world, bodily … WE are the light of the world (He, of course, is still THE LIGHT.)
  • That would explain Matthew 5:16 … We let our lights shine (by our good works), BUT God gets the glory … because the light we shine forth is really because of Christ in us.

The point of all this is that … Jesus is the Light … and once we see that Light … and receive that Light … then we should (as Mrs.Dawkins and PastorCampbell exhorted us) share that Light, by inviting them to come and see that Light for themselves.

So what does any of that have to do with UNITY, as today’s sermon implies?  To find out, let’s go to our keynote passage for today … in 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:10-18  

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.

12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;  15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.  16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

The Corinthian Church was a gifted church … but it had problems, many problems … Some say it was an immature church.  (This shows, in a sense, that being able to speak in tongues is nothing to boast about … if you have the gift of tongues, but don’t have the lifestyle to back it up.)

Anyway, Paul addresses one of those problems in this passage.  But he doesn’t just state the problem … He identifies the cause … and he gives the solution (as he sees it).  He actually gives the solution first, the problem second and the cause third.  But let us look at them as problem – cause – solution.

  • What’s the PROBLEM? … v.11 contentions (quarrels)
  • What’s the CAUSE? … vv.13 … of Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Christ … v.13 “divided”
  • What’s the SOLUTION? … v.10 – no divisions … How? Speak the same thing

 

It’s not about Paul or Apollos or Cephas  … It’s not about baptism … It’s all about Christ …

v.13 … Christ is NOT divided … It’s Christ who was crucified … It’s Christ’s name we’re baptized in

 

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