Healthy Church: Fools for Christ

March 28, 2023

Series: Healthy Church

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 4:8-21

This morning we are going to be in 1 Corinthians 4.  If you don’t have a bible you can grab one at the back and if you are a guest this morning we invite you to take our devotional with you as a gift.

What do you do when you are in one of those conversations where someone says something that doesn’t sound right?  It might be a political comment that is a little extreme.  It might be a tone in how someone responds to a question.  It might be a reference to something in Scripture that isn’t accurate.  It might be a negative comment about a friend or family member.

In our culture we kind of have a mixed signal in how we are supposed to respond to those moments.  It used to be “love is love.”  It’s not my place to say anything.

Then we moved to silence is violence, so you have to say something.  Now everyone is walking around on eggshells afraid to talk to anyone.

In our passage this morning we are going to see a real-life example on how to navigate those types of conversations.  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 4, verse 8:

1 Corinthians 4:8, “8 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you!” 

In verse 8 the Apostle Paul is being a little cheeky, so let’s draw out some context.  1 Corinthians is written by the Apostle Paul.  In chapters 1-2 we see quarrels and conflict.  In chapter 3 we see the quarrels and conflicts are because of spiritual immaturity in the Corinthian church, so that in chapter 4 the Apostle Paul begins to confront some of that spiritual immaturity with a little sarcasm.

The Corinthian church was so impressed with their titles, wealth and education, that it was difficult for them to take direction from the Apostle Paul, so that verse 8 is essentially saying, “I wish you were actually as great as you think you are.”

Have you been in those types of conversations?  You are at a work meeting, a social engagement and people can’t stop talking about themselves, their accomplishments, their vacations, their children, their hardships?  It’s always about them.

What do you do in those moments?  Do you just grin and bear it?  Do you speak up and say something?  Do you walk away and tell someone else, “This person is a real jerk?”

In verse 8 the Apostle Paul is a little cheeky with them.  The Corinthian church was impressed with themselves, so the Apostle Paul says, “I am sorry I didn’t realize how amazing you were!”  Now if he stopped there that wouldn’t be healthy but he keeps going.  Let’s look at verse 9:

1 Corinthians 4:9, “9 For I think, God has exhibited us, the apostles, last of all as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to mankind.”

In the context of the passage, the Corinthian church was being influenced by what’s called an “Over Realized Eschatology.”  Write that in your devotional.  Over realized eschatology simply means there will come a day when Jesus will reign on earth as King and the Corinthians are living as though that has already taken place.

There will be a day when Jesus puts an end to evil, sickness, poverty and suffering, but that day isn’t today.  That’s why those people on television tell you to pray more, believe more, give more because in Christ, we reign with Christ, but not yet to its fullest measure.  Does that make sense?

This is why the Apostle Paul pivots to the apostles in verse 9, “men condemned to death.”  The word “spectacle” in the original language is the word “theater.”  It’s as though the life of the apostles have been put on display for hardship and suffering for all to see.

There will come a day when every injustice will be taken into account, every tear will be wiped, bodies made whole, sickness removed but that day isn’t today.  Otherwise we who are in Christ would be devastated when we walk through hardship and trials?  It’s likely why many of us are confused when we go through trials and difficulty.  We are working toward heaven on earth but it hasn’t happened yet!  Look at verse 10-11:

1 Corinthians 1:10-11, “10 We are fools on account of Christ, but you are prudent in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are without honor! 11 Up to this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed and roughly treated and homeless.”

First, I love that the exchange isn’t a “gotchya” one liner on a Facebook post!  The Apostle Paul loves the Corinthian church.  He calls them his beloved, therefore, he takes time to work through their error.

The Corinthian church wanted to be perceived as wise and prestigious but the Apostle Paul writes, “No, we who are in Christ, are fools for Christ!”  The Corinthian church wanted to be thought of as strong, but the very fact that we have turned to Jesus is because we are weak.

The Corinthian church wanted to be thought of us distinguished but our culture is never going to be impressed lives that are committed to Jesus.  We’re never going to be honored in the work place for our commitment to God’s Word.  We’re never going to be esteemed for being in awe of God’s glory.  It’s because following Jesus was never meant to be the fast track to comfort, popularity, and privilege.

This has been one of the hardest parts about moving into this new space in Austin, TX.  We love the lights, we love the design.  It’s a reflection of God’s beauty, so we wanted to put time and thought into the space we meet but at the same time we also knew this new space was going to feed cultural desires of comfort, accomplishment and privilege.

We used to spend an hour sweating before the worship service on Sundays in Austin, TX.  We set out chairs, we put up speakers, we ran cable and we loved it!  It was hard but we loved it!  Now we show up late on Sunday mornings in Austin, TX.  We complain about coffee flavors.  We walk past trash on the floor.  What happened!

We used to sit in plastic chairs that creaked.  Now we spill coffee and just leave it there.  Like we have a professional staff that exists to clean up after us.  We use to be happy if on a Sunday morning we got 10 minutes of conversation with someone before we had to stack everything back into a trailer.  We assumed we had to share a meal if we wanted to build relationships together.  We assumed it was going to take effort, flexibility and intentionality.  Now we lead off with this overall attitude, “It would be better for me if it was Tuesday at 2:15pm because that’s what works for my schedule.”  What happened?

Is that the pandemic?  Is that our selfishness?  Someone said last week, “It’s because we meet in a shopping center with businesses, so now we show up as consumers?”  I don’t know, but look at verses 12-13:

1 Corinthians 4:12-13, “12 and we labor, working with our own hands; when we are verbally abused, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we reply as friends; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.”

The word “labor” means to sweat, so as to work unto weariness.  The word “persecuted” means verbal and physical harm.  The word “slander” means to be made the object of outrageous accusations, and you keep going!  But somehow in our day, self-included, we experience the slightest difficulty and we assume the Lord has abandoned us!  How did that happen?

Listen to me, it’s possible you might be thinking, “Michael, the passage is speaking about apostles.  We’re not apostles.  We’re just regular followers of Jesus.”  You’re right.  The passage is describing apostles so as a follower of Jesus in 2023 our lives shouldn’t look just like this passage but there should be some similarities, right?

Luke 9, Jesus says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me.”  That sounds like some difficulty.  Galatians 2, “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”  It’s not about us.  It’s about Jesus.  The One who lived a life a suffering and hardship.  The One who was mocked and despised.  The One who was betrayed.  The One who was spit upon and reviled but didn’t revile in return.  It’s not about us, it’s about Him!

This language “scum of all things” is like the leftover trash at the bottom of the barrel, so that the Apostle Paul’s outlook on life is we follow Jesus and we we’re not shocked when the world doesn’t applaud our efforts.

Last week, I shared that our family fostered a 7-year old boy and someone brought false charges of physical abuse toward our family, so that our immediate thought was, “Lord, we were trying to help people.  Where are you?”

I mean, it’s incredibly offensive when investigators show up at your house to interview you, your children, record the interview and have you sign legal documents of the interview.  It was offensive and God’s Word cries out to our soul, “Yeah, we labor, we sweat, and we endure for God’s glory!”

When you go to work tomorrow and you hear people mocking the name of Jesus.  We don’t shrink back.  We labor, we sweat and we endure for God’s glory.  When you share your faith and people laugh at you, we don’t quit.  We labor, we sweat and we endure for God’s glory.  When we fight for our marriages and it gets difficult, when we fight for our children and it gets difficult, when we fight for the conviction the Lord put in our heart; we labor, we sweat, and we endure for God’s glory.  You with me church family?  Look at verses 14-15:

1 Corinthians 4:14, “14 I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”

I love that the Apostle Paul reminds them they are “beloved children.”  Do you see that at the end of verse 14?  Sometimes we assume strong words are to be hurtful but the Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian church, “They are loved.”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Strong words produce soft hearts and soft words produce hard hearts?”  We don’t want to be so soft with our words that people are unclear as to what was being said, right?

It’s why the Apostle Paul reminds Corinthian church in verse 15, “You have countless tutors in Christ, but you don’t have many fathers in Christ.”  The word “tutors” in the original language was that of a pedagogue.  It was someone who simply attempts to transfer information as an educational tutor.

In addition, the Apostle Paul writes, “You have countless pedagogue.”  You have thousands of people who can share educational information about Jesus and His Word but that’s not what describes our relationships with one another in the body of Christ, right?

We’re not here to transform information about Jesus and His Word.  We’re here as “spiritual mothers and fathers.”  Do you see that in verse 15?  We all have parental gaps in our childhood, right?  None of us had 100% perfect parenting, therefore, as adults we still have those parenting gaps and in Christ we don’t want to avoid one another or yell at one another but instead help shore up those gaps in one another, so that we spiritually father and mother one another.

That’s why we are pressing into “Build and Belong” this year.  The whole heart attitude toward “build and belong” is to become spiritual fathers and spiritual mothers to one another, so that we grow and mature.  Look at verse 16:

1 Corinthians 4:16, “16 Therefore I urge you, be imitators of me.”

In verse 16 the Apostle Paul says, “Watch me.”  Paul wasn’t even physically present.  Paul wasn’t married and established.  Paul wasn’t eloquent and sophisticated.  Paul didn’t have biological children, yet Paul calls out to the Corinthian church, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

It’s possible you are thinking, “As a spiritual mother or father, I don’t know enough.  I don’t have enough ability.  I don’t have enough time.”

A spiritual mother or father is simply taking an interest in who people are in the local church.  It’s resisting the temptation to keep people at a distance and it’s “sharing meals with one another.”

As we share meals with one another it gives us a chance to get to know one another, encourage one another and maybe have hard conversation but it isn’t to shame but to admonish one another so that we might mature in Christ!

I know that makes many of nervous, so let me give you some examples.  These last few months I have been gathering men in our church family to meet every other week and in one group our primary focus in our time together is to share our life story.

It’s been so powerful to hear men sharing their life story and then other men speaking into their life.  Men saying things like, “I don’t want you to miss God’s faithfulness in your life.  I don’t want you to miss how you persevered through that challenge.”

There are times when one of our men have been stuck and they can’t see why this challenge keeps popping up in their life, so these other men, as gently as possible will say things like, “Do you think it’s possible it might be this area of your life?  Do you think it’s possible you could press in more in this area of your life?”

It’s not perfect.  Sometimes we need a re-do on how to father and mother one another but I think our culture today, now more than ever, is looking for those types of relationships in the body of Christ.

We’re not looking for people who are perfect.  We’re not looking for people who have all the answers.  But we are looking for people who are locking arms with other people as we figure what it looks like to follow Jesus.  Let’s look at verse 17:

1 Corinthians 4:17, “17 For this reason I have sent to you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach everywhere in every church.”

Timothy wasn’t Paul’s biological child.  Timothy was someone who had spent time with Paul, watched Paul, learned from Paul, and now sent by Paul to the Corinthians to get physically involved in the life of the Corinthian church.

When I think about our church family I think of our elders; Jac Greene, Dustin Rogers, Roberto Moctezuma.  They aren’t perfect.  You are going to see flaws in their life.  But they love Jesus.  They love praying for you.  They love serving you and sacrificing for you.  Open your life to them.

I think of our ministry leaders like Mindy Honcoop , James Gordon, Jon Anderson, Holly Dennis, Russell Irby, Amanda Greene.  Again, they aren’t perfect.  You are going to see flaws in their life.  But they love Jesus.  They love wrestling with what it means to follow Jesus.

As your pastor, I would say, “Imitate them.”  Open your life to them.  Spend time with them.  I have known them to be a people who are tough with their words but they are also a people who are tender with their words, so that together we can mature and grow in Christ.  Let’s look at verses 18-21:

1 Corinthians 4:18-21, “18 Now some have become arrogant, as though I were not coming to you.19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant, but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God is not in words, but in power. 21 What do you desire? That I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness?”

It’s possible you can read verse 21 with some hesitation, but the reference to a rod is a metaphor.  I don’t think he was walking around swinging a stick but so as to say, “I have been strong with my words but I could be stronger.”  He doesn’t want to be stronger.  He wants to see soft hearts turn to Jesus in repentance.

That’s our ultimate hope as a church family in north central Austin.  It isn’t that we are relying on the spiritual mothers and fathers of our church family to shore up what is lacking in our character.  Our ultimate hope is to be a people who point one another to Jesus over and over and over.

It’s great when we have spiritual mothers and fathers who take an interest in our life.  What a blessing it is to have others we can follow in the Lord!  What a blessing to have others we can ask questions about culture, politics, parenting, marriage, finances, and how God’s Word shapes those areas of life.  What a blessing!

But our ultimate hope is that through faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection we are forgiven of our sin, we are clothed in His righteousness, we are indwelled with the Holy Spirit, we are reconciled to God.  That’s our ultimate hope!

We might go astray in our thinking, but because we are in Christ, He will draw us back to Himself.  We might get distracted by the culture of this day but because we are in Christ, He will draw us back.  We might lack spiritual mothers and fathers in our life for a season, but we will always have Jesus, therefore, lift your eyes to Him this morning.

Jesus is the One who carries us through our hardship.  Jesus is the One who gives us the perseverance to endure.  Jesus is the One who takes our death at the cross.  Jesus is the One who conquers the grave.  Jesus is the One who removes the sting of death.  Jesus is the One who clothes us in His righteousness.  Turn to Him.

If you’ve never trust in Jesus.  Do that today.  Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord.  Believe in your heart that Jesus conquered death.  Talk to me or to the people at the back for prayer.

As our worship team comes to the stage to lead us this morning, I want us to close with some questions.

Passage:  1 Corinthians 4:8-21, “Fools for Christ.”

Reflect:   What does it look like to live for Jesus in our culture today?  What would it look like to be a spiritual mother or father to someone else?

Repentance:  Turn to Jesus.  Confess to Jesus.  Ask for His help.

Rejoice:  By grace, through faith, in Jesus, He calls you His.  People can say what they want about you but Jesus calls you His.