Summary: Signs or benchmarks of spiritual maturity - The mature believer unites people rather than creating division.
Grow Up! - Measuring Your Spiritual Maturity
Measure #1: Are You a Uniter, or a Divider
1 Corinthians 1:10-18 – September 1, 2013
Being a follower of Christ should help us get along with others. One young lady testified to that fact when she said, “I had an uncle that I disliked so much I said I wouldn’t even attend his funeral. But now that I’m a Christian, I’d be happy to attend his funeral.”
Seriously, it sends a terrible message to the world around us when people who claim to be followers of the Prince of Peace are divided against one another.
In Bethlehem, on the very spot where they believe the baby Jesus was born, there is a 1,500 year old church -- the Church of the Nativity. And the church is cared for by monks from the Greek Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Armenian Church. The monks have divided up the care of the church between the three groups.
Christmas is a busy time in that church as people flock to see and worship at the place where Jesus was born - the child who came with angels proclaiming “peace on earth.” But after Christmas in 2011, a big fight broke out in the church. The three different sets of monks were cleaning up the church when they got in a brawl -- yelling at each other, hitting each other with brooms and fists. The riot police were calling in, and two of the policemen were injured in the fight. Evidently one of the groups cleaned a spot in the church that one of the other groups said was their area to clean.
Personally, when someone starts cleaning something that I’m supposed to clean, I’m happy to back off and let them do their thing. But it is a reminder that, as followers of Christ, we can become divided over the most ridiculous things, and make ourselves a joke in the eyes of the world around us.
A research project was done a few years back to examine the difference between churches that were thriving and growing, and churches that were stagnant or dying. And the #1 factor, the most powerful determiner of growth vs. decline was this one thing: conflict. No other factor will kill a church faster than a spirit of divisiveness.
So today I want you to understand why division is so tremendously destructive to a church family and to your personal witness and spiritual life…
• If you want to have any impact on your world,
• if you want to lead others toward Christ instead of away from Him,
• if you want to be closer to Christ yourself…
…you need to grow out of the immaturity of being a divider, and into the spiritually mature role of being a uniter.
The church in Corinth was a church that was filled with spiritual immaturity, and we don’t even get out of chapter 1 before Paul is having to deal with it. Paul says that there is “division” in the church. He uses the Greek word “schism,” which literally means “a rip or a tear.” The church is being ripped apart by this conflict. But what is that conflict?
He describes it in verse 12: “One of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ another ‘I follow Cephas,’ still another ‘I follow Christ.’” Now what was that all about?
Some followed Paul. Paul was the founder of the church, their first teacher. They might have often said, “Don’t you remember back when Paul did this or that…? He was there when the baby was born. He was there when Grandma died.” These were people who probably placed a lot of value on loyalty and tradition and relationships.
Some followed Apollos. Apollos was the eloquent preacher. He knew how to capture and thrill an audience. He made worship exciting and dynamic and powerful. He could weave a sermon that left his audience spellbound. Apollos didn’t have the theological depth of Paul - Paul had to mentor him - but Apollos definitely knew how to put on an exciting show. So he appealed to the church members who loved excitement.
Some followed Peter. Peter, unlike Paul or Apollos, had been there with Jesus. He was one of the original follower of Jesus, and was the leader of the Jerusalem church - the mother church. Peter was the guy with the great résumé, the impressive credentials. People who liked authority, who liked namedropping, who were impressed by someone’s credentials… those folks were drawn to Peter.
And we are like that today, aren’t we?
• Some want that beloved former pastor who married and buried and who knows us.
• Some want the famous TV preacher or evangelist, the mesmerizing speaker.
• Some want the guy with the résumé - the experienced foreign missionary, the seminary president.