Summary: Utiilizes a transistion from Paul to James to discuss congregational unity.
January 18, 2004
Please join me in a word of prayer. “Heavenly Father, please open our ears that we might hear, open our eyes that we might see your miracles in our life each and every day, open our hearts that we might love one another. Finally, Heavenly Father, open our hands that we might serve. Amen.”
Remember this as kids… “Nanny, nanny – sticks and stones can hurt my bones, but words can never hurt me…” This is one of those passages within the Bible, where we seem to have the church in Corinth asking some really, so Paul thinks, dumb questions in a letter they have written to him. Being the good pastor he is he answers their questions with great patience.
Paul wrote the letters to the church in Corinth to correct some misgivings and erroneous practices. Sounds like from the definitions we still need some help defining what a Christian should be.
Also, Paul was answering specific questions posed by the Corinthians in a letter they had written him. His responses start in 7:1:”Now for the matters you wrote me about….” And continues in 8:1: “Now about food sacrificed to idols…” And it concludes with the last verse of chapter 13: “And now I will show you the most excellent way…” So the people of Corinth had written Paul a letter asking him to expound upon some questions to provide insight to them. Paul is trying to set the record straight. But look at what he is addressing. He is talking in chapter 7 about marriage, chapter 8 about food and in chapter 12 about spiritual gifts. None of these have to do with the great commandment of Jesus Christ of Matthew 28: 19 where Jesus told the disciples to “…go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
We worry so much about the trappings of Christianity, instead of what being a Christian means.
This morning we are going to take on not only the verses in Corinthians but also some in James. Let’s now look to James 3: 13 – 4:3.
Join with me as we read.
Over the centuries we have had problems defining Christianity, and we still do for that matter. Here are some definitions I found recently:
Nobody can teach you how to be Christian – you have to learn it on the job.
A Christian is like ripening corn; the riper it grows the more lowly it bends its head.
A Christian must carry something heavier on their shoulders than chips.
Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual need of their neighbors.
Christian names are everywhere; Christian people are very rare.
If a one cannot be a Christian in the place where they are, they cannot be a Christian anywhere.
We find James trying to wrestle with some of these definitions in the passages we read. There was conflict and dissention within the church in Jerusalem, and James was addressing that issue in his letter.
As you know there are several people in the New Testament named James. Two of the most famous are James, the son of Zebedee, one of the brothers and then here we have the brother of Jesus. I don’t know about you, but this James has always had a special place for me. Being the brother of Jesus sets him apart for me, allows him to grab my heart in a special way. Now this is not necessarily Biblically based, but it for me is emotionally based. You know what I am saying, it’s like there is something more connected with the brother of Jesus.
Anyway, to keep the basics in front of us, let’s look at chapter 4 verse 1. It says the dissention without comes from false motives within. Now let me say that again… because if you take nothing else from here this morning take this… “dissention without comes from false motives within.”
What happens in our relationships – in the church, our families, at work, in the civic clubs – all comes from struggles within. Let’s again look at this together. So we understand, the writers of these letters and books, didn’t divide them into chapters and verses, that was done much later. So just because things are in different chapters of a “book” doesn’t mean they are different thoughts. Okay, let’s together read chapter 4, verse 1: “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?...” In other words, there is something in you which is causing yourself to destroy relationships outside of you.
Earlier in this passage there is reference to “wisdom”…that is “wisdom” given to certain people. There was a belief that certain people had been given a certain understanding from God. That God had spoken especially to them, had revealed to them a special truth, and it was something only they could know. That somehow God had set them apart. Similar to the discussion of Paul in dealing with the importance of all the gifts each of us possess. That it takes all of us to make up the body of Christ.