1 Cor 9:19-23 (p797) August 25, 2013
I want you to try something (and if you’re like me I’m barley co-ordinated enough to do it)…Cross your arms as you normally would, now look down and see which arm is on top…half of you probably see your right arm and half of you probably see your left arm. It doesn’t really matter…
When you crossed your arms for the first time you might have still been in your play pen, and you’ve been crossing your arms the same way ever since…
Now, cross your arms again, only this time put the wrong arm on top….How weird does that feel, huh?
If I were to challenge you to cross your arms that way for the next month…could you do it? Probably…would it be difficult?...would it feel weird? You bet it would.
Here’s the point: Habits---good or bad are difficult to change…Aristotle said it best…”We are what we respectably do. Excellence is not an act…it’s a habit.”
[One of my favorite stories…I’ve told it thousands of times…shared it with our leadership and staff probably more than they’d like ….But it’s something my Dad told me...[Pretend you’re a farmer…and everyday for 30 years you get up, take your shower…eat your breakfast and head out towards the barn….every day for 30 years you walk down the same path…to the same barn…then one day you get up, take your shower, eat your breakfast and decide to go to the pond…but when you take the path its overgrown, untraveled…filled with stick tights and thorns…so you decide to go back and take the path you’ve always travelled…the one you knew so well with hopes to get to the Pond. I don’t care how much you hope or wish to get to the Pond, if you take the path you’ve always travelled you’re going to end up at the bar.]
The apostle Paul was writing to an ornery bunch, a group that found it easy to walk to the barn and argue with those who would take another path…The Corinthians would be tolerant of a man sleeping with his father’s wife (1 Cor 5:1), even proud that they were so benevolent…but this same group would argue about eating food sacrificed to idols… the art of circumcision being required for Christianity to be valid, they’d get drunk around the Lord’s table, but weren’t sure about a woman covering her head or not!
Why? Because spiritually they had crossed their arms in a certain way…and their religion had taken them down the same path over and over again…It’s the very reason Jesus describes his Kingdom as completely new…His Spirit make us completely born again…”No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matt 9: 16, 17)
I LETS CONSIDER WHAT’S OLD AND WHAT’S NEW
Listen to what the apostle Paul says in verses 19 & 20
Read! Cor. 9:19, 20 (p797)
Paul says he’s free…he belongs to no one… (We can be relatively certain at this time he’s not married ;) (All men laugh)…Paul is a Roman citizen, born that way according to Act 22:28…He was a Free Man…with the rights of a roman citizen…and those rights were many.
The right of immunity from some taxes and other legal obligations, especially local rules and regulations. The right to sue in the courts and the right to be sued. The right to have legal trial (to appear before a proper court and to defend oneself). The right to appeal from the decisions of magistrates and to appeal the lower court decisions. The right to appeal from the decisions of magistrates and to appeal the lower court decisions. A Roman citizen could not be tortured or shipped, nor could he receive the death penalty, unless he was found guilty of treason. If accused of treason, a Roman citizen had the right to be tried in Rome, and even if sentenced to death, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to die on the cross. Romans citizenship was required in order to enlist in the Roman legions, but this was sometimes ignored. No-citizens joined the Auxilia and gained citizenship through service.
Many of our Rights in America find their genesis in Roman law…Hopefully most of us won’t be arrested, but if you are then you are Mirandize…read your rights…We’re heard them on every cop show…”You have the right to remain silent…if you refuse that right everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…You have the right to an attorney if you cannot afford one…one will be appointed to you…” Do you understand these rights?
Ron White a country comedian was arrested, for being drunk in public…”He said, I had the right to remain silent…But I did not have the ability.”...Paul knew the Law…he’d studied it. He lived it diligently.
Paul isn’t talking about his freedom as a citizen…He’s talking about his freedom in Christ…He’d come to understand the truth of the gospel…and that truth set him FREE. Free from what? The rigid requirements of the Mosaic Law…do this…Don’t Do this…don’t’ touch this…wear this…sacrifice this…We know the Big 10, but Saul the Pharisee knew the appendix…He kept it zealously…faultlessly…He also knew it was impossible to be saved by the keeping of the Law. The Law could identify Sin…educate you on what God said was right and wrong…but the law had no room for error…not a way for forgiveness to come to those who broke it…Romans 3:20 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather through the Law we become conscious of our sin” (Romans 3:20) “There is no one righteous, not even one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless there is no one who does good, not even me.” (Rom 3:10-12)
In Corinthian Church there were both Jews…people of the covenant (the Laws and non Jew, gentiles…no history with God.
The Jews had a stumbling block the gentiles didn’t …it’s the same stumbling block some of us have…it’s the older brother syndrome…It’s the “I’m pretty good and obedient syndrome”. It’s the “God loves me in accordance with how hard I work and have worked for theirs syndrome…
I believe those individuals might be harder to reach then those who realize the depth of their sin. It’s easier for me to understand “Amazing Grace” because of the depth of my sin and rebellion…but for the Pharisee or law keeper, the good person…who doesn’t really need forgiveness, or as much as the woman in the dirt.
At least that’s the way many Jews thought. Paul met them at that place…he didn’t flaunt his freedom in Christ by serving bacon to them for breakfast, or a pork chop from an Apollo’s Sacrifice…He knew the law and could relate to those who knew the law…and even though he was no longer under the covenant of Law and now was under the Covenant of grace…he could meet the Israelite at the Synagogue or temple and introduce them to the real righteous one.
But please understand when someone under the law tried to make a work of the law the equal of Jesus…A non-essential the equivalent to an essential...He spoke with boldness…listen…He gets real with the Galatians.
Gal. 3: 1-5, 10-14, (p811)
I love the Apostle Paul…who has bewitched you…to trade the grace and forgiveness we have in Christ, the indwelling work of the Holy Spirit for your own futile efforts…you’ve got to be under a spell…In verse 3 he basically says, “Are you angry?”
But it’s human nature, our fallen nature to equate rewards with works…I work hard I receive a good paycheck…A good recommendation….It’s only fair…It use to be the American Way. But grace isn’t fair…it’s not built on works…it’s built on love…
But for many of us…and for the Jews in Corinth…teaching an old dog new tricks was almost impossible…almost…but Paul could say…let me tell you about a man…A Pharisee…A member of the tribe of Benjamin, A law keeper, in fact a zealot when it come to keeping the law…It drove me to persecute and kill people who went another way…And then one day I met Jesus…Face to Face. Read
I MET the Master Face to Face - Lorrie Cline
I had walked life’s way with aneasytread, Had followed where comforts and pleasures led, Until one day in a quiet place, I met the Master face to face.
With station and rank and wealth for my goal, Much thought for my body but none for my soul, I had entered to win in life’s mad race When I met the Master face to face.
I had built my castles and built them high, With their domes had pierced the blue of the sky, I had sworn to rule with an iron mace, When I met the Master face to face.
I met Him and knew Him and blushed to see, That His eyes full of sorrow were fixed on me, And I faltered and fell at His feet that day, While my castles melted and vanished away.
Melted and vanished, and in their place, Naught else did I see but the Master’s face. And I cried aloud, “Oh, make me meek, To follow the steps of Thy wounded feet.”
My thought is now for the souls of men, I have lost my life to find it again, E’re since one day in a quiet place, I met the Master face to face.
Paul’s thoughts were now for the souls of men (and women).
For the Jew and gentile alike…He was the instrument God had chosen to reach both…His heart ached for those who were lost and under the law…and His heart ached for those who were lost and had never heard of God’s covenant…
He said, “Though I am not under the law I became like one under it to win as many as possible.”
[When I was 10 years old I was burned badly…I knocked over an alcohol lamp after spilling the alcohol on my shirt…the result 3rd degree burns on about 50% of my body…3 months in St Joseph hospital…skin graft surgery….I remember people from church coming to visit me and some of them, well meaning I know now, said “We love you Ricky we know how you feel…or words close to that.” And even at 10 I thought “you’re lying…you have no idea how it feels…It made me angry.”
And then one day Mr. Bryant came to visit me…He brought an old yellow letter he’d written to his fiancé when he was stationed at Pearl Harbor. He’d been burned horribly when oil exploded in the attack…He’d even told his fiancé to find someone else…But Mr. Bryant looked o.k.…even though he had some scars…and when he got ready to leave he said, “can I pray for you” I said, “yes”. I don’t remember the prayer, but I remember after it Mr. Bryant said, “I know how you feel…and something exploded in my heart…a comfort beyond words…and for the first time I thought, “Yes you do”. And I can make it if he did.]
Paul could look you in the face and say, “I know how you feel” and then communicate the gospel in the power of God’s Sprit. The law could never communicate the grace of God…He uses people to do that…what kind of people?
II PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND WEAKNESS
1 Corinthians 9: 21, 22 (p797)
There’s a strange phenomenon that happens sometimes to people who have followed Christ for awhile….we forget where we were when He found us…listen I know God not only forgives our sins…He forgets them….(Mich 7:19). That’s something only God can do…I promise you Paul never forgot Saul…He remembered the arrogant, smug, hateful Pharisees holding the coats of those who killed Stephen…He along with them fully approving of this murder.
I’ll never, ever forget the 17 years old, High School dropout, washing dishes at the Campbell house, if he wasn’t too stoned to show up…
When Paul tells Timothy in his first letter that he was the worst sinner ever, a blasphemer, persecutor, violent man...He was remembering his Sin…His before Christ person…
I’m not sure why, but the majority of us in the church place ourselves in the strong category when we hear this text…The weird thing is that in the following chapters he says it’s those who are restricted by the law, by a works theology…those who still see sacrificed meat as something horrible (even though there are no other Gods) as the weaker brother..
In A Barna survey 77% of Americans claim to be Christians…The number one requirement for heaven…”If you’re good enough…If you act like God expects you to.”
For those in Corinth who thought like that it lead to forgetting about what worship and the Lord’s Supper was all about…caught up in themselves…they forgot about the sacrifice of Jesus.
Whose really weak…All of us…”Thorns in the flesh” people. Every single one of us who still live in this “jar of clay” called a body…it’s selfish, self centered—prone to sin….Paul in his 2nd letter to these Corinthians said, “I’m only going to boast about my weaknesses” (2Cor 12:5)….like the thorn I have in my flesh…it’s horrible, it’s something that torments me…I’ve begged God to remove it…not just once, but 3 times I pleaded with Him to take it away…But listen to God’s response to the man whose witnessed paradise…The greatest missionary of all time…the man who wrote 2/3rds of the New Testament.
2 Cor 12: 9-10 (p808)
God’s power…the power to save and transform is made perfect in our weakness…when Paul considered his weakness he didn’t do what most of us do…or think like most of us think…”O Woe is me…I’ll retreat into my own despair and discourage.. He thought….”How can I use these scars to win someone to Christ…How can I show the compassion God has shown to me to those in the same place…Those under the Law…Those who are weak…”I have become all things to all people so that by every possible means I might save some…I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I might share in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9:22, 23)
He was “ALL IN”…I want to be “ALL IN” so your sons, daughters, mates and friends will see Christ in me…in my weaknesses in my strengths…..I never want to forget that Romans 8:28 is true..
“And we know that in “all” things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Everything…”ALL” God works--- to make His people like Jesus, so that they in turn can save others.
Paul’s thoughts were now for the souls of man (and women)