Summary: A look at Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 1:10-18, emphasizing the Message and the point of the Gospel--looking to Christ--instead of focusing on our problems and issues here in this fallen world. God’s called us into salvation, how let’s give Him the Glory whi
What are you looking at?
Substance over style
Stephen H, Becker, M.Div., ULLM
St. Peter’s Lutheran Church—Evening Services
January 27, 2008; 3rd Sunday after the Epiphany
I heard a story about a woman driving alone over the Sierras on Highway 80 in the middle of the winter who ended up dab-smack in the middle of a huge winter snow storm. It was snowing so hard that it was near white-out conditions. She couldn’t see more than a foot or two in front of her car. So crawling along, she sees a snowplow and thinks, “yeah, that great luck! I’ll just follow him. The road will be clear behind him and he knows where he’s going.” So she followed the snowplow for about 30 minutes when it suddenly stopped and the driver hopped out of the cab and walked over to her car window and asked her, “Lady, where do you think you are going?” “I’m heading up to Reno and I thought if I stayed right behind you I’d be safe and I figured you know where you’re going.” The driver laughed and said, “yeah, I do know where I’m going. I’ve been plowing this same parking lot for the last 30 minutes and other than that, I ain’t going nowhere.”
My friends, do you ever feel like you’re moving in circles? Maybe running around aimlessly? Who are you following in your life? I mean, does it seem like we are that lady following the snowplow? Sometimes we have an idea, a plan, a philosophy in life, and we follow it with all we’ve got – only to find out that we’re going nowhere. And this can happen to churches too, can’t it? I mean, what are churches full of? People! A church can follow an idea, a plan, a philosophy, but ultimately it also can lead to nowhere. I mean, are you perfect? Are the members of St. Peter’s perfect? My friends, I can tell you that I am about as far from perfect as “A” is, from “Z.” So, is it possible that as individuals, and as members of a church, we are sometimes following the wrong plan, the wrong philosophy? Maybe. But there’s Good News, my friends. Our leader, our God in Heaven, will always point us in the right direction, guiding us with His philosophy, and His plan. All we’ve got to do is look for where God is at work, and join Him! Tonight, let’s take a look at how we do that. Let’s open with prayer…
The members of the church in Corinth were not perfect. As it turns out, they were like that woman following that snowplow – the people in Corinth were following a plan that was leading them nowhere. And it all came down to one thing – they were more concerned about style, than they were about substance. And that plan, that philosophy, was leading them nowhere. In our reading tonight, the Apostle Paul is literally throwing this in their face. He’s saying “what you’re doing now is dividing you, not uniting you. God gave you the faith to believe. God claims you as His redeemed children. He did this through His Son Jesus. So why are you fighting with each other? Why are you trying to out-do each other, when Jesus did it all for you? Stop fighting and know that I am God!” I talked about this a little last week as we looked at verses 1-9: these folks in the church at Corinth were busy either committing hideous moral sins or they were trying to one-up each other. Friends, that’s not what God wants us to concentrate on. God gives each believer the most wonderful gift: salvation and eternal life. Then, as saved Christians, the Lord gives us direction in our lives. And that direction not only gives Him all the glory, but it gives us the peace that comes from growing closer to God every day.
So let me ask you, in our own personal lives, and in our lives as members of God’s Church here through St. Peter’s, what is a good focus, a good philosophy as it were, for us to follow? Certainly I think you all will agree that we don’t want to be going nowhere. That’s what life outside of the Church, that’s what life outside of Christ brings us. But as Christians, as I said, we all have a God-given goal, a goal that calls us to choose substance over style.
Paul writes to the church in Corinth and says to them, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another, so that there may be no divisions among you, and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” See, there was something was wrong at the church in Corinth. Paul wanted all of them to agree with each other. But they weren’t. No divisions! Paul said. But there were. “I want you to be perfectly united in mind and thought.” But they weren’t. Something was wrong. The church in Corinth was split up into different cliques, different groups of people, and they were arguing—fighting—with each other. Paul even describes what kind of quarreling was going on: “One of you says, ‘I follow Paul;’ another, ‘I follow Apollos;’ another, ‘I follow Cephas;’ still another, ‘I follow Christ.” Each clique had their favorite pastor. One clique liked Paul, but didn’t like the others. One clique liked a man named Apollos, but not the others. Another liked the Apostle Peter, also known as Cephas. And then you had the independents - we follow Christ. What does that sound like? I mean, how much election stuff have you gotten in the mail over the last few weeks? Doesn’t this almost sound like election time, with people supporting their favorite candidates? Like little political parties going on, inside the church. It’s silly and Paul wants to send them a wake-up call. In my background in education, we call this “redirection”—Paul wants to re-direct their focus from themselves—to focusing upon what really matters in the Church—focusing upon God.