Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Who Knew?

Well it has happened again. I have been blindsided by the word of God so many times that you would think I'd be ready for it by now. Not so. Just this evening I was off to do some reading and I heard the Spirit say, "Corinthians". It seemed pretty simple and I thought that I knew what it was going to be about because of the conversation we were having throughout the day. Again; not so.

As I started into 1 Corinthians I made it past the issues of unity which were causing problems in the church and went on to the part where Paul said that he was not sent by Christ to preach with great words and wisdom (1Cor 1:17) but rather with demonstrations of the Spirit and power (1 Cor 2:4). Now these two statements I am familiar with, but it is what is sandwiched in between that really set me off. I think that before today whenever I read verse 17 I took it, glued it to a magnet and put it on the fridge. It looked good there but seemed, in my mind, to have no connection to the verses that followed it. They go on with the theme of preaching, and as it says in verse 21 God choose the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. This is where the disconnect really happened for me. It seemed a contradiction to verse 17 and I think that in my head I just chalked it up to being something that I was not understanding so I never dug deeper. What I was not understanding then has now comforted and rocked me all at the same time.

The comforting part of this is that the preaching that Paul was talking about is the preaching to the body of Christ. From verse 18 on Paul is describing why preaching with words of Godly wisdom is not meant for reaching the lost but rather for the instruction of those who have the mind of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 John 2:27, John 16:13). This is a wisdom that is beyond those that are perishing. The word says that they cannot understand it (1 Cor. 2:14), even if we dumb it down. We try to take it down a notch, but that still doesn't cut through. We try to take the Christianese out of it and it still falls flat. We preach in so many different ways to the lost when really this was meant to be used within the body for edification, encouragement, rebuke and strengthening. It is also no wonder that we are getting such watered down Christians populating our gatherings (me included). In our frantic efforts to be relevant, new or socially engaging we have forgotten that it is the power of God that saves (Rom 1:16) not our shiny faces and well meaning posturing. The really freaky thing is that we need to take us back out of the equation and allow the Spirit to put it together. Every time there is a great in gathering of souls into the kingdom it is not with a man at the helm, rather it is with a man/woman who has handed the helm to the Holy Spirit. When we work the equation with us in it, it is like doing advanced calculus by guess work. When we allow the Spirit to lead He takes us and puts us into the equation with power , direction and order, then the answer always comes out to be "God's glory".
This, I believe, is why it is so threatening to us to let this go. It so takes us out of what we can do and puts it squarely on God to accompish it. When you look at Paul's life statements you can see that he was not the impressive man of God he is so often pictured as. His life made it obvious who was at the helm. In fact he went so far as to say that any qualifications he may have had were counted by him as a pile of shit (see dung). He said it was the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ that put all his ministry together. He said it was the power of God working effectually in him that brought it about. Were we to look at his life chronologically all the arguements about ,"Well it was his submissiveness." or "He was a great man who was humble before God" and others would fall mute before the facts he declared of himself. His self declarations diminished over his life as his impact in the world grew.
The point is that we need to see the power of God engaged to see the reaping of God's glory. This all happens as we diminish. This all happens as we concede more and more that we cannot do it. Not even a little bit. Jesus said without Him we can do very little......oh..no...it says we can you nothing.
I am as threatened by this as anyone else and my life is scorched by this truth as well, but it is a truth that will not go away.