Almost daily I am amazed at how words written thousands of years ago in Scripture are relevant today. In particular, I was reading through the book of First Corinthians; this is a letter Paul wrote in the late 50’s AD to a church that claimed to have a deep love for Christ but had allowed wrong attitudes about what it means to be the church take root. Paul tackles sin problems in the church at Corinth. Look at the great challenge Paul makes at the close of the letter: “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love” (1 Cor 16:13-14).
The church had apparently succumbed to a worldly way of thinking about ministry, so Paul writes, “Be on guard.” The word picture this statement presents is that of a soldier standing guard and needing to stay awake, to be alert, so that those who wish to bring harm are identified and dealt with appropriately. The church in Corinth had fallen asleep at the wheel, so to speak, and allowed their thinking and therefore their actions to be negatively affected. We, the church, need to stay awake, stand guard, and not allow our thinking and practices to wander from God’s intent.
For the purity of Christ’s church as well as the gospel message Paul declares, “Stand firm in the faith.” The church at Corinth had proven to be susceptible to false teachers and was led astray. Paul challenges them to know the true gospel and walk in it. It is a common temptation for believers to try to alter the truth of the Bible into something that pleases their palate. But, God’s Word’s transforming power is only experienced when believers submit themselves to the Spirit and conform to the parameter of safety spelled out in God’s Word
The challenge to “Be courageous and be strong” involves resisting pressure to merely mold ministry methods into the image of the prevalent culture. This is not a statement against cultural relevance, but cultural conformity. Indeed, we need to present the gospel message and ministry in a way that connects to others, but we must do so by being strong and courageously refusing to be a mere reflection of the culture in what we say and do. The world needs to hear and see the real gospel. Effectiveness necessities cultural relevance but becomes ineffective when it is merely cultural conformity. Here is a key question I believe can help us navigate these waters correctly: Is the desire to connect people to Christ driving the method or is the method driving or even changing the gospel truth? The former ought to always be our goal.
Finally, Paul writes that the church is to “do everything with love.” The church in Corinth had allowed preferences to cause division and jealousy selfishly. Such wrongful behavior by God’s people is in direct opposition to Christ’s words, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35). We don’t drift toward commitment. Or as Zig Ziglar put it: “People don’t tend to wander around and suddenly find themselves at the top of Mount Everest.” Believers have to be focused on Christ to reflect His love. Preferences about music styles and volume, sermon length and style, carpet, color, and coffee is a natural part of who we are, but when we allow our preferences to take our eyes off the main thing selfishly, it is sin. We are to know God and make Him known. This is the main thing and always trumps personal preferences for the greater good of advancing God’s kingdom.
I am so thankful Crosswinds is committed to being biblically rooted. We today, stand on the shoulders of thousands of believers who for generations have shared the love and message of Christ to our region. I trust we will honor them and most importantly Christ by studying and applying His Word to our lives. Paul encourages us: “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong. And do everything with love.” Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!
Be blessed and bless others,