Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic Four: Living Purposely.
Our reading for today: 1st Corinthians 13: 4-7, 12-13 (MsgB)
Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing Him directly just as He knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.
If you’ve been with us all these many weeks, you recall that one of the questions we asked early on in this journey was this…
So what, exactly, defines a disciple?
Over the years, I’ve always enjoyed asking pastors and church leaders how they would answer that question. Sadly, like I mentioned last time, there are many in Americanized Christianity who believe a true “disciple of Jesus” is one who attends church regularly, can quote the most Scriptures, fill in the most blanks on a bible quiz, and boldly shout down anyone in the room who says the earth might be a bit older than 5,000 years!
In some circles, if it’s not Bible knowledge that distinguishes the men from the boys, it’s theology. I’ve sat in some pastoral meetings where it became quite obvious that the one with the most degrees or the one who could spout off the most about his or her viewpoint of God was, indeed, the greatest disciple maker in the room.
As I see it, the folks in the first-century church in Corinth thought they were doing pretty well at this “discipleship” thing as well. Yet, when Paul heard some of the details of how these “disciples” were actually living out the gospel of Jesus Christ, he was just about ready to pull his hair out! Look at this shopping list of problems Paul had to address in just his first letter to the “disciples” of Corinth:
There were divisions, personality cults, and cliques.
Carnality outweighed spirituality.
Sexual perversion, fornication, incest, and adultery were commonly practiced and accepted.
Pride, worldliness, and materialism reigned within.
Church members were taking one another to court.
There was rebellion against apostolic authority.
There was a failure to discipline members who had fallen into sin.
Marital conflict and misunderstanding concerning those who were single were evident.
There were abuses of liberty.
There were abuses of God’s intended roles for husbands and wives.
They were failing to properly observe the Lord’s Supper.
There was serious perversion of the spiritual gifts.
There were also heresies concerning the resurrection.
Yikes. I wonder how many of these “disciples” in Corinth could quote God’s word on a dime and be the first one in line when it came to being highly critical of others in their midst who were not nearly as mature as them?
As I see it, Paul’s response to these frightening problems in Corinth tells us quite a lot about how he viewed successful “discipleship.” Sadly, in our generation, if we encountered a church with as many problems as the one in Corinth, many leaders today might suggest that more Bible study and verse memorization would address the problems. Or, how about if some of these troubled folks get signed up for our church’s Discipleship 101 class? That’ll fix it, right?
No. Paul made no programming suggestions at all. What he did say here in today’s passage was so unforgettable, we’re still amazed at both its power and its simplicity even to today. Let me repeat his summary statement, as we close…
Trust steadily in God,
And the best of the three is love.
My prayer: Father, forgive us as Christian leaders for taking the word “disciple” and adding so many trappings to it that it becomes so complicated that no one, myself included, could ever arrive at the goal and high standards we’ve set. Holy Spirit, empower me like Paul, to simplify “discipleship,” bringing it down to a few simple words like trust, hope, and love. For your name’s sake. Amen!
My questions to ponder: What might it look like if a church community redefined “discipleship” using simple words like the ones found in the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the troubled “disciples” in Corinth? How might a simple expression such as “Trust Steadily, Hope Unswervingly, and Love Extravagantly” help simplify “discipleship” in both my personal life and in my circle of influence; allowing Jesus to once again lead us into His definition of what a “true disciple” is?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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