When we are cursed, we bless….

I Corinthians 4

The Romans were masters in propaganda. They loved to display power, might, and glory to remind the people of their greatness. In fact, after military victories, the Roman Generals would return to the capital city in a triumphant parade. These events were actually called a ‘triumph’.

In the days before the news media flashed pictures of battle and victories around the world, this was how people back home knew for sure their generals had won.
And so the generals and rulers of Rome would parade their greatness and splendor through the streets of Rome along with the spoils of war they had secured. At the end of the parade would be the weary gang of prisoners the Romans had conquered and captured. The day would usually end with these prisoners being sold into slavery or killed in the arena for sport (Wright 48).

In chapter 4, Paul uses this picture to show the Corinthians what the life of an Apostle is like. He is once again addressing the rivalry and animosity within the Corinthian church, with different teachers and speakers claiming that their wisdom makes them ‘rich’ or even ‘kings’. (Vs. 8-13)

Who does Paul identify himself with in the picture of the parade (vs. 9)? Why would he do this?

Do you sense a hint of sarcasm?

Verses 11-13 really jumped out at me this morning…

And what does it mean for us today to imitate Paul? (vs. 16)

For a great commentary on this passage, check out “Paul for Everyone: I Corinthians” by NT Wright.


Wisdom and Following

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God's deep secrets. 11 No one can know a person's thoughts except that person's own spirit, and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit. 12 And we have received God's Spirit (not the world's spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

I love these thoughts. God's very Spirit - the Spirit that breathed life into Adam and Eve, the Spirit that Jesus breathed onto/into His disciples, the Spirit that filled the writers of Scripture - dwells in us. We have God's Spirit speaking life and wisdom into our lives. Discerning the sound of His Spirit takes time, but we know through the teachings of the NT that the Spirit lives within us. I believe when we hear and respond to the Spirit in our lives, the Spirit's voice becomes louder and clearer to us. And when we hear and ignore the Spirit, that voice becomes softer and more distant to us. Are you listening and responding to the Spirit in your life?

Pam Smith made a great comment in response to Jared's post yesterday. If you haven't read it, go back and read it now. Chapter 3 is for us. Here's the deal - Paul preached Christ, I (Matt) preach Christ, Jared preaches Christ, Don preached Christ - we are all pointing people to Christ alone, not us. I do not want any followers because I will only let them down. I want to lead people to Christ - He is the only One worth following. Pam...great thoughts - thanks for the reminder.

Any other pieces of this passage jump out at you?


Who are you following?

I don't know about you all, but I had to read this chapter a couple times to start to grasp it.  (perhaps it's due to the strong doses of allergy meds I'm on!)  It helped me to read a more contemporary translation, then go back to the NIV again.  Any way, here's the two sections that caught my attention:  vs. 11-17 & vs. 27-31.

In verse 17 specifically, Paul talks about how he was sent to be a messenger, a preacher, but not to have a following.  I think this is a struggle that everyone has had at one point in time--the fine line between respecting the preacher or teacher in their life without "following" them or putting them up on a  pedestal.  I've seen time and time again people's faith shattered because they put too much faith in a person.  And while, yes, leaders in the church are called to a high standard, they are humans with flaws who will experience failure.  When we loose sight of their humanness and focus only on their wisdom and teaching, forgetting that it comes from God in the first place, we will always be disappointed.   I also believe that this happens to Satan's great delight for it opens the door to dissension and confusion.  Each time I have witnessed a similar situation, my heart has broken for the person, the leader and the church.  I absolutely beleive that it's important to find teachers and preachers that we can trust to share God's Truth with us and that we respect as Wise in God and His Word.   But we always need to be mindful that we are trusting and following Christ first, not the messenger.

Let me share verses 27-31 from The Message: "27 Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, 28 chose these "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies"? 29 That makes it quite clear that none of you can get by with blowing your own horn before God. 30 Everything that we have - right thinking and right living, a clean slate and a fresh start - comes from God by way of Jesus Christ. 31 That's why we have the saying, "If you're going to blow a horn, blow a trumpet for God."

In children's ministry we want young ones to understand that they, too, can be prepared and used by God.  We look at people like Moses, David, & Joseph.  Ordinary people that God worked in and through to do extra ordinary things.  That's the same thing that these last verses of today are talking about.  God chooses us plain people, even messed up, flawed people,  so that when He does something amazing, others have to know it's from God because we are not remarkable enough to accomplish it on our own.  I love that!  If those are the job requirements, I'm perfectly suited--I'm yours God!  

I encourage you to do as I have this morning and think about the times God has used you in all of your weakness and failures to bring glory to His name.  Think about it, then Thank Him.