I Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. NLT
These are lyrics to a song I wrote many years ago. I knew they were important to me then. It was a time when my identity with Jesus was just becoming clear to me and I was so aware, even embarrassed, about what I didn’t know. All these years later, events have turned those old words into a treasure to remind me God is still “looking” out for me. I am a new widow. Jesus has provided an explosion of love through family and friends to help me see myself in this puzzling new role. There is a new reality in that mirror that is critical for me to see right now.
In the mirror I see
Two eyes looking back at me.
Two eyes trying to see
A picture of what I can be.
That is the “flesh” part of life. I’m trying to see a “picture of what I can be” without Ken in that mirror but my reflection is clouded with tears…thank God the song goes on…
Won’t you picture God for me my friend?
Won’t you be my mirror when I pretend?
Won’t you help me to see?
There truly is something more than “flesh.” There is a Spirit of Life that knows I can’t see myself clearly since the death of my husband. I need someone to “help me to see.” That is very real right now. In the midst of unmeasurable pain and grief I have family and friends who are here when my tears distort almost everything I see. Their physical help, prayers and tenderness are helping me begin to glimpse a new “picture of what I can be.” I may never remember all they’ve said and done but I will certainly never forget their willingness to “picture God for me,” sometimes unbeknownst to them. They are showing me the Spirit of Life that assures me there is enough strength, even in grief, to honor the two most important men in my life, Jesus and my husband Ken.” I’ve spoken that phrase many times in the last few days. One friend responded with “one gave His life FOR you and one gave his life TO you.” That’s a God-given truth I can “live” with. Alleluia!
I Corinthians 3:7 It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. 9 For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building….21 So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, 23 and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. NLT
This image of how seeds sprout is a visual object lesson of the truth of this passage. Growth begins with a small kernel of life locked within a hard outer shell. You could be forgiven if you looked at that unsprouted seed and thought it was just a small pebble. That would be a sensible conclusion because there are some things only life can confirm. Without planting and water that is all that seed could ever be.
Paul describes the growth of life: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” Growth reveals what was hidden in that hard shell is the power of life only God can release. That broken shell will ultimately fall away as the “spout” grows but will always be the primary evidence that confirms God can produce new life from hard cases.
“And you are God’s field. You are God’s building…So don’t boast about following a particular human leader. For everything belongs to you— whether Paul or Apollos or Peter, or the world, or life and death, or the present and the future. Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Acts 3:18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. ESV
These Third Chapters have each provided a golden thread to be woven into the fabric of daily life. Long before there was a New Testament there was a golden thread woven into garments for ministering in the Holy Place. “They hammered out thin sheets of gold and cut strands to be worked into the blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen—the work of skilled hands.a“ Today’s golden thread is the Good News of repentance: “that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”
“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?b” You are now that Holy Place! Who could imagine the tarnish of sin could not only be blotted out through contact with Jesus, but that repentance might become the golden thread that turns daily life into your garment of ministry?
a Exodus 39:3 NIV.
b I Cor 6:19 NLT
√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
NIV…2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began…10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
¶ Who would ever imagine the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” might be Paul’s testimony “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” God has taught this teacher, who dedicated so much of his life to knowing and obeying the law, a powerful truth about human nature: words can be used to target changing the listener’s convictions instead of their hearts. Human nature is still about the law and “wise and persuasive” words can still become an easy substitute for the reality of renewal. Paul chose to avoid those persuasive words “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
¶ Here’s the big word for the day – litigious: unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes.
¶ I’ve recently become sensitized to how important Paul’s words are to life today. The airways are filled with persuasive hot-button words about laws, politics and current events. It’s important to remember those words have power designed to influence convictions and distract but it’s only the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” that changes hearts. We are not renewed by the words we hear or even by our deeply-held convictions. We are renewed by our relationship to Jesus “so that [our] faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”
¶ “These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”
I Corinthians 1:18 I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. 19 For God says, “I will destroy all human plans of salvation no matter how wise they seem to be, and ignore the best ideas of men, even the most brilliant of them.” 20 So what about these wise men, these scholars, these brilliant debaters of this world’s great affairs? God has made them all look foolish and shown their wisdom to be useless nonsense. 21 For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God through human brilliance, and then he stepped in and saved* all those who believed his message, which the world calls foolish and silly. [TLB]
The Jewish mindset was confidence in the law. Jesus couldn’t be the Messiah because his death on a cross marked him as a law-breaker cursed by God [see Deuteronomy 21:23]. The cross was “useless nonsense” to them.
The Greek’s idea of God was a just and impartial ruler that remained detached from the emotions and influence of his creation. Therefore the idea that “God the Son” would suffer on a cross to save so many seemed “foolish and silly” to them.
Isn’t it interesting that the cross was the stumbling block to salvation for each of those polar opposite ideas? “God in his wisdom saw to it that” the cross could become a bridge. “When they hear that Jesus died to save them” they each have the same opportunity to “recognize this message as the very power of God.” Even polar opposites can be united through the power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ because God *loves them all enough to save them.
I Corinthians 12:12 Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ…14 Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part…17 Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? 18 But that isn’t the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. [TLB]
“Our Maker gives assignments to people, “to each according to each one’s unique ability.” As he calls, he equips. Look back over your life. What have you consistently done well? What have you loved to do? Stand at the intersection of your affections and successes and find your uniqueness.” Max Lucado – Cure for the Common Life
Finding out which “part” of the body of faith you are can be challenging and confusing. Churches recognize that and try to help offering “find your Spiritual gift” classes. The intimidating thing about those classes is our mind goes first to the “highlight’s” list: preaching, teaching, healing, discernment and maybe even the grand service of the mission field. That’s a big list that most of us are not quite able to see ourselves in. Instead our choices become the confusing: “I don’t fit into any of those” or the challenging “I should.” Those are unworthy and limited choices that have nothing at all to do with the truth in I Corinthians.
Therein lies the beauty of that wisdom from Max Lucado. It takes every “part” to complete the body. Any gift put together with the body and your love of Christ is vital to complete his image. I’ve seen the love of sewing, knitting, artwork and even technology elevated to become valued gifts in the body of Christ. They become the eyes and ears of the image of Christ in the church and are gap fillers for the world outside to see as well. Those may seem to be unlikely gifts but when dedicated to Christ they have Spiritual power to draw others into the body too. Isn’t that the whole point of spiritual gifts?
Don’t waste another minute on discovering where you don’t fit! Look for that “intersection” Lucado speaks of in your life as a believer. Then consider this: God has given you that “gift” to make you a perfect fit for the body of Christ. “He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it.
1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are a temple [sanctuary] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? NASB
The word [sanctuary] was the footnote next to the word “temple” in the verse but that word is my inspiration. I did a painting last summer for our church and titled it Sanctuary. It’s quite large – about 52” wide by maybe 36” tall. It’s a painting for both decoration and function. It protects the large TV screen in the fellowship room…more importantly it’s a message painting.
Sanctuary can be hard to find in the big picture of life. Do you see the cross? The cross is the path. Look for sancTuary where the living water, the cross, the open door and the sun all come together and reveal the secret. Expand the image and look more closely and you’ll see the “secret” of sancTuary, ΙΧΘΥΣ, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior. See it?
Sanctuary is a beautiful promise God has provided for the big picture of your life. But wait there’s more! 1 Corinthians 3:16 goes beyond the promise of safety to an incredible blessing of assurance if you’ve found the “secret” of sancTuary. “Do you not know that you are a temple [sanctuary] of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Your life IS the sanctuary [temple] God has chosen to live in! Live big!
1 Corinthians 2
• 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
• 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
• 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
If you’ve been a believer in Christ more than 5 minutes you’ve heard about sharing your faith with others. God has become part of your life. He’s no longer out there in some vague cosmos, he’s changed your mind! That’s an exciting and real process that barely has words to describe it. This is where you get to raise your hand in agreement with Paul, “I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.”
It’s scary stuff to speak [or write] about our faith because our spirit knows the reality of our thoughts and our merely human judgment finds it so easy to put information ahead of transformation. Paul’s words are both challenge and assurance to us.
Our words don’t have to be “wise or persuasive” but they do have to reveal God’s power to combine human wisdom with the work of his Spirit. That’s what makes them testimony and gives us the assurance that the “mind of Christ” is being created within us.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’…
Don’t be fooled into believing any details of the birth of Jesus were God’s last ditch effort to provide a place for him because there was no room in the inn. That stable and food trough became the sacred space, the temple, where the needs of the people and the holiness of God finally came together.
“God did this so that they [we] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…” This is the reality of temple building and Advent; it’s not a blueprint of a grand structure that will save us. It’s God’s intervention into our daily lives that fills a sacred space within us where our needs and his holiness can finally come together.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own. I Cor 6:19
44b…If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being;” the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
1 Corinthians 15
Remember this saying? You never get a second chance to make a first impression? Our first impression of life happened when God picked up a handful of dust and “The first man Adam became a living being.” It was a dramatic miracle of life that became a dramatic loss when broken and banished became “natural.” Fast forward to a much later time; a world filled with people who carried that same first impression of loss. “The spiritual did not come first, but the natural.”
God placed The Advent in that cradle long ago as a sign of faith in his creation and to reveal his plan to restore the miracle of that first creation. A baby would show the reality that new life is dependent on time, growth and nurture. This baby, “the last Adam, a life-giving spirit” would be our second chance to overcome that first impression of broken and banished…”and after that the spiritual.”