Sunday, January 3, 2016

1 Corinthians 2:2 The RESOLUTION behind all New Years Resolutions !

Have you  made any   New Year’s resolutions?  Ought you to make new year’ s resolutions?  Whatever your  opinions are  regarding this matter, there is, I believe  much merit  in thinking carefully and prayerfully  about the year ahead.  We, at Eastside Baptist Church  use most of the month of January   to do this,  culminating  our  desires and plans   for the year ahead with  a prayer week.

On a more personal level I  also wish to recommend to you  a  helpful set of questions  compiled  by  Don Whitney, which I have been using for a few years now  to  help me to get focused  on the  year ahead. Here are his  first ten diagnostic questions :

1.      What’s one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?
2.      What’s the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?
3.      What’s the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?
4.      In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?
5.      What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?
6.      What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?
7.      For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?
8.      What’s the most important way you will, by God’s grace, try to make this year different from last year?
9.      What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?
10.  What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in ten years? In eternity?

These are  all very good and relevant questions and  I  want to encourage you and I  to  put these diagnostic questions  to  good work, for we  will surely benefit  much  on a  personal and also  on  a church -corporate level  if we seek to get these things right.

There is one  problem however. We might take these questions  and treat it as a  “to do” list, and  use it as an end in itself  and become  legalistic  about it  and in the end,  loose  the joy and the heart  in it all, and worse still , give up  good resolutions such  as these.   What I want to do  with the help of God’s Word  therefore  is to  provide you with the most essential  and fundamental motivation  to keep good  going !

I will put it to you like this : We need no one less  than  Jesus Himself  to be our Motivator . 

My model for this thought  is the apostle Paul  who  himself had expressed many desires  and  goals  in the writing of His letters. The book of Acts reveals that not all of Paul’s plans  came to fruition e.g.  Acts 16:6ff, where the Holy Spirit  re-directed Paul who was desiring to go to Asia  to go to Macedonia instead. This  re-direction  by the Holy Spirit  led to the conversion of Lydia and of the Philippian jailer  and  the establishment  of the Philippian church. 
What I am saying is this; Paul had goals, ambitions and desires, but these were always subject to  the direction in which God  the Father  and the Holy Spirit and Christ  would direct him. Paul was primarily a slave  or  servant of God. God  could change his agenda at any time.    He saw himself as an apostle ( messenger)  of God  and Christ,  always led by the Holy Spirit  to  do the work to which Jesus had called him  on the road to Damascus  (Acts 9).

Paul’s  resolutions were  motivated by his deep love for Christ. A classic expression of his love  for Christ is found  in   1 Corinthians 2: 1-5, and in particular in verse 2 : “ For I decided  (NIV “resolved”) to know nothing among  you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  

Now whilst this was not Paul’s  new year’s  resolution, it was nevertheless  a fundamental resolution  which undergirded his life and  which  therefore his  motivated  his actions. This is what  I want you to  see.  Underlying our resolutions  is a primary  resolution. It may be  called “our heart’s desire” , and that heart’s desire will determine how   you apply  your new year’s resolutions.  Paul’s  one desire was Christ.  See this also in his letter to the Philippians:
·         Phil. 2: 21 : ” For me to live is Christ…”
·         Phil. 3:7-11 :

Paul’s commitment  was   driven by  the  central place that Christ occupied  in His life ! That is really the secret to making Christian resolutions that will last .  The rest of the information  contained in our Scripture  reading in  1 Corinthians 2   flows from that  primary resolution ! Let us use this  as an illustration  to show  how Paul’s love for Jesus moved his resolution to share the gospel in the  Corinthian context

1 Corinthians 2:1–5
Paul reminds them from his first  visit  (Acts 18:1-17),   when he planted this church,  on what resolutions  this church was founded ! 

First, notice  what Paul did not do in establishing this church  :
•          V.1  “ I … did not come proclaiming   to you   the  testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom …”
•          V.4   “my speech and my message  were not in plausible words of wisdom…”. Here he  basically repeats what he had already said in 1:17

What is the point that he is trying to make? Well, the Greeks   loved   wisdom …persuasive oratory. They delighted in debate and in speech contests. But Paul is  eager to make the  point that the gospel is not  primarily  about human wisdom or pervasive speech.  So, his goal was not to become better trained  as a public speaker in order that he might get through to them and  to be ‘culturally more relevant’.  The gospel of God  is about something far greater ! Do  think that Paul  did not have reasoning capacities ?  Of course   he did  (Phil 3) , but it was not this  capacity that he employed  and trusted  in, in order to plant or to maintain a church. 

Second, notice  his strategy  for establishing this  church!
•          V.3: "I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling.”
•          V.4“… my speech  and my message  were… in demonstration of the Spirit and of power"

What is Paul trying to prove here?  From a  worldly  perspective  this resolution  seems  to be a recipe for disaster .  A man  who is weak , uncertain  and trembling  must after all  have low self- esteem!   In 2 Cor. 10:10 his opponents were saying this of him: "His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak and his speech is of no account."   Evidently Paul in his person did not have a very strong, appealing appearance. In fact there may have been something  physically  wrong with Paul – something  which made him chronically weak. We have a hint of this  in  Galatians 4:13–14  where he tells us : "You know it was because of a bodily ailment [ or weakness] that I preached the gospel to you at first; and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God."

Paul wants the Corinthian Christians  to see that  they were not born out of  human strength or resolution  or  strategy. They were born out of human  weakness, but this weakness (not only in Him, but in them also)   was  used by God  to bring about a wonderful change  in the lives of  these Corinthian Christians. We  can see this in  in 1:26-29 :

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

The  end effect of  this is  that we must ask  “well if this is not of Paul… then what is it ? “ . The answer is,  this is by  the power of God!  A man or woman becomes a Christian  not because they are  persuaded by human speech or personalities. They are  not converted because they are  clever enough  to understand  the gospel.  People become Christians  when God’s power,  through the agency of the Holy Spirit  makes them alive  to see  Christ for who He really is !
And it goes further.  In this case Paul’s goal or resolution was  to restore a church  that was hopelessly divided. What must a weak  preacher do  to  bring a  divided church  back  to  its  senses? Here is Paul’s  primary resolution :

V.2  “ I decided (resolved)   to know nothing  among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
This doesn’t mean that all Paul  spoke about  was the Lord’s death on the cross. We know from his letters that he spoke  about many and practical  things pertaining to  living the Christian  life, even the things that I am encouraging you to think about today,  but  the fact remains  that  all this  was  subject to Paul’s primary  desire : His love for Christ and His  work on the cross ! 
All he ultimately did  was  related  to  bringing  people  to the  Christ of the cross.  His tent making profession by which he kept himself  financially supplied was ultimately so that he  could bring people to look at the Lamb of God. His  teaching and preaching  ultimately was  aimed to   bring  people to the  word of the cross.  His relationships  were  conducted towards that end (1 Cor. 10 :24). Even his eating and drinking was to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)
The secret of  the power  of  Paul’s message  was not  found in Paul , but  in something  external to Paul. The secret  power of the  Christian  gospel  lies not in the messenger , but in the Lord of the message. That is why Paul calls himself  an apostle (a messenger)  of Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:1).  Paul’s life changing  message of the cross  is found  in  the fact that he is   a messenger in the hand of the Holy Spirit, and therefore that message  through him  will be  a  powerful, inspired, God breathed authority that  comes   with life giving force to  its hearers. 

So,  even though Paul  was a well trained as a Pharisee, he did not allow  his  own  wisdom or the conventional  wisdom of the day  to get into the way.  All he  did was to  preach  Christ crucified,  and  thus he became  a vessel  that  the Holy Spirit  would  use so very   powerfully in His day and even today. Many people today are still converted by the words  of Paul.

I have shared this message with you  on this first Sunday in 2016  to show you two things :

1.       That it is good to make  godly resolutions  when new beginnings arise.
2.      That we need   a solid foundation  for these  resolutions  i.e. Christ at the center and the heart of our lives and therefore of our convictions. If we merely use our human willpower,  then our resolutions usually do not get very far.

Now go back to the  10 resolutions, and  humbly, and  with the help of God and rooted in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit  ask God to bless your year as you  abide in Him,  seeking to glorify Him in all that you do.

Amen ! 

No comments: