So about three weeks ago we had an eclipse. Do you guys remember that? How could you not remember that right? I mean we had a wide range of emotions in people over that moment, everything from excitement, to fear that the world would end. We had people driving all over the country to see it, to people really trying to figure out if their pets would go blind if they let them outside. We had weeping news casters and terrified children, but we all got through it somehow right? As we got closer to the big moment, my children started asking me questions about it…what will it look like? Will we survive? Is the world ending? Will we go bling by simply walking outside? Will our min pin Toby make it through this moment, and I just had to take a deep breath and walk remind both them and myself that we had one of these in 1979 and well, I lived to tell the tale as did their mommy and countless others…so we are going to be ok. One thing that was really interesting that made me think of Paul and this letter a lot was the eclipse glasses that everyone was buying. Everyone wanted to see the eclipse but apparently and again forgive my sarcasm…it’s not good to stare directly at a 10 billion degree burning fire ball for a long period of time. Thank you for filling us in on that one scientists! But everyone was buying the glasses or making something so they could see the eclipse well. As I stood outside my home risking blindness and possible death with my family watching the eclipse through cloud cover I had a couple thoughts. First things are never quite as exciting as we think they are going to be, I mean Trey was terribly depressed at the Solar Eclipse’s overall performance…but there was something about those glasses, and how everyone wanted them. In so many ways this is what Paul was trying to do with Corinth and all of us. He wanted us all to put on a special pair of glasses too. But these glasses would allow the young Christians in Corinth and all of us to view life through a very special lens. That lens is the Gospel. I don’t know if you have picked up on that, but that really becomes the theme of everything we do, and everything Paul tries to point to…its Jesus, a blood stained cross, and an empty tomb. This is what I want you to see today…if you are not blind from the eclipse that is. Paul walks them through all aspects of life and church and says, hey we need to view life, and all these situations through the Gospel. As the letter starts to wind down, Paul goes over the idea of Christ crucified and resurrected…and continues to explain what this Christian life is all about.
1 Corinthians 15:1 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time — this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand 2 and by which your life has been saved. (I’m assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you’re in this for good and holding fast.) 3 The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; 4 that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; 5 that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, 6 and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); 7 that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; 8 and that he finally presented himself alive to me. 9 It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don’t deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God’s church right out of existence. 10 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. MSG
You know it’s hard to believe, but today is the day that we are closing down our summer series and personally I’m sad to see it go! First it really lets us know that summer is winding down on us faster than we all would probably want, but maybe more important to me is that I just love our time walking through scripture. Now if you are keeping score at home you know that I hit on Chapter 14 last week, and today we are closing this series down, but there are still two chapters left in the book! Well today we are going to touch on these last two chapters some but I would really encourage you to read them for yourselves and see how this letter closes out because we have some important ground to cover today. Kim and I’s goal is to take a step back with you and look at what I see as the big picture of what Paul is saying to these young Christians in Corinth. Today we are really going to try to look at this letter as a whole and try to grasp the theme, or the key to the letter, because there is a pattern through out the letter that we really need to be able to grab a hold of because it changes things of us, it’s a whole new way to view life. It’s what Paul was asking all along, and it’s something we need to engage into. So that sounds like a pretty big deal right? Well let me fill you in right now on what the key to all of this really is…the key is The Gospel. If there really is a goal for Paul as he writes this letter, it’s that he wants these young Christians to view life through The Gospel…regardless of the situation. So before we walk through the pattern of Paul bringing the Gospel up and asking us to view life through it, I would like Kim to come up and walk us through an illustration and teaching on what the Gospel is.
Think of the life we could live if regardless of the situation we are in, or the challenge, problem, highlight or relationship…if we looked at it through the view point of I am loved by God. I am loved by God so much that He would send His son Jesus to this Earth to die for my sins…I have been saved! What would your life look like if everything from your morning visit to the coffee shop, to the commute to work, to your work, to your family life was all viewed through this lens of The Gospel? Paul is saying throughout this letter, that this is what it is all about. You viewing life this way regardless of the challenge.
So as we have studied this letter, I see Paul responding to challenge after challenge with The Gospel. All he really wants is for these people to start to respond to life through The Gospel and that idea has me thinking. What would our lives look like if we viewed life this way? So this is really how I would like to close out the series. What would our lives look like if we viewed every aspect of our lives through the Gospel lens? Think about this…what would your relationships look like? What would your family look like? What would your community look like? How about your work situation? What would life look like if we viewed all of it through the lens of The Gospel? I think this is the very question Paul is really asking the church of Corinth.
So we understand these people in Corinth are a bit of a mess right? I mean 14 chapters later we get it, these young Christians had their issues. They party, they still deal with idols, sex, divisions, selfishness…this church is a hot mess. It’s actually pretty awesome to bring up because for so many of us the ultimate set up for the church is that we expect it to be perfect, and that all the people inside the church will be perfect…and it just simply isn’t true. I love the way Eugene Peterson speaks to this in his introduction to Corinthians…
“When people become Christians, they don’t at the same moment become nice. This always comes as something of a surprise. Conversion to Christ and His grace doesn’t automatically furnish a person with impeccable manners and suitable morals.” Eugene Peterson
I absolutely love this statement! So many people get jammed up with Christians and won’t engage church or leave the church because they come in with the wrong idea, assuming they will see perfect people! They leave because they hear people say they love Jesus but the people still mess up all around them! Shouldn’t they have it all together? I mean they say they are Christians…No! This is such a set up for people. It shocks people to find out the people inside the church aren’t perfect…when the fact of the matter is we know we aren’t, which is why we know we need Jesus! So yes, the church people will still be messy! And we know that when it comes to this particular church in Corinth…they were the messiest. They were so good at being bad that it literally became a verb to “Corinthianize.” And all Paul really wants them to do is remember the Good News about Jesus and to respond to life that way! He wants us/them to see all of life through the lens of the Gospel. This is what is at the very heart of Paul’s message and should be central in all our thinking and motivation, Jesus, a blood stained cross and an empty tomb. Life looks different when we can keep that so central, that it literally becomes our perspective and motivation and way of living…this is what Paul is constantly trying to do with them. Their church had issues, and he would talk about each issue, and then remind them of the Gospel message in each situation. Let’s look back through some of their stuff, because hey it’s easier than looking at our own issues right?
The first big issue that Paul addresses was division in the church. People were choosing sides do you remember that? Some liked one leader and some liked another. Paul pushes in on that right away…
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” NIV
So this is not good, but it’s pretty popular even today, people get excited about one leader or speaker and start following Him, and Paul is saying this must be addressed! The church isn’t about any one person. It’s not a popularity contest! It’s about Jesus and what He did for us on the Cross. Paul says the church is a community of people united and centered on Jesus!
1 Corinthians 1:17 God didn’t send me out to collect a following for myself, but to preach the Message of what he has done, collecting a following for him. And he didn’t send me to do it with a lot of fancy rhetoric of my own, lest the powerful action at the center — Christ on the Cross — be trivialized into mere words. MSG
So this really sets a pattern we see throughout the letter, Paul shows them the issue, and then reminds them of The Gospel truth of Jesus.
The second big issue that Paul addressed is sexual immorality that is happening in the community. So yes this is a Better Together Sunday and we won’t dive into the details but basically these people are falling to sexual sin and Paul once again talks about this issue, then responds with the Gospel message reminding them of Jesus death on The Cross and how God raised Him from the grave…
1 Corinthians 6:13 …our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies. 14 And God will raise our bodies from the dead by his marvelous power, just as he raised our Lord from the dead. 15 Don’t you realize that your bodies are actually parts of Christ?…18 Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. 19 Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20 for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. NLT
So again the pattern, Paul is saying look at this issue through the lens of The Gospel message.
The third big issue was about food and really pushed into temptation, idolatry and the abuse of Grace. Basically these people struggling with the idea of who could eat what and some felt like you could eat foods that were offered to idols and some didn’t. It was a pretty big issue for them, as they were so close to idol worship in their culture and Paul once again says, people it would be so much less complicated if we could simply remember THE GOSPEL! Paul is like, hey can we remember that Jesus loved us so much that He would die for our sins, can we extend that love to others and stop over thinking this stuff? And it’s here that I see the very heart of who we are at MRC and who we want to be as we help others in Gettysburg experience Jesus…so we can argue over what we who are going to heaven can or can’t do…but there are so many who don’t yet have Jesus in their lives and we can really hurt them in this process if we can’t get past ourselves and see them through the lens of the Gospel.
1 Corinthians 9:19 Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: 20 religious, nonreligious, 21 meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists, 22 the defeated, the demoralized — whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ — but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. 23 I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! MSG
The pattern continues…a constant reminder to view life through the Gospel lens!
The fourth big issue we see is about how they were doing church. Between worship, and spiritual gifts, and who was doing what…it was getting to be a mess. Do you remember that? TJ was up here talking to us about being a body builder and how there are many parts to the body that all matter? Well people were making worship into a show. It was all about themselves. Basically it was a big, loud, distracting mess where everyone wanted the spot light, everyone needed a microphone and everyone wanted the focus on themselves, and Paul once again has to try to pull them out of self-centeredness to grasp the bigger picture which can’t happen without the love of Christ in us…
1 Corinthians 14:22 Plain truth-speaking, on the other hand, goes straight to the heart of believers and doesn’t get in the way of unbelievers. 23 If you come together as a congregation and some unbelieving outsiders walk in on you as you’re all praying in tongues, unintelligible to each other and to them, won’t they assume you’ve taken leave of your senses and get out of there as fast as they can? 24 But if some unbelieving outsiders walk in on a service where people are speaking out God’s truth, the plain words will bring them up against the truth 25 and probe their hearts. Before you know it, they’re going to be on their faces before God, recognizing that God is among you. MSG
You see it always comes back to how we view things, and Paul is trying to not just present challenges or issues but show them a better way to view life…through the lens of the Gospel. This is just another not so subtle reminder that there are other people on this planet who need to know Christ and that our actions can affect them one way or another.
So you may be wondering where this all is going right? But what does it really mean to live out or view life through the Gospel. When we look and think through the idea of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us on the Cross, and his victory over death, and that begins to soak into our hearts it’s an amazing thing…but practically speaking what does it mean to view life through a Gospel lens. Well I think to best understand that we need to understand the magnitude of the Gospel itself after all Paul says that was literally everything that Paul brought to them!
1 Corinthians 15:1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. NIV
Paul says that the Gospel is what matters, it’s the most important thing and he is urging them and us to live out a life through the Gospel. This is a life of love, and we learned all about what true love is over the past few weeks. This is a life of worship, praise, and gratitude because we have been saved. This is a life of patience and empathy for those who haven’t yet found Jesus the way that we have…and a life of understanding that other people have a story that is unfolding too. More than anything when I live life through the lens of the Gospel I will live on mission, with the understanding that every person needs Jesus in their life, and my efforts and energy will go towards understanding that in all aspects of my life. This means that what I say both in and outside of the church matters. This means that what I do inside and outside of the church matters. That will my food or drink may not have eternal ramifications those around me who are watching do so what I eat or drink actually effects the mission. This means that all lives matter and all lives need Jesus in a very real way. It’s a mindset, it’s a way of thinking that revolves around this one amazing concept…that we have been saved by Jesus and His unbelievable sacrifice for our sins. This is why people used to get so excited about this verse…and why it should stay so central to our thinking…
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” NIV
We have all sinned and we are all saved through Jesus. When we view life through this lens things are different. So I guess the question becomes this, first to you have who have asked Jesus into your hearts I want to ask you. Do you view life through the Gospel lens? Can the Gospel be seen in your relationships? Can it be seen in your home? Is it seen in your marriage or in your parenting? Can it be seen in your community? What about in your work place? What about in your actions outside of a church setting? If you view life through the Gospel you grasp the love of grace of being saved. You understand that everyone else has emotions and feelings and a story unfolding too. And you see the need of Jesus in each and every one’s lives around you. You walk in the kind of love that Ken shared with us a few weeks ago. We see a different type of action come from you one of grace, peace, mercy, empathy, and gratitude…this happens as we view life through the idea that we have been saved! So what does your life look like?
My question for the person sitting in here today who hasn’t yet asked Jesus into their heart is this…what are you waiting for? We have a new pair of glasses for you to put on today where you too can begin to live a life through the love and gratitude and joy of knowing God’s love in a very real way. If you have never or want to ask Jesus into your heart today, we would love to talk to you.
It’s time to view life through the Gospel. When we do, everything changes. This is what Paul wants for the people of Corinth, and really it’s our prayer for each and every one of you here at MRC…when you view every aspect of your life through the view of the Gospel…every aspect from your work life, to family life, to church world, to your relationships…it’s a game changer where we see the love of Christ coming out of us in every situation, and all the difficult and complex moments in life become clear, because we are viewing life through this lens. “I have been saved by Jesus and am experiencing the unconditional love and grace of our savior.”
Think about what life would look like if your first view wasn’t about you, but was seen through the eyes of the Gospel. What would your home look like? What would your friendships look like? How about your marriage or your parenting? Now, think about what a community could look like if the entire church saw life this way…wouldn’t that be fun?