- Sermon Notes
Mere Men No More
1 Corinthians 3:1-15
The church in Corinth was only five or six years old when Paul wrote this letter. The church was filled with young believers and so, as you can imagine, there was a lot of spiritual immaturity. This letter is filled with instruction, but also encouragement to strengthen their faith. Although, as is typical of Paul, he pulls no punches, he calls things straight out.
The problem was that there was division and strife. Different groups were forming, some saying, “We are of Paul,” others were saying, “We are of Apollos,” others were aligning themselves with Peter, and finally, some were saying that they were of Christ. But all of it was spiritually immature.
In these chapters Paul refers to three kinds of people. There is the natural man; he does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.
Then there is the spiritual man. He has received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God. He receives those things taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words because he is growing in God’s wisdom.
But also, there is the Christian who is immature in his faith. They are in Christ, but they are men strongly influenced by the flesh. Paul says they are babes in Christ. That was the problem in the church in Corinth. They were a young church with many babes in Christ.
Paul is writing to grow their faith, to bring spiritual maturity so they will be transformed from babes in Christ to those mature in faith. All fathers want their children to grow and mature. The same is true with God.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with babies. I love children and I think they are wonderful at any age. It’s such a joy to watch every aspect of their growth. Our middle daughter just had her first baby and it’s fun to watch her and her husband become so excited with everything the baby does, “She’s lifting up her head; she starting to smile.’ Jordi used to keep a little journal of all our kids’ accomplishments; taking their first steps or saying daddy for the first time.
The key is that they keep growing. Throwing them up in the air makes them squeal with laughter when they’re three, but they move from that to the high dive.
A pastor friend of mine has recently become a foster parent, along with his wife, to a little baby. He said, “How can something so cute and cuddly make such a huge, smelly mess in her diaper?”
Here’s the application. Young believers are absolutely a joy to be around. I love their exuberance and excitement for Christ, but you want them to keep growing, to keep maturing. You don’t want them to stay babes in Christ. But some people do, you would be surprised what huge, smelly messes people make of their lives because of spiritual immaturity.
I. We Need Healthy Spiritual Food
- What does it take to grow in spiritual maturity? Paul uses the analogy of food.
- In order for a baby to mature, he needs food. He starts out with milk because his system can’t tolerate anything more. But as he grows he moves to soft foods and finally to meat, potatoes and vegetables.
- In order for the mind to mature, a baby starts out with simple words, then learns to read, write, and do math problems. His mind is able to handle greater and greater challenges.
- In the same way, a spiritual baby starts out with simple things, but then needs to take in spiritual truths, spiritual thoughts and spiritual words and wisdom from God to grow into deeper and deeper maturity.
- That spiritual maturity will be seen in deeper faith, in an appetite for deeper things, in not easily becoming offended or taking things personally, by appraising the value of things spiritually, by having a heart that is thankful to God for all things.
A. Milk is a good start
- In verse 2 Paul says that he gave them milk to drink, not solid food because they were not able to receive it. Milk is not bad, it’s a great way to start.
1 Peter 2:2-3, Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.
- Paul refers to spiritual milk as the elementary principles of the faith; literally the ABCs.
- When a person first comes to Christ, we often ask them to start out by reading the gospel of John and the gospel of Mark because they get to know Jesus personally and to understand how much God loves them. There are many deeper things there, but it’s a great place to start so they can get to know Jesus.
Illus - When I first came to Christ, I was given a copy of the New Testament and I started reading in Matthew the genealogies of Jesus Christ and I thought, “Man, reading the Bible is going to be harder than I thought.”
- You don’t ask a new believer to understand the nuances of Jesus being a priest in the order of Melchizedek, for example. Nor do you have them read the visions of the prophet Ezekiel.
B. But be able to receive solid food
- When we think of maturity, we commonly think of age. In other words, the common assumption is that as a person gets older they grow in maturity. But in reality, age alone does not produce maturity.
Illus - Once there was the principle of a school who needed to promote someone into a position and selected someone who had been teaching for 10 years. Another teacher was offended that he was not selected. “I have 25 years of experience,” he said. “No,” the principal replied, “you don’t have 25 years of experience, you have one year of experience that you have repeated 25 times.”
App - Time alone does not heal a person of a hot temper, or of a catty tongue, or of an unforgiving heart, or a bossy attitude, or a bitter spirit. It takes the Spirit to do that.
- However, it’s very possible to be young and quite mature in your faith. Timothy was a young man and yet Paul entrusted him with great responsibility.
1 Timothy 4:11-12, Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.
- Paul wants them to move beyond elementary things spiritually so they will be able to receive solid food and mature in their faith.
Hebrews 6:1, Therefore, leaving the elementary teaching about Christ, let us press on to maturity…
- It’s interesting that in verse 2 Paul said he gave them milk because they were not yet able to receive solid food. A key then is being able to receive solid food.
Hebrews 5:12-13, For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.
- Those verses give us a key – we must become accustomed to the word of righteousness. That word accustomed means to be skilled or experienced.
- It’s not just knowledge, it’s the practical experience.
- This, too, is a principle of faith. By faith you believe the principles in God’s word and that He empowers them by His Spirit, so you trust those principles and those truths and put them into practice.
Illus - A new, young pastor came to serve in a church in a small town where the pastor was retiring. As he got to know the people of the town, he met an old maid who was bitter and cantankerous…
In the same way, you choose grace over and over until it chooses you; when grace becomes part of your character.
Hebrews 5:14, Solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
- In other words, as you become accustomed to the word of righteousness and take hold of spiritual thoughts and spiritual words and the wisdom of God, you can spiritually appraise all things.
- The more you understand the truth, the more you can discern that which is false.
Illus - A few years ago Jordi and I went to the Singing Christmas Tree. At one point everyone stood up and I took the opportunity to put my arm around Jordi. At first I thought, “Wow, I didn’t realize she had such a muscular arm; what triceps.” then I quickly spiritually appraised and discerned the truth…
C. Have an appetite for good food
- The word of God is often compared to food in the scriptures.
Matthew 4:4, Jesus answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
- That said, it’s absolutely essential that we have an appetite for good, healthy food. We live in a culture that in many ways is addicted to junk food and the same can be true spiritually.
Illus - Through the years I’ve known several people that absolutely will not be vegetables; that’s because they much prefer Doritos and Ding Dong’s. The same is true spiritually; some people can’t stand spiritual meat and vegetables, they prefer fast food.
Illus - I’ve often said that a pastor is like a chef, preparing a tasty meal of meat and vegetables. Nothing wrong with adding a little sauce and a touch of dessert.
Jeremiah 3:15, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.”
II. Be Careful how You Build Your Life
- Paul then goes on to explain that all those factions and divisions were spiritual immaturity because we all share the same foundation on which we build our lives.
- Verse 9 – we are God’s fellow workers, which is an amazing thought, and God is using us to build and edify those around us…
- Therefore be careful how you build, be careful how you live because we’re living before God. That’s the eternal perspective we need.
A. There is only one spiritual foundation
- There is only one foundation for the church and only one foundation for our lives, the Rock, Jesus Christ.
- This is spiritual wisdom, this is spiritual truth. There is no need for division and strife when we share the same foundation.
Psalm 133:1, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!
- The point is that when Christ is your foundation and you take hold of His words and live according to them, He causes the increase, the blessing. (Verse 6)
Matthew 7:24, “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
- Verses 12-13 – How you live matters to God and has eternal consequences. These things are spiritually appraised; discern the spiritual value of everything.
- Notice the distinction in this list in verse 12; wood, hay, and straw all burn up in a fire, but gold, silver, and precious stones will survive a fire.
- Wood, hay, and straw represent their immature, fleshly attitudes of mere men and it is nothing but the grace of God that these things are burned up.
- Verse 15 –When all is said and done in regards to how you lived your life, and all you have to show for it is wood, hay, and straw and it all gets burned up, then you’re not left with much, but at least you yourself are saved. At least you’ll have your robe of righteousness.
Illus - If your house caught fire in the middle of the night, the first thing you would want is your robe, you wouldn’t want to go out into the street in your skivvies.
- But you can build your life also with those things which are eternal; gold, silver, and precious stones.
Illus - There is something you can take with you, your relationships. Have the heart of Christ in them.
Matthew 6:20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Mere Men No More
1 Corinthians 3.1-15 May 23-24, 2015
Let’s take our Bibles please and open to 1 Corinthians 3 beginning in verse one. The title of our message this morning is "Mere men, No more". Alright
the church in Corinth that Paul is writing to is in southern Greece only about five, six years old. And that is important because any single person
in that church is a new believer. I mean they had not even heard the Gospel up until five years before. And the point being is that so therefore it
is a church filled with new believers and there is some immaturities that Paul wants to address. So he writes this letter and it is filled with instruction
and encouragement that will strengthen their faith. But as we are going to see as we go through this book, it’s also very typically of Paul that he
will pull no punches. I mean he is going to call it straight out to move them from being immature babes in Christ into that spiritual man, the godly
man of faith.
Now what was the problem? The problem that he was addressing especially in the early chapters was all the division and strife that was going on in the church. He said, that is not maturity in Christ. What had happened was that one group was aligning themselves with Paul and then another group says, “Oh yeah, well we align ourselves with Apollos". He was another teacher that came later from Alexandria. Finally another group said, “Well you know what? We align ourselves with Peter and he is all above these guys". And finally some other group says, “Oh yeah, we align ourselves with Christ. Take that. He beats all of them". Paul says this is a bunch of immaturity. I want to realize that we are one in Christ.
Now see he mentions three kinds of people in this chapters. Last week we saw Paul spoke of the natural man. The natural man does not receive the things of God. In fact, they are foolishness to him. The reason that they do not receive them is because they cannot understand them because these things are spiritually appraised. That is the natural man. Then he spoke of the spiritual man. The spiritual man is the mature one that we should all desire to become. He has received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God. And he receives those things that are taught by the Spirit. Spiritual thoughts, spiritual words, growing in spiritual wisdom. That is the spiritual man.
Then this chapter speaks of the third kind of person that he is addressing. This is the Christian who is immature in his faith. He is in Christ but the man's strongly influenced by the world. Strongly influenced by the flesh. Bringing a lot of stuff with them from the world and that is their immaturity. Paul calls them babes in Christ. This is the problem that was happening in Corinth. They are young. They are babes and he wants to mature them so he writes to them to strengthen, grow their faith. To bring them into spiritual maturity so that they will be moved from being babes in Christ to spiritual man mature in faith.
Now all fathers want their children to grow. God is the same. God the Father wants His children to grow. Now having said that, there is nothing wrong with babies. Babies are wonderful. Babies are absolutely the cutest thing ever. I love children of all ages. They are something absolutely blast and cute and wonderful about every age that they’re in. By the way this last Wednesday, we had probably the most glorious baptism service we have ever had. It was absolutely wonderful and those that were there, do you remember that little four and a half year old girl? She was the cutest thing ever. I felt like saying to her, “Do you need a grandpa, because I am available". I mean just as cute as a button. And you say, “Oh man that is so wonderful".
A couple of these kids, I remember they came up and it was really important for them to let me know I can hold my breath for 30 seconds. That is just so cute. I mean they are so wonderful. Our middle daughter Victoria, she just had her first baby on Mother’s Day. I mentioned it right? Mother’s Day, first baby, little girl. They named her Odyssey Faith. They are going to call her Desi Fay. But it is wonderful to watch them as brand new parents and all the excitement that they have with everything that is happening with the baby.
By the way, her husband Andrew is Pastor Keith's son. So that means that Pastor Keith and I are grandfathers to the same baby. This is going to be fun. Right. Anyway, it is so fun to watch them with their new baby because like Andrew's researching, you know, at what age do they do this or what age they do that, you know and he is all excited. She is lifting her head way before most babies lift their heads. Obviously she is gifted. Or she is smiling way before babies normally smile, she is very talented. She has a wonderful future ahead of her.
I remember my wife, Jordi, she would keep a journal of all the accomplishments, all the little things that kids say, when they learned to walk, took their steps, all the cute things they said. And what a great thing to do to mark those accomplishments because the key is that they are growing. They are moving from this stage to that stage, to this thing and they are growing up and every stage has their wonderful aspect. The point is they are growing. You are throwing them up in the air, make them squeal with laughter when they are two or three but when they turn thirteen, oh they want more than that. Now they want to jump off high dives. I will never forget our oldest Nicole, she would go down to the river and jump off a bridge 30 or 40 feet high into the river. Oh no throwing up there. She wants to jump from a 30 foot bridge. Oh there is more as they are growing.
A pastor friend of mine and his wife who do not have any babies. Never had any kids. They decided to become foster parents. They have brought in their home a little baby. I do not know, maybe nine or ten months old. We were talking the other day and he said I had no idea that something so wonderful, so cute and so cuddly could make such a huge smelly mess. I had no idea. Here is the application because you are probably wondering what the application is. Young believers are absolutely a joy. Young believers are wonderful. They are babes in Christ but they are wonderful. There is the exuberant, the zeal, the joy for the Lord, the love that they have-awesome, wonderful. But you want to see them grow. God wants to see them grow and mature. You do not want them to stay babes in Christ all the time. But you will be surprised how many do. You will be surprised what huge smelly messes people make of their lives because of spiritual immaturities. God wants to mature us. That is why this chapter is important, because it speaks to all of us. We are all needing to hear these words and be challenged to grow into spiritual men and women. Mature in faith.
I. We Need Healthy Spiritual Food
Alright let’s read it. 1 Corinthians 3:1, “And I brethren cannot speak to you us spiritual men”, that is the goal, “but as the men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I give you milk to drink, not solid food for you are not yet able to receive it. Indeed even now you are not yet able. For you are still fleshly since there is jealousy and strife among you. Are you not fleshly? Are you not walking like mere men?”
What does that phrase “mere men” mean? It means “just men, only men”. In other words, you are not walking by the Spirit, to be spiritual men. To be having the effect of the Spirit upon your life. That is the goal that God has for us. But look at all this jealousy and strife. That is not maturity. One of the marks of maturity is found in the relationships that we have with those around us. The peace speaking life. These are the things.
He says verse 4, “For one says I am of Paul and then another one says I am of Apollos, are you not mere men? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed even as the Lord gave opportunities.” Look the Lord is the one who gave opportunities. “I planted, Apollos watered, God was the one causing the growth.” There is no division between Paul and Apollos. We are on the same team here. We are all in unity. What are you guys doing? “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything but God who causes the growth is all.” That is his point. “Now who plants and he who waters are one but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers.” That is a great phrase. “You are God's field. You are God's building.” Great metaphors.
“Now according to the grace of God which was given to me as a wise master builder, I laid the foundation and then another is building on that foundation.” It is very simple. Not division. “Therefore let every man be careful how he builds upon it. No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Christ Jesus. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold or silver or precious stones or wood, hay or straw, then each man’s work will become evident for the day will showeth because it is to be revealed with fire and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. Now if each man's work which he has built upon it remains then he shall receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up then he shall suffer loss, but he himself shall be saved yet as though through fire.”
This is what he means by verse 13, each man’s work will become evident for the day will showeth, what day? The Day of the Lord. When everyone stands and gives an account of their lives. Surely everyone will. There is a day that everyone will give an accounting, therefore he says be careful how you build. That is why Paul is urging them, I beseech you brethren, and I want you to grow. No longer be babes in Christ. Mature in your faith. So he gives the great principles.
One of the principles we need to see that we can live by is this - we need healthy spiritual food in order to be transformed, in order to grow, we need good healthy spiritual food. He uses this analogy. See in order for a babe to mature he needs food. He starts out with milk. He starts out with milk because his system cannot tolerate anything more. You do not give solid food to a baby. You do not even give soft food to a baby. You give milk, they can tolerate nothing more. But you want them to grow out of that. And of course they must. They move to solid food and they move on to meat and potatoes and vegetables. Their body is growing. Now the same is true with their mind. You feed the body you feed the mind. So they start out developing, grasping and then observing and then they start forming words, and then they put together sentences and then they learn to read and then they learn to write and do math, and then they expand their mind and then be able to take on greater and greater challenges as their capacity increases for greater things. You feed the body you feed the mind.
The same is true spiritually. A spiritual baby starts out with simple things but then begins to grow. Checking on deeper spiritual truths, spiritual thoughts, spiritual words and wisdom from God as they grow in deeper and deeper things. They are checking in because they are growing. The baby takes in food, the mind takes in information and the spirit takes in spiritual things in order to grow. That spiritual maturity will be seen and evidenced in how we live our lives. So what are some marks of spiritual maturity? It will be seen in a deeper faith, faith that is not easily shipwrecked. Faith that holds steady in the storm. There is also an appetite for deeper spiritual things, hungering and thirsting for deeper things. That is a mark of maturity.
Another mark of spiritual maturity is not easily taking offense. Not easily taking things personally. That is a spiritual thing. Being able to appraise things spiritually. To recognize the value of things spiritually comes from spiritual maturity. Having a heart that is thankful to God is a mark of spiritual maturity. Humility of heart and character is a mark of spiritual maturity. It’s seen in how we live our lives.
A. Milk is a good start
So he gives us these principles and he starts with milk. Now milk is a good start, nothing wrong with milk. Verse 2, he says he gave them milk to drink, not solid things because they could not receive it. Milk is not bad, milk is a great way to start. In fact in 1 Peter 2:2-3 he says as much, “Like new born babies long for the pure milk of the Word so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” or the issues of salvation “since you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” You have already tasted the kindness. You’re drinking it in. Long for the pure milk of the Word. That is a beautiful picture because it is a picture of how you got to drink it, you got to take it in. That is the thing. You do not just observe it, you’ve got to drink it. Take it into your physical, spiritual being rather so that you can grow spiritually. It is a beautiful picture.
Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. You are drinking it in. See Paul refers to spiritual milk as the elementary principles of the faith. Literally the ABCs. Like for example when a person first comes to faith in Christ, we will often ask them to read one of the Gospels. Start with John. John is a great place to start. We want them to really get to know Jesus. We want them to hear His words. We want them to really understand the heart of Christ and John is a great place to start because the love of God is in the book. It is so wonderful to hear the words of Christ. And then Mark is another Gospel. It is very straight forward and simple. We start with those things.
Although it reminds me, when I first came to Christ, I was eleven years old. It was a Sunday at church and I received Christ, and then they gave me as a gift a New Testament in the King James. I am eleven and so I am all excited. So the next day Monday, I’ve got a long bus ride to school, so I take out the New Testament in the King James and I opened to Mathew 1:1. What a great introduction to reading the Bible. I mean do you know what is in Mathew 1:1. The genealogies of Jesus Christ. All the names in Hebrew. So and so begot so and so begot so and so who begot so and so, I did not even know what the word begot means. I had to go to my mom, what is the word begot mean? Well why don’t you move on to other chapters I will explain it when you get older. You know it is just like, what is this? See the point is that you do not ask a new believer for example to understand the nuances of Jesus being a priest according to the order of Melchizedek. You do not ask a new believer to read the visions of Ezekiel and to understand how that applies to the book of Revelations. These are the deeper things. Let’s start them out with the elementary things. Meet Jesus. Understand the love of God. But then grow. And his point is be able to receive solid food. To grow into maturity. Start with milk but then move on move on to grow.
B. But be able to receive solid food
Now when we think of growing in maturity we commonly think of age. In other words the common assumption is that as a person grows older they grow in maturity simply as a byproduct of growing older. But in reality age does not produce maturity. Age itself does not produce maturity. Because some people simply repeat the same experiences over and over and never learn from those experiences. They just go year by year by year repeating the same experiences and never changing. Never growing.
Reminds me of the story of a principal of a school who needed to promote someone into a position and you know looked at the teachers who to promote and he selected someone who had ten years of experience. Well one of the other teachers was offended because he had 25 years’ experience. And so he complained, "Hey why didn't you pick me? I have got 25 years’ experience.” The principal said, “No. You do not have 25 years of experience. You have one year of experience that you have repeated 25 times.” Ouch but is it not a truth. See here is the thing, time alone does not heal a person of a hot temper. Time alone will not heal that. I have known people who have kept their whole temper all their blooming lives. And that is not good. Time alone does not change a cutting tongue or a non-forgiving heart or a bossy attitude or a bitter spirit. Time does not heal that. The Holy Spirit heals that. It is a transformation that comes from the Lord. It is the revival. It is the moving and increasing of faith as we press on to maturity.
However having said that, it’s very possible to be young and quite mature in your faith. Timothy is a good example. Young Timothy, Paul found him in his missionary journeys, a heart open to the Lord. Teachable, hungry. Paul took him under his wing. Asked Timothy to travel with him and help him, be an assistant and he began to disciple him and teach him and trusted him with great responsibilities. In fact in 1 Timothy, this a letter that Paul wrote to young Timothy 4:11-12, he writes it this way - “Prescribe and teach these things.” That is responsibility. He is teaching even people older than himself. “Let no one look down on your youthfulness but in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity show yourself to be an example of those who believe.” Demonstrate your maturity in your life and they will respect you.
See Paul wants them to move beyond the elementary things spiritually so that they can receive solid food and maturity is what you receive. See it says as much in Hebrews 6:1, “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching of Christ, lets press on.” Press in, press on to maturity. It is interesting. Back in 1 Corinthians 3, it is interesting that in verse 2, he says something. I gave you milk to drink not solid food because you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed you are still not able to receive it. The key there then is being able to receive. How does that happen? Well we get an insight in Hebrew 5:12-13. Very straight forward. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God.” Now the elementary principles in the Greek is literally the alpha, bae, Gama, the ABCs. For everyone who partakes only of milk, and here is the phrase, is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, he is an infant. Aah this is the key. We must become accustomed to the word of righteousness. We must become familiar. We must become skilled. That is what the word means. Skilled or experienced, familiar with those things, the word of righteousness but it is not just knowledge. It is not just knowledge. It is practical spiritual experience. In other words, as James says do not be hearers only but be doers. You take hold and then you live them. You take hold and then you press them into your life.
This too is a principle of faith. I want to show us how this thing is important because faith is a key here. In other words by faith you believe the principles of God's word. By faith you believe that they are right, that they are good and that they are powerful and that these principles are transforming, and then because you believe them, you take hold of them and then you begin to move them into your life and you begin to see that you are becoming changed, transformed because of that . Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ but you have taken a hold of it and you have moved it in your life. It is a principle of faith.
Let me give you an example. Let’s say you take a verse. Ephesians 4:29. Let’s just say. Ephesians 4:29 is a powerful amazing verse with great truth and wisdom behind it. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth.” You might be familiar with this verse. I love this verse. “Let no unwholesome word”, the word being no is important. None. Nada. Nichievo. None. “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth but only such a word that is good for edification to build those around you, according to the need of the moment that you might give grace to those who hear”. Now let’s say you heard that verse and you said “Lord that is an amazing verse”. What a challenge that is. Wow these are deeper things God. That is really a great verse but you decide by faith God knew what He was doing when He wrote that verse. That is a great truth. So you take it. Begin to write it on your heart. I am going to do that. I am going to do that. I am going to guard my words. I am going to make sure that no unwholesome word comes out of my mouth but only such a word that is good for edification. I am going to guard those words. I want to trust you by faith. And I am going to do it. And when you proceed on this, you are growing in faith. You are being transformed. These things are written on your character now.
Let me give you an illustration. I was speaking to the men’s bible study at the Beaverton campus and I brought this illustration. It is really helpful. So there was a new young pastor who came to serve at a small church in a small town where the pastor was retiring. So he, new in his position and was walking around town just trying to meet the folks from the town. You know walking around and he came upon this woman. Old woman. She is an old maid. Never been married. But she was bitter and cantankerous. Oh was she ever difficult. And so he started asking around the church, anybody know her story? Oh yes they knew her story. Very sad. When she was younger she was engaged to be married. But her fiancé ran off with her best friend just weeks before the wedding. She has never married. And she has remained bitter and difficult ever since. And then it occurred to him what had happened. So she was hurt authentically truly, she was hurt in her betrayal, she was terribly hurt. But she will not forgive. She will not let go. She chose unforgiveness. And then she chose bitterness. And then she chose unforgiveness. And then she chose it again and then she chose it again and then she chose it again and then she chose it again and then she chose it again until she did not have to choose it anymore. It chose her because she had become bitter and cantankerous. It was now part of her character. It was part of her nature now. She did not have to choose it anymore. He began to see this is a powerful principle because it works in reverse. You are of us by grace. What a powerful principle. What a wondrous truth, grace. Treating people, giving them more than they deserve, what a great truth. God you have been gracious to me, I want to do that.
So you choose grace. An opportunity arises and you choose grace again and then you choose grace yet again. And then another opportunity and you choose it again, and you choose it again, and you choose it and you choose it and you choose it until you do not have to choose it anymore. It has chosen you. Which means it is now part of your character. It is who you are. It is a mark of Christ upon you. You become transformed because you have taken hold and you have lived it, not just hear, you have chosen it over and over. You are transformed by it. See Hebrews 5:14, “Solid food is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained”. Their spiritual senses trained to discern good and evil. You can spiritually appraise now. You understand this is important. I must choose grace. It must be done. In other word as you become accustomed to the words of righteousness, as you become accustomed to the Word of Truth and as you take hold of the spiritual truth and spiritual words and the wisdom of God, you can spiritually appraise because you are becoming transformed. You are maturing in Christ and the more you understand of the Truth, the more that you can discern that which is false. You are accustomed to the Truth. You are accustomed to the Word and you can discern it right away.
It reminds me of a funny story. Jordi and I were given a gift several years ago, some tickets to the Singing Christmas Tree in Portland. Date night wonderful, we go to this Christmas Tree, it’s so Christmassy and you know wonderful. We enjoyed the concert. The audience area was very dark and at one point everyone stood up and so we stood up as well and I took the opportunity to put my arm around my wife and I just took hold of the back of her arm. I am feeling the back of her arm and I start to think. You know her arm feels more muscular these days. And I know she has been working out but what triceps! And then it dawned on me in a moment that is not her arm. And I looked over and there was a guy like this...my spiritual appraisal and discernment went right up right away. That is not her arm. I discerned because I was accustomed to the truth.
C. Have an appetite for good food
So here is what he translates to us in 1 Corinthians 3, the transformation happens because we have an appetite for good food. Your hunger, your thirst for good food. This is how you become accustomed to the Word of Righteousness. See the Word of God is often compared to food in the Scriptures. Jesus said in Mathew 4:4, Jesus answered and said, "It is written man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God". What a powerful connection. That said it’s absolutely essential that we understand the spiritual food in other words is to be taken in. You eat the bread; you partake of the food. You take it in. you do not just sit at a beautiful table and say oh what wonderful food. Look at the presentation. It smells wonderful. What a tragedy if you sat at a table and did not enjoy the food. You partake of the food. You have to eat it. You chew it, you assimilate it, and it becomes part of you. It strengthens you. You are changed by it. If you do not eat you die. You shrivel. Same is true spiritually. You have to eat. You have to take it in. You have to open your heart and receive it.
Therefore it is absolutely essential that we have an appetite for good and healthy food. Good and healthy food. See this is why I am absolutely convinced that as a church we must go through the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse, book by book because God gave us all of the Scriptures for the edification, for the building of our faith, to strengthen our soul therefore we need the Word of God. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ. We are hungering for spiritual depth and spiritual food because we live in a culture that in many ways is addicted to junk food. And the same is true spiritually. Isn’t there a lot of junk food in our culture and fast food?
You know, through the years I have met several people who absolutely will not eat vegetables. I am talking about real vegetables. They absolutely will not eat vegetables. Why? Because they much prefer Doritos and Ding Dongs. They are used to that. That is their appetite. They are used to it. You know why do we select Ding Dongs? When I was younger I was addicted to Ding Dongs. Oh what wonderful creations. Chocolate cake infused with a white something center. With a wonderful frosting. Wrapped with aluminum foil. I was like wow. Little hokey-pokey sort of thing. Does anybody remember this? Oh it was so good. The thing is there is no nutritional value. Doritos and Ding Dongs have no nutritional value. I do not care if you do follow it up with a Diet Coke. There is no nutritional value. The same is true spiritually. The same is true spiritually. Some people cannot stand spiritual vegetables, if there is such a thing. You know what I am talking about. Spiritual meat, spiritual vegetables, they do not have an appetite for it, you know why? Because they much prefer spiritual junk food. They much prefer spiritual fast food.
I always say sermonettes make “Christianettes”. Depth comes from the depth of the Word. Praise God you can tolerate my long sermons. Amen. You guys are more supportive than Beaverton for sure. There was like one guy who said “Amen” and I am like “Okay… thanks Ken”.
I have often said that a pastor is like a chef. When I speak to pastors I like to bring this point out. A pastor is like a chef. We are serving a meal of God's Word and it needs to be tasty. You know you do not just take a slab of raw meat and throw it on a plate. There, there is your lunch. No you do not do that. You have to prepare it, just the right size and right amount and you cook it, prepare it, and serve it. You put the right spices on it. I am from the restaurant business, a nice little garnish. Some nice sauce and then when we are all finished, a little bit of ice cream. Why not? A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. But the substance of the meal is the vegetables and the meat.
See in Jeremiah 3:15 He says, “I will give you shepherds after My own heart who will feed you on knowledge and understanding.” We are feeding on the words of God with knowledge and understanding so that we can receive it. See when you receive it and then live it, you take hold of the principles, and then you put them into your life, now you are building something. Now you are building a life. A spiritual being, a spiritual person, a spiritual increase.
II. Be Careful How You Build Your Life
That is why he says be careful how you build your life. That is what he says. Be careful how you build. He goes on to explain, listen, these factions, these divisions, this is all spiritual immaturity. Maturity is seen in the peace in relationships. Contentiousness, cantankerousness, irritability, these are not spiritual maturities. Listen we all share the same foundation. That is his point. We are God's fellow workers. God is using us to build and edify. Be careful then how you build because we are living before God. We are living before God. This is the eternal perspective we need. It matters. How we live matters because we are living before God.
A. There is only one spiritual foundation
And he builds his case. He says listen there is only one spiritual foundation. There is only one and we are all standing on it. We are all family. We are in unity. We are brothers. We are like family together. There is only one foundation. He is the Rock-that is Christ Jesus. This is wisdom. This is truth. There is no need for division and strife when we are living on the same Rock. The same foundation. God is blessed when we dwell in unity.
Psalms 133:1, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity.” See the point? When Christ is your foundation and then you take hold of His words and then you live according to them. He gives the increase. He gives the blessing. He begins to move in our life. Notice in Mathew 7:24, Jesus says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them,” they take the words, they build them into their lives, and “he is the one who may be compared to a wise man who has built his house on the rock.”
B. Build those things which are eternal
Therefore, he is encouraging us here, build those things which are eternal. Build those things in your life. See verses 12-13, how you live matters. It matters to God and has eternal consequences. Now these things are spiritually appraised. These things come from the discernment of spiritual value. Notice the distinction in verse 12, he gives us this list. Now if any man builds upon this foundation, and he lists six things, but notice that they could be divided into two categories. Gold, silver, precious stones or wood, hay or straw. Notice the distinction. Wood, hay and straw will burn up in a fire but gold, silver and precious stones will survive a fire, and everything will be tested by the fire. Everything will be tested. Everything in your life. There is a day of accounting and everything will be tested by fire. The wood, hay and straw will be burned up.
What does wood, hay and straw represent? It represents the immature things. The fleshly things. The things that we brought with us out of the world and still have in our lives. These things get burned up. You know why? That is nothing but pure grace. Nothing but absolute pure grace. You do not want to take those things with you. Burn them up Lord, burn up my immaturities, burn up my worldly fleshly things that I brought with me. I do not want those things when I get before the throne of the living God. I do not want those things around me. Praise God, those things are burned up. But, verse 15, when all is said and done. The livings been done and all you have to show for it is wood, hay and straw. Whether or not you are not left with much, he says at least, you are saved, verse 15, at the end. If any man's work is burned up he will suffer loss but he himself will be saved, yet as though through fire. He gives us a picture we can relate to.
Imagine if your house caught fire in the middle of the night. God forbid, but imagine the scene. Your house, you are asleep in bed, the alarm goes off, you are woken up and the house is on fire. You’re going to get out as fast as you can. What is the one thing that you are going to grab? Your bathrobe. You do not want to go out there in the street in your skivvies. No, grab your bathrobe because when you go there out of the streets, you want your nakedness, your shame covered over. Isn’t that true? Spiritually it says it is like that. You have your robe of righteousness. That is glorious. Won’t you love to have some more? Won’t you love to have some more?
We did not have a fire but we had something kind of similar. Back in the nineties, remember when that earthquake hit up here, in this area. It was like a 5.3 earthquake. It hit about 5:20 in the morning. The thing is I had been driving from a conference in California. I had been driving like eighteen hours straight. I crashed in bed about three in the morning or so. I mean I was conked out and at 5:20 when this thing hit, my mind was in a complete fog. I mean I just could not grasp it. I had never been through anything like this. I was just beside myself with what do I do? It’s just in a flash of moment with only two hours sleeping. Of course all the people from California that had moved up they were used to it. They were like in bed going, “What do you think that is honey, about a 5.2?". "No, no I think it is a 5.3 maybe 5.4 ". You know and I am like oh Lord, you know. It all raced into my head all at once. I knew instantly what I wanted to do. I want to grab the kids, swoop them up in my arms and I want my wife to grab the bathrobes. It is all clear in my mind but I cannot get the words. I cannot formulate it because this is like a crisis of second’s right? And so I point to the closet where the bathrobes were and I said," We have to get out of here". What? There is no door in the closet. Of course I wanted her to read my mind. You get the bathrobes, I will get the kids, and I will meet you outside. But all I could say was we have to get out of here. She, “what?". "We have to get out of here?" By the time we finished this, the earthquake had finished and we just sat there looking at each other, but the point of the matter is that it is a good picture about the end of the day. What is going to survive? What do you have to show? If everything gets burned up, there is nothing to show. He says desire these things because apparently you can take some things with you. Apparently you can.
This is what Jesus said in Mathew 6:20, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys them, where thieves do not break in or steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” So apparently you can take some things with you. What things? Relationships. Relationships matter. These things are spiritually appraised. God understands the value. Every single spiritual gift is given for the purpose of building and edifying those around you. Everyone. Jesus said, “Love one another even as I have loved you. Serve one another, have I not given you an example", as He washed His disciples’ feet. These things are spiritually appraised. Bless those around you. Those relationships that you have. They are very important because you get to take them with you. Bless, bless, bless, build up. Edify. Have the character of Christ. Have the character of Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:1-15 NASB
1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you notmere men?
5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gaveopportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.