- Sermon Notes
1 Corinthians 4:1-21
Paul is writing to a church filled with new believers, they are immature in their faith. Paul calls them babes in Christ. This is a letter of instruction, to edify and build up their faith, to bring maturity in their relationship to God so that they would no longer be babes, but spiritual in nature.
Paul wrote that there are essentially three types of people. There’s the natural man that does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually appraised.
Then there is the spiritual man or woman who takes hold of spiritual thoughts and spiritual words and grows in the wisdom of God. The spiritual person is teachable and eagerly wants to apply spiritual truths in how he or she lives his life. This should be what we all desire to become.
But we do not start out in our relationship to Christ as spiritually mature men or women, we all start out as babes. That’s the third kind of person Paul describes. The key then is to not stay or remain as immature, or as a babe in Christ. We all need to grow in faith, we need to grow in spiritual maturity, but how does that happen? We need to change our perspective.
Illus - A son thought he was doing too much work around the house so he gave his mother an itemized bill– total $20. His mother decided he needed a change of perspective, so she gave him an itemized bill for all the work she had done for him – total - $0. Signed, “Love, mom.”
This is what Paul shows us in this chapter. How we are changed, how we are transformed, how we grow spiritually.
Maybe a good place to start, however, would be to look back over the last 5 or 10 or 15 years and see if you’ve been growing, if you’re being transformed. We are all in the process of becoming, of changing, but changing into what?
Are you growing in grace? Are you growing in faith, in patience, in kindness, is there greater hunger for spiritual things? Are you taking hold of the words of Christ and living according to them in greater measure?
I. Value God’s Appraisal
- The reason there was strife and division, Paul is saying, is because they were not seeing this from God’s perspective, they were appraising this wrongly.
- In the first few verses, Paul is trying to change their perspective. One group was aligning themselves with Paul, another group was aligning themselves with Apollos, etc. That means there were intense debates about who was better; Paul, or Apollos, or Peter…
- Look, says Paul, let us be regarded simply as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In other words, there is no division among us so why is there division among you?
- They needed to see things from a spiritual perspective, so he begins the correction.
A. Be servants and stewards for Christ
- Two key words Paul uses here are instructive. The word “servants,” literally means “a subordinate acting under a captain, or commander, or king.” Originally it meant a “skilled-rower” inside a naval ship, but later the word meant a servant who held a position of trust as an assistant to an official.
- This is an absolutely powerful key to growing spiritually; are you trustworthy under the authority of Christ’s direction?
Illus - When I was teaching my kids the drive, I started with the first and most important rule, “You must do exactly what I say.” Unfortunately, I learned this lesson myself the hard way…
- In raising children, this is one of the most important keys to their maturity. A child wants what he wants and wants it now. A well trained child is willing to accept the direction of his parents, even if he wants something else.
- Interestingly, this word is often translated as “officer” in the scriptures.
John 18:12, So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him…
- In other words, there is position and blessing that comes with being a trusted subordinate under the authority and direction of Christ.
Illus - A Roman centurion once came to Jesus because his servant was paralyzed at home. Jesus said that He would come and heal him… “Just say the word,” the centurion and said, “and my servant will be healed…”
- This humility and teachability is the key to spiritual maturity.
- Paul also said that they were stewards of the mysteries of God and that it is required of stewards that one be found faithful.
- Paul was entrusted with the mysteries of God. Those same mysteries, those biblical truths are also deposited within us; will we be faithful?
- A steward is given responsibility and trusted by the master of the house to manage finances or provide whatever the household needed.
- Probably the best example in the scriptures would be Joseph… In spite of many difficulties against him, he remained faithful.
Illus - Though he was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery in Egypt, he was faithful in Potiphar’s house and became the chief steward. Then, betrayed by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison, he served faithfully and was given responsibilities in the prison. Finally, God made him the chief steward in Egypt itself.
Luke 16:10, “He who was faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
- This is a key to spiritual maturity. They had formed divisive groups, being argumentative and debating with jealousy and strife. They didn’t get that from the Lord, so where did it come from?
B. God gives the only appraisal we need
- In verse 3 Paul says, “To me, it is a very small thing that I should be appraised by you.” In other words, they were appraising Paul’s strengths and weaknesses to decide if they should align with him or Apollos.
- They didn’t really know Paul’s heart, and yet they were saying things against him, so Paul responds, “Hey, I’ve heard that you’ve been judging me. Well to me this is a small thing, for the one who appraises me as God.” Paul is not the least bit bothered. You gotta love Paul.
Galatians 1:10, Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
- Paul really touches on spiritual immaturity. Many people want the approval of others at the expense of their relationship to God, but we need God’s perspective, God’s view of us first and foremost.
John 12:42-43, Many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of fear of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him… For they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.
- This can be applied to many aspects of life. Take parenting for example…
Illus - When Jordi and I were going to Israel I explained to my son who was 16 at the time that an adult would be there in the house while we were gone. He didn’t agree with that at all, so I said, “God has asked me to use wisdom and that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
- In verses 3-4 Paul says, “In fact, I do not even examine myself… the one who examines me is the Lord.”
- I’ve come to understand that most people’s view of themselves needs a serious change of perspective.
- People will commonly you think far too highly of themselves or think far too poorly of themselves, sometimes they will do both at the same time.
- I certainly understand that a lot of things happen in life and people feel beat up, broken down, discouraged, hopeless, worthless and ashamed.
- Therefore, it’s absolutely critical that our appraisal of ourselves comes from God and not from our own thinking, because our own thinking is wrong.
Illus - There are many secular books written on the topic of the importance of good self-image, but the emphasis is on the image you have of yourself. But we are too fickle, our assessments change with our moods. If you want to be healthy emotionally and spiritually, may I suggest that your view of yourself be given to you by God?
Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth… so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
- That would include His thoughts toward us.
- Then in verse 5 Paul says, “Do not go on passing judgment before the time, wait for the Lord who will bring to light things hidden in darkness and disclose the motive of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”
Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’”
- These are the words that a faithful servant would love to hear for it is required of stewards that one be found faithful and trustworthy.
II. Humility Comes from God’s Perspective
- “Don’t become puffed up in behalf of one against the other,” Paul said.
- He’s really touching on the root of their spiritual immaturity. It’s pride; the group aligned with Apollos thought they were superior to the others.
A. You received everything you have
- What do you have that you did not receive? Paul asks. That’s a humble perspective. That’s the perspective that comes with spiritual maturity.
- It’s the truly humble Christian who understands that God is the one who gave him his gifts and abilities and He deserves all the glory.
- We live in a society that prides itself on achievement and being self-made.
Illus - Whenever I hear that expression, “I’m a self-made man!” I wonder what part did they make exactly. The humble businessman knows that God gave him everything he has.
John 3:27, 30, John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven… He must increase, but I must decrease.”
- If you received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? Paul asked in verse 7.
Illus - A young preacher gave a message to a congregation on a special occasion and God richly blessed the message and it had a great impact. Afterwards, going home with his wife, evidently enjoying himself in his own heart, said, “I wonder how many great preachers there are in the world?” His wife replied dryly, “Probably one less than you think!” God knows how to change our perspective.
- In the next few verses Paul is trying to change their perspective by drawing a great contrast between himself and Apollos and the immature Corinthians.
- He uses some sarcasm to exaggerate their claims of spiritual superiority. “You have everything you need, or so you think. You’re acting like kings.” - Verse 8.
- Then, to show the contrast, though the Corinthians were trying to reign as kings, their spiritual fathers, Paul and Apollos, were suffering greatly in the cause of Christ. “Even now we are both hungry and thirsty, and poorly clothed, and roughly treated, and are homeless…” – Verse 11.
- And then Paul shows that from God’s perspective, though life is difficult, you bless others; even those who treat you poorly. That’s spiritual maturity.
1 Peter 3:8-9, Be humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but give a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
Luke 6:35, “Love your enemies and do good… and you will be sons of the Most High; for He kept himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
- “I’m not trying to shame you, Paul wrote, “I’m admonishing you was my beloved children.”
Illus - When God corrects, He’s blessing our lives. When He changes our perspective, He’s building us up.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21 May 30-31, 2015
1 Corinthians 4:1. The title of our message this morning is “Spiritual Men”, the goal that we should all have—that mature, spiritual man or a woman in Christ.
Paul is writing this to the church of Corinth, a very young church still with new believers. They’re immature in their faith. Paul calls them “babes in Christ” in the chapter before this, and so he writes this letter, and the letter is to encourage their faith, to strengthen them, to build them up so that they can bring maturity in their relationship to God and no longer remain as babes. But to move and become spiritual men and women. So he wrote that there are essentially three kinds of people.
First, there’s the natural man. The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God. To him, they’re foolishness. He doesn’t understand them because they’re spiritually appraised. That’s a very important word spiritually “appraised”. Then he said there’s another kind of person, the spiritual man or woman. That’s the mature man or woman who takes hold of spiritual truths, spiritual facts, spiritual words, growing in the wisdom of God. This is a person that’s teachable, eagerly wanting to take hold of spiritual truths and apply them in how he or she lives his life, and this is what we should all desire to become. We need to be changed, because we didn’t start out in our relationship to God as mature in Christ. We started out as babes. All Christians start out as babes in Christ, but we need to mature in that relationship. That’s the whole thing. Don’t remain—don’t stay where you were, grow in your faith. We need to grow into spiritual maturity, but how does that happen is the key. The answer is that He transforms our mind, He changes our perspective. Now we need that because we brought a lot of wrongful perspectives with us when we came out of the world. He’s going to transform us. He’s going to change our view of things.
This reminds me of a story of a son who thought that he was doing a little too much work around the house and thought he should get paid for it. So he wrote his mom a bill, an itemized bill, of all the things that he had been doing and the bill total came to $20. So mom thought that maybe he needed a little change of perspective, so she wrote him an itemized bill, and she wrote down all the things that she had done for him, one thing after the other, and then the sum total at the bottom, $0.00, signed, “Love, Mom.” Sometimes we just need a change of perspective.
You see, that’s what God does for us out of this chapter. He shows us how we’re changed. He shows us how we’re transformed, how we can grow spiritually. See, and I think we’ve got to put ourselves in this world. If you look back on your life, look back on your life 5, 10, maybe 15 years, and ask yourself the question, “Am I changed? Am I different?” Know, we’re all in the process of becoming, but becoming what? Transformed into what? See, this is important for us because He’s asking us to be changed, to be transformed. Are we growing in grace? Do you have more grace in your life? That’s an aspect of spiritual maturity. Are you growing in deeper faith? Are you growing in patience? That is a spiritual aspect. Are you more kind? That’s a spiritual thing. Is there greater hunger and desire for deeper, more spiritual truths? Are you taking hold of the words of Christ and living according to them in greater measure? Are you being transformed? He says, “I beseech you, brethren,” I’m urging you to take all of these truths and be transformed.
I. Value God’s Appraisal
Let’s do the reading. Chapter 4, beginning in verse 1:
“Let a man regard us in this manner, simply as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Now, why is he saying that? Well, he’s addressing their immaturity. See, their immaturity was because they had all these divisions and strife and jealousies and bickering, and they had formed different groups, and each group thought they were superior. They were better, and so, you know, some had aligned with Paul. Others had aligned with Apollos. He’s better. Paul, you know, he’s nothing. Apollos, he’s the guy. Others formed alliances with Peter. Oh, yeah, well Peter’s over both of them. So he says, “Listen, let a man regard us simply as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy or faithful. We’re just trying to be faithful and do what God tells us to do, and then he goes on to make it a personal statement. “To me, it’s a very small thing that I should be examined by you.” The word “examined” is that same word we saw earlier, “appraised.” “It is a very small thing to me that I should be appraised by you, or any human court, for that matter; in fact, I do not even appraise myself.”
A. Be servants and stewards for Christ
Now, I’m conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted. The one who examines me, the one who appraises me is the Lord. Therefore, do not go on passing judgment before the time.” What does he mean by that? There’s a day in which everyone is going to give an account of their lives. He said, “Don’t judge before the time,” God, in other words, is the one who is going to hold the people into account. Wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motive of men’s hearts. Apparently motive is very important, not just the action, we view not just the words, but the motives, and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. What a great perspective.
We’re all going to say, “Here, Lord, here’s my life,” and then God gives that answer. Look, the praise will come to him from God. “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant” or puffed up “in behalf of one against the other. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive, but if you did receive it, now why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
Then, in verse 8 and the following verses, he uses some sarcasm, a little exaggeration, to draw a contrast between their attitude of superiority and that of the apostles themselves. Notice what he says in verse 8. Alright, “You are already filled”. Oh, I see, okay, “you’ve already become rich”, oh, I see. You live as—“become kings”, oh, “and without us”. Oh, “I wish you had become kings so that we might reign with you. For I think God has exhibited us apostles as last of all men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both the angels and the men. We are fools for Christ’s sake. You are prudent in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are distinguished, and we are without honor. To this very hour we are both hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless, working with our own hands.” Paul supported his ministry by sewing tents together and selling them. That’s how he paid for his way.
But he goes on, verse 12. “When we are reviled, we bless. When we’re persecuted, we endure. When we are slandered, we try to conciliate. We’ve become like the scum of the world, like the dregs of all things, even until now.” Then he goes on in verse 14, “Look, I’m not writing these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children.” In other words, he’s their spiritual father and has the right to correct them. So he goes on in verse 15, “For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus, I have become your father through the Gospel. I exhort you, therefore, be imitators of me” and in other places “as I imitate Christ. For this reason, I have sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, and he will remind you of my ways which are in Christ, just as I teach every word in every church.”
“Now, some of you have become arrogant”, puffed out, “as though I was not coming to you.” Now in these next verses, you get a sense right away that he’s bringing some correction. Oh, I will come to you soon if the Lord wills it, and I’m going to find out, not the words of those who are puffed up, but I’m going to find out about their power, because the Kingdom of God does not consist of words, but in power. What does he mean by that? Should I come to you with a rod, or with love and a spirit of gentleness? That’s a good chapter, and as typical of Paul, he pulls no punches. He just comes straight out, but that’s good. We need that.
Now let’s go back over this and really take hold of some important principals to change our perspective. One of the things we’ve got to see right out of the first verses is this. We need to value God’s appraisal, God’s estimates of all things. And so he says, “Now listen, the reason there’s strife and division, all these jealousies and bickering is because you’re not seeing this in God’s perspective. You are appraising this thing wrongly.” Seeing these very first verses, he’s changing their perspective. One group thinks they’re superior to the other group. “Look,” says Paul, “Let us be regarded simply as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In other words, we’re in harmony together. There’s no division amongst us. Why is there division amongst you? They needed to see things from a spiritual perspective so he begins the correction.
Notice in verse 1, these two words, be servants and stewards for Christ. Now the word “servant” here in the Greek is not your typical word. In the Greek normally for the word “servant” you have the word “doulos” which is like a lowly slave or just a simple servant. But literally from its roots, it meant a rower in a ship, in the bow of a ship. In the Greek and Roman Navies, when they go to battle, they wouldn’t put up the sails in a naval battle—that would not be efficient. You need rowers, and so what would happen is, there would be a commander directly speaking to the rowers, because in battle, you need to move fast. Press forward now. Spin this way, now press that way, and so the commander would speak orders and direct, and they would have to move.
So the root of the word “servant” here, is a rower in a ship. But it came to have a meaning. It was always a servant, but it meant a servant that held a position of trust, an assistant to an official or commander, or a king or something. In other words, he’s trustworthy, and so he’s been blessed with position. He’s an assistant to someone important. This is an absolutely powerful key to growing spiritually. Are you trustworthy? In other words, can God send you and know that that thing is going to be done? There’s that trustworthiness of a man as his servant. I need you to go and do this task, and he does it. That’s the trustworthiness. It’s a very important principal.
It reminds me of when we were training our kids to drive, you know, we have five, and training five kids how to drive is enough to wrack anyone’s nerves. But I remember day 1. Day 1 sitting with them—they’re in the driver’s seat and I’m in the passenger seat, and I give the Number One rule. I said, “Before we start the car, I’m going to give you the rule. The rule which is above every rule. The rule to rule all other rules. The absolute rule, and that rule is this: ‘You must do exactly what I say, and when I say it, and I’ve got to trust and believe that you will do exactly what I say when I say it. This is not a toy, and you must do exactly as I say. This is a very important rule. My one hallelujah. Learned it the hard way.
I remember myself when I was 15 and learning to drive. I guess I really learned to drive on a tractor. We lived on a farm, and so I loved driving the tractor, but I guess you can’t drive a tractor in town, so I had to get a driver’s license and went to get driver’s training. My dad was not going to teach me., so I got driver’s ed, and I’m sitting there and the teacher from the school who’s teaching students, and we’re driving one day and went into this big parking lot, empty parking lot, and he says, “Now I want you to pretend that this parking lot is full of cars, and we’re going to find a parking space.” I said, “Okay, good.” So I go down that aisle, I come up this aisle, then I go down that aisle, and then I just slam on the brakes. He said, “Hey, why did you do that?” I said, “Well, you said to pretend that this parking lot is full of cars, and I pretended a car just pulled out in front of me.” Now, I thought that was hilarious, but my teacher apparently didn’t have a very good sense of humor because he didn’t think it was so funny, and he reached over and turned off the car and said, “Get out. This is not a toy.” It is a very important thing.
See, in raising children, this is one of the keys to maturity. What is an aspect of immaturity? How do you define immaturity in a child? He wants what he wants and he wants it now. That’s immaturity. But a well-trained child is willing to accept the direction of his parents even if he wants something else, and see how that applies to us. Paul is saying to us, “I want you to speak in grace.” “I don’t feel like speaking words of grace now.” “I know you don’t.” “I want you to speak words of grace even though you don’t feel grace. I want you to have patience now.” “I don’t want to have patience.” “That’s not what I’m feeling right now.” “I understand that. I’m asking you to bring patience now, even though you don’t feel it.” Are you that trustworthy servant?
It’s interesting, because what this shows is that actually a tremendous blessing that comes with it. In fact, it’s interesting when that word is used in other places in the scripture, it’s referred to often as someone with responsibility because of that trustworthiness, but notice in John 18:12, the same word is used. They had responsibility. There’s position and blessing that comes—the thing that a trusted servant, a trusted subordinate under the authority and the direction of Christ. It’s an aspect of maturity.
You know, there’s an interesting story that unfolded. One day a Roman Centurion came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, my servant is at home, paralyzed,” and Jesus said, “I will come and I will heal him.” The Roman Centurion said, “I am unworthy for you to come under my roof, but you simply need to speak the word, and my servant will be healed.” And he explained, “For I, too, am a man under authority. It’s interesting he didn’t say “of authority.” He said, “I, too, am a man under authority, and I say to this one ‘go,’ and he goes, and I say to this one, ‘come’ and he comes.” He understood where authority and responsibility came from. He knew that Jesus was under the authority of his Father and thus had the authority of God Himself. “You only simply need to speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus responded and said, “I have not seen faith like this in all of Israel, and he’s Roman. That’s humility, that’s teachability. This is the key to spiritual maturity and growing.
And then it’s interesting because he uses another word, and that’s the word “steward” there. It’s a very similar word. Consider us as stewards of the mysteries of God, and it’s required of stewards that one be found faithful. Now, what was a steward? A steward was a servant who was given responsibility, trusted by the master to manage, perhaps, finances. A steward would manage the finances of the house, and maybe provide for the children’s education, or provide food, or run the farm. A steward would do that. That’s responsibility—a tremendous blessing.
Perhaps one of the messages for each one of us is to understand where he says that we’re stewards of the mysteries of God. What does that mean? What are the mysteries of God? Well, he explained that a couple of chapters ago. The mystery of God is the Gospel as now revealed to us that we have contained in the New Testament. This is the mystery of God revealed, for in the Old Testament, it was just a shadow, but now we have the reality because we have Christ, we have the Gospel. We have the revealing of God’s love for us as we have here, right before us in [Inaudible 19:49:02]. He’s in the mysteries of God. The principals and wisdom of the Lord. Now are we stewards of the mysteries of God? Yes, we are. He said, “I’m going to deposit these truths into you, into your life. I’m giving you these principals. I’m giving you this wisdom. I’m putting it directly into your life, and I’m asking that these things be seen in you. I’m trusting you with these things so that you might be a letter written to the world. I’m writing this on you, that you might be a letter written to the world. Let these things be seen in you. I am entrusting you. I am putting these things—I am entrusting you now. What a great tribute, and then he goes on to explain. You see, a steward has great blessings.
One of the best examples of this in the Scriptures is Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob. What a tragic story. Betrayed by his own brothers, sold into slavery into Egypt, bought by this man Potiphar and Joseph was faithful in his house, rose by the blessing of God in that faithfulness to become chief steward. Ran the guy’s house. Ran the guy’s whole estate, and then betrayed again by Potiphar’s wife who falsely accused him and found himself in prison, but faithful yet again. God blessed him. He gave him responsibility, so he’s like running so many aspects of the prison. Then God moved again in his life. Remember this story, and then he’s like chief steward of the Nation of Israel. God blessed his faithfulness and used it for the position for his family and the future generations in Israel. Tremendous thing that God was doing, and the blessing that come with that faithful, being a steward of the things of God lived in his life.
See in Luke 16 Verse 10, Jesus said, “"He who is faithful in a very little thing, he is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Apparently, it’s important to the Lord. This is such a key to spiritual maturity—this division, this strife, this argumentation, this debating. We didn’t get that from the Lord. Let’s change our perspective. Let’s change our perspective.
B. God gives the only appraisal we need
Now he goes on to speak about appraising. “It’s a very small thing to me to be appraised by you.” This is really a key, really practical. Something for every one of us here. See, here’s the point. God gives the only appraisal we need. This is really important. It is a very small thing that I should be appraised by you or any human court, for that matter. In other words, they were appraising Paul’s strength—one who’s superior and he’s God, deciding that they should align with who. They didn’t know Paul’s heart, and yet they were saying things against him. So Paul responds, “Hey, I’ve heard that you’ve been judging me. Well, to me, this is a very small thing, for who appraises me is God.” You’ve got to love Paul here. He’s not the slightest bit offended. He’s not bothered. “It’s a small thing to me. My appraisal comes from God.”
I love Revelations 1:10. It says something similar. “Am I now seeking the favor of men or of God? Am I standing to please men? If I were to please men, I would not be a bound servant of Christ, and there’s that “servant” word. Paul really is touching on his spiritual here. Many people really want the approval of others. They want to be appraised highly in the estimation of their peers. They want to be popular, but it comes at a great expense. It comes at the expense of their relationship to God. We need God’s approval. We need God’s perspective. We need God’s appraisal. God’s view of us first and foremost. Here’s a great word. John 12, Verses 32 to 43. It shows us even the rulers in Israel succumbed to this. Maybe many of the rulers believed in him because of a fear of the Pharisees, they were not confessing it, for they loved the approval of man rather than the approval of God. Now this can be applied to a lot of aspects of life. For example, parenting is a good example of that. I would rather have the approval of God than the approval of my peers. When I’m parenting I want to do it God’s way. I want his approval.
It reminds me of a story I mentioned before, but it’s an interesting story. When Jodie and I were going to go to Israel, and we were going to be gone for two weeks, and we only had two kids left at the time. One was 16, that was our youngest son, and our youngest daughter Chelsie, she was about 6 months older than that. So I was driving—and I was going to explain to our youngest son that while we’re gone, we’re going to have an adult living in the house. To which he didn’t really appreciate that, so he says, “What! You’re going to have an adult living in the house? I thought that while you were gone, we’d get the house all to ourselves. To which I said, “And that right there, my friend, is why you need a parent.” God this is man. God, I love that word. God, this is man jive. “Really? In other words, you don’t’ approve?” “No, I don’t approve.” “Oh, I see. So my parenting is not up to your standards.” “No, it isn’t.” “I see.” “You know what the problem is, dad? The problem is, you don’t trust me.” I said, “Really, is that the problem? No, I think the problem is not that I don’t trust you, I think the problem is that you don’t trust me. I’m the father here, and God asked me to bring wisdom, God asked me to use my wisdom in making decisions, and in my wisdom, this what I have decided, whether you approve or not.”
So we got into an interesting conversation. I said, “How old are you?” He said, “16.” I said, “Right. I was a little younger then. I said, “You take that 16 and multiple it by 3 and that’s how old I am. I’m 3 times your age. How many years of college do you have?” He said, “Dad, I’m a sophomore in high school.” I said, ‘Yeah, I’ve got 7 years of college. How many years have you worked?” “Dad, I’ve never had a job.” I said, “Exactly, and I’ve worked most of my life. How many kids have you raised?” “Dad, I haven’t raised any kids.” “Exactly, and I’ve raised 5. So tell me again why I need your approval to be a parent?” Then he said, “Okay, you’re right, dad. I’ve got it.” But here’s the thing. This is very important, so why take up all that time, why take up all that time? I mean, wouldn’t it be simpler just to say, “I’m the parent, you’re the son. You do what I say. You got it?” [Inaudible 27:25:03] A lot of parents would do that. You know why that’s not a good move? Because really what he needs is to have his perspective changed.
C. Don’t even appraise yourself
Let’s talk this through. Come, let’s reason together. Let’s reason together. Let’s work this through. I want his perspective to change because it’s one more little brick in the growing house that he’s going to build. One more piece of wisdom. It’s important for us to see that’s what God wants for us. You know what? There’s a lot of things that we say and do that are pretty immature, isn’t that true? Aren’t you thankful that God takes the time to change our perspective? He changes our view of the thing, and then he goes on to say something really important. Very, very important. Listen. “It’s a small thing to me that I should be appraised by you, or any human court. In fact, I do not even appraise myself.” That is it. Don ‘t even appraise yourself. I’ve come to understand that most people’s view of themselves needs a serious change of perspective.
I’ve been a pastor for many years. Done a lot of counseling, and I’m a person myself, and I know that most of people’s view of themselves needs a serious change of perspective. See, people will either commonly think too highly of themselves and too highly of their own opinion, or they will think far too poorly of themselves. Sometimes they do both at the very same time. Now I completely understand things happen in life. We have a lot of things that happen in life. People get beat up, broken down, discouraged, hopeless, worthless, ashamed. I understand there’s a lot of things very tragic and hurtful that happen in life. But what often happens is that those things formulate their view of themselves, and there’s the problem. Should hurts and shame and discouragement define us? It’s absolutely critical that our appraisal of ourselves come from God, and not from our own thinking, because our thinking is wrong.
You know, Paul himself is an interesting example. Because he was very wrong at one point in his life. He was the number one enemy of the church. Number one enemy. He had letters of authority from the Jewish leaders to drag Christians out of their house and see to their demise. Then one day riding on the road to Damascus God literally knocked him off his high horse, blinded him in order to open his eyes. His eyes were opened. Can you just imagine for a moment what Paul was feeling about himself after he opened his eyes and realized what a foolish man he had become? “What did I do? I see now Christ is the Son of the living God. I see now He’s the Savior of the world, and I did that to his own children, his own people. Oh, God.” Can you imagine the shame? What if Paul could not get over that? What if that broke Paul to the point he could never get over it? He was always and forever defined by that failure in his life. “I was so blind; I was so foolish. I did so many things to hurt so many people.” Can you imagine if he could never get over it? We would not have the beautiful letters that are such an important part of the New Testament today. The church that he built all over the Asia-Minor, and the areas around and on and on. We wouldn’t have any of those things.
What happened? God changed his perspective. “I see now that God forgives. I see now that God heals, that God rebuilt my life,” and you know, it’s an interesting thing. He says, Verse 4, “I am conscious of nothing against myself.” “Really? Did you forget what happened back there?” He said, “No, no, no, listen. God forgave that. God forgave that. God healed that.” He never forgot about it. He brought it up later and said, “I know I’m [Inaudible 32:23:02] I know I’m not worthy of anything, I know that.” But it didn’t define him. Christ defined him. God’s appraisal of him defined him.
You know, there’s a lot of secular books written on the topic of the importance of good self-image. You can buy them in any bookstore. May I suggest that you do not waste your money, because the interest in all these books is on the image that you have—your assessment, your value, but our assessments change with our moods. God wants us to set us free. God sets us free. His appraisal of us will set us free. Too many people are bound into a prison of their own making. God wants us to be free. God wants us to live victoriously, and He who the Son sets free is free indeed, my friend. He’s giving us the word of victory here, because many people, they take those failures, those losses, those things that shame, and that will forever define them. Now we need to change our perspective because God’s thoughts are not that. You didn’t get that from God. God’s thoughts are higher than that. Notice in Isaiah 55:9, God is speaking “As the Heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” That’s God’s perspective right there, and that would include God’s thoughts about us. We need to change our perspective.
II. Humility Comes from God’s Perspective
Now here’s the thing we’ve got to start with. We need to change our perspective of God, because many people are convinced that God is always angry with them because there’s always something wrong. There’s always something wrong. In other words, there’s always something that can justify that opinion that God’s angry with us. Oh, I’ve got something wrong in my life. There is—that’s the view of it, but it’s not what I see. Scripture says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so has God the Father have compassion on us. He loves us like a father, a good father would love his children. That’s what He’s saying in Isaiah. There’s always something wrong. There’s always something wrong I can pick on if I wanted to. As a father, there’s always something wrong. Their room is never clean, they didn’t finish their homework, they’re arguing between the kids. There’s always something. Is that really the definition of my life? No, I love them no matter what. My love for them is not going to fail because the room isn’t clean, because they didn’t finish their homework. In fact, when they blow it, my love for them only increases because they need me all the more.
Oh, if we could only understand God’s view of us. I’ll tell you what, you would rather we change our perspective—it would change our view. It would change us and make us victorious. God wants us to be victorious and to be set free, that we would hear his words in Matthew 25:21. Well done, my good and faithful servant. You are faithful in a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master. Beautiful scripture.
Now, going back to First Corinthians 4, notice when he says that. It’s changing their perspective, but notice the results. The ability comes from God’s perspective. Notice verse 6 in order that no one of you might become puffed up or arrogant, or have one against the other. He’s really touching on the root of spiritual immaturity, pride. The desire to be better than others, superior than others. We have this culture around us where it’s highly touted and highly desirable, I want to be better than anybody. I want people to look up to me because I’m better than they are. Really? Really? He said, “Change your perspective.”
A. You received everything you have
Let’s start with this. You received everything you have. You received everything you have. Now, when you take on that perspective, I’ll tell you what, it humbles you. You have a completely humbled perspective. What do you have that you did not receive? That’s the perspective that brings spiritual maturity to grasp this truth. See, it’s the truly humble Christian who understands that God is the one who gives them everything. He gives us stability; he deserves all the glory. You know, we live in a society and a culture that prides itself on achievement, particularly self-made achievement. I always love when I hear someone say, “Oh, yeah, I’m a self-made man.” Whenever I hear that, I wonder, really? What part did you make exactly, because the humble businessman, the successful humble businessman knows God gave him everything he has. See, if you have that perspective, that’s thankfulness. I’m very, very thankful because everything I have God gave it to me. I’m so thankful for that. Humbling, isn’t it? That’s maturity.
John 3, Verses 27 to 30. This is John—the Baptist John. Answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven. He must increase, I must decrease. Listen, if you received it, why are you boasting as if you had not received it? In Isaiah the story again. A young preacher was just getting started, and was given an opportunity to give a message to a congregation on a special occasion, and God richly blessed the message and it had a great impact. Well, afterward, he went home with his wife, evidently enjoying himself in his own heart. He said, “I wonder how many great preachers there are in the world.” His wife replied, dryly, “Well, probably one less than you think.” God has a way of humbling us, doesn’t he? I’m so thankful Jordi said that. Okay, I’m just joking, I’m just joking.
B. God’s perspective blesses others
See, here’s the thing that we need to see. God’s perspective changes us, and it changes our view of everything. In fact, to the point that God’s perspective blesses everything, so notice in the next few verses, starting in verse 8. Paul is trying to change their perspective by drawing this great contrast between himself and Apollos. And to the immature Corinthians he uses sarcasm to exaggerate their claims of spiritual superiority. Oh, you have everything you need. You’ve already become rich. Oh, you’ve already become kings, you are so superior. Oh, I see, I see. Then to show the contrast—though they’re trying to reign as kings, their own spiritual fathers Paul and Apollos suffering greatly in the cause of Christ. “Even now,” he says, “We’re both of us hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, roughly treated, homeless, let us first come, though life is difficult, though life has hard turns, be blessed. That’s all there is to it. When we are reviled, be blessed. When we are persecuted, we endure. When we are slandered, we reconcile. That’s maturity. That’s spiritual maturity.
Peter 3, Verses 89, he writes it this way: be humble in spirit, not returning evil for evil or insult for insult. Give a blessing instead. You are called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing, and blessing comes with it, because maturity is just a way better way to live. Blessings come with it. It’s just way better. Luke 6:35, The Way of Jesus. Love your enemies. Do good and you will be like sons of the Most High. For He himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. That maturity, that wonderful maturity. It’s just a way better way to live. Then he says, “Listen, I’m not trying to shame you. I’m trying to admonish you as my beloved children. I love you. I’m trying to direct your course. I’m trying to change your perspective.” See, when God corrects, He is blessing us because of His love for us. Because to be built up and edified is to be built up and edified—it’s just way better.
Someone asked me one time, “Would you do it again? I mean, if you could go back, start over at 21?” My answer is, “No.” I don’t want to go back. Not if I have to let go of what I’ve learned, because I’ve walked these mountains, and it’s taken me a long time to learn that I want God first and foremost in my life. It’s taken me a long time to learn that. That I want God’s appraisal of me to be first and foremost took me a long time to learn that, and I don’t want to start over now because these things are too precious.
1 Corinthians 4:1-21 NASB
1 Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. 3 But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. 4 For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord. 5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.
6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
8 You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you. 9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. 10 We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. 11 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; 12 and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; 13 when we are slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now.