Live as Spiritual Men
1 Corinthians 16.13-14
September 12, 2015
Alright, so Paul is writing this letter of course, as a letter of correction. There’s a lot of spiritual immaturity in that church and so one at a time he’s taking on these issues of spiritual immaturity. He’s saved really, I think the most important for last, which we dealt with last week, having to do with the fact that there were those in the church there, in Corinth, who did not believe that there’s a resurrection, which Paul just addresses very, very strongly, bringing compelling arguments, you know, to strengthen faith and explain to them, hey if there’s no resurrection then even Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, and if Christ hasn’t be raised from the dead, your faith is worthless and you’re selling your sins. It’s so important, he brought all these compelling arguments. Christ has been raised from the dead. We have this anchor for our soul and we have hope. We need hope beyond this world in which we’re living, and so in other words, Paul is bringing them to greater spiritual maturity.
Alright, then we get to chapter 16. Now in chapter 16, he really turns his heart to make it personal and he brings various personal things to them. For example, he starts out by talking about an offering, a collection of funds, that he wanted them to take up for the church that was in Jerusalem, and so this was an issue that he had in several churches because he’s so concerned the church in Jerusalem was going through a very difficult time. Mostly because the empire Rome was getting very impatient with those difficult Jewish leaders and were preparing to march on Jerusalem. So, he wanted to encourage them and bring them financial support. That was part of it. And when you think about that, that perspective of just blessing of the churches, by the way, it’s something we do today. It’s very, very important that we do that as well.
We’re connected to churches all over the world and we send them our support, our prayers, our encouragement. Just this last week, I was speaking with one of our pastors, many of you know him, Pastor George McGuru, in Nairobi, Kenya, who asked for prayers. He’d called and said “Please pray for us because there is a wealthy man in Saudi Arabia who has paid for the construction of a very large mosque just across the way from our bible college there in Nairobi and they have pointed their speakers directly at us”. I don’t know if you know this but in many, many parts of the world, when they build a mosque they are allowed to install outdoor speakers and to blare them at extremely high volumes as they call out these musical Arabic calls for prayer, five times a day. And so they installed their speakers and pointed it directly at the bible college, and so he said “Pray for us”.
He said “At the same time that’s happening, we’re just getting ready to graduate the largest class of Pastors we’ve ever graduated from this bible college, so while we have this challenge, we have this blessing, so pray for us”. And I’m going to Africa actually, myself here, in a couple of weeks and I’m going to visit the churches in Congo and teach at conferences, bring support and encouragement so when you look at this, it’s something we do as well.
And then he goes on to speak about his travel plans. You can see it’s very personal. He speaks about friends of his in the ministry, his son and the faith, Timothy and Paul and others. Then it’s very interesting because right in the middle of the chapter, this last chapter, he turns his heart to them and he gives them these specific principles for living out faith victoriously, like one principle after the other. Because he wants to strengthen them and these are principles you need to have for spiritual victory in your life, and that’s what we want to look at as well. Let’s look at it, verses 13-14, we’re just going to look at those two verses and the other verses, by the way, we dig into it in Wednesday’s service so be sure to come and be part of that.
I. Be Spiritually Alert
Verse 13, be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong and let all that you do, be done in love. Those are the instructions to bring spiritual encouragement to them and I want to look at that. One of the things that we see right away is his ammunition to be spiritually alert. That’s what he means. When we look at the times in which we’re living, we are living in very, very difficult times and is there any question but there is a spiritual aspect to what’s happening in the world today. We are living in times of spiritual warfare. And so therefore, when you’re in spiritual warfare, you have to be spiritually alert. And in biblical times, they would actually set a watchman on the wall, which has become a very important phrase. A watchman on the wall to always be on the watch, to always be on the alert. When Jesus spoke of the condition of things that will take place in the world, that will indicate that we’re in the last days, he said when you see these things, know that the time is near. When you look at the list that he gave us to Mathew 24 and Mathew 25, indicates to us that we are living in those times. We are nearing those latter days that he spoke of. Therefore, he said, be on the alert.
He goes on to say that the coming of the son will be just like the days of Noah. This was before the flood. He said they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were giving him marriage and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away. In other words, they were living it up, they were, you know, partying you might say, eating, drinking, that’s a phrase which means they’re just having a great time, oblivious to the dangers. Going about their business unaware of the spiritual and necessity of change in their lives, and so when you look at what he’s saying, he’s really saying it this way, be of sober spirit. What does sober spirit mean? Actually Peter uses that phrase. It means sober spirit is alive, alert, attentive, ready, it’s the opposite of being asleep. It’s the opposite of being in a spiritual stupor. It means to be spiritually aware of the dangerous times in which we’re living.
A. Be of sober spirit
You know that Jesus, on that last night that he had with his disciples, this is what he said to them, which is very applicable and interesting. Mathew 26, verse 41, keep watching and praying that you may not turn into temptation, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Now, these are the words to his disciples and what he had asked is that Peter and James and John, come with him, he’s in the garden of Gesenamie. This is that last famous night where he’s going to spend the night in prayer to his father and he wants to be with these men, his closest friends, Peter, James and John. And he brings them, he says “Stay with me and watch, be on the alert, be ready, be on the watch”. Of course he knew this was the night of his betrayal. And then he went some distance away and prayed his famous prayers to his father. He came back, they were sleeping. “Are you still sleeping? Can you not pray with me one hour?” and then he went away again and prayed again. You know, the intensity of that prayer to his father? He came back, they were sleeping again. Corrected them “Are you still sleeping?” and he went again and prayed and they were sleeping yet again. You look at this and you understand they were tired and their tiredness made them weak. Jesus said the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, and I think this is really a very helpful insight because when you talk about being a spiritually alert, one of the things we need to recognize is that our flesh makes us tired. Our flesh is very powerful and tiredness is a really good picture of the power of the flesh, over us. We all understand. We all understand the power of tiredness, the power of sleep over us.
You know, here we are back to school is back in session. Now the kids got to get up early, you know, again. I don’t know how it is in your house but I find that kids generally just don’t pop out of bed “Thank you for waking me up mom and dad, I’m excited to get up in the morning”. You know, so, you know, we have our granddaughter with us now, you know? So it’s like “Hey, come on, it’s time to get up” and it’s like “Oh I don’t want to get up, you know” so you know, we bound into her room “Rise and shine and give god the glory”, “Grandpa don’t sing that song”. We all can relate. I mean I was that way when I was young.
When I was a young man and single, I had to have my alarm clock had to be like a fire alarm, you know, to wake me up, because we don’t understand the power of tiredness. My phone was the same way, back in those days you wouldn’t have cell phones. And a landline, you know, had to have one of those fire alarm rings to it to wake me up, and which reminds me of a funny story. So, we get married and we go on our honeymoon, and we come back. So our first day back at work, I have to open the restaurant so I got to get up at like 5.15 and I had kind of forgotten what that alarm clock sounded like. So when it went off at 5.15, it absolutely startled and scared my newlywed wife and she bolted upright in bed just as I’m just shocked by the whole thing, and I’m reaching for it forgetting that it was on the other side of the bed, I’m reaching for it just as she’s bolting upright and we had a mid-air collision. This is terrible, I’d been married two weeks and a day and I’m a terrible husband. Day two, I don’t have to wake up early. Okay, great, we won’t have that. The problem is, something happened at the restaurant and they called me at 5.30 in the morning and I had that alarm bell, same exact thing. She bolted upright, I’m like ahhhh, I reach for the phone, two weeks and two days, I’m a terrible husband. Nowadays though, I can set my alarm for the tiniest teeniest signal and I wake up ready for the day, rise and shine again. Okay, it’s not quite like that but you know what I’m saying.
It’s a good picture of the tiredness, it’s a good picture of the power of the flesh because you know what happens a lot of times? See the comparison. A lot of times when people get tired, they get irritable and cranky which is the opposite of anything spiritual and in their crankiness, they throw spiritual principles out the window, which is very interesting. It really shows you the power of it.
The spirit is willing, Jesus said. Our spirit wants spiritual things. We want to have spiritual maturity. There’s a desire, the intent is there, we want to read god’s word, we want to pray, we want to stand in victory over sin, the intention is good but it’s a battle between the spirit and the flesh. And there’s where we need to understand, he says be in sober spirits. This is what I see. Peter, this is verse Peter 5 versus 8 – 9. Be of sober spirit he says, be on the alert because you’re adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. In other words, the enemy will take advantage of the weakness of your flesh but resist him, firm in the faith. That’s how you resist him, firm in the faith.
B. Stand firm in the faith
Which brings us to the next ammunition to spiritual maturity he brings us to in first Corinthian 16. He tells them be on the alert, stand firm in the faith. To stand firm means to hold fast, to not give way. The idea is that you kind of set your faith in such a way is that you’re not giving in, you’re not giving way to it, you’re standing strong. See, it takes spiritual strength of character to stand against the forces that are against us. We’re living in a time when culture where the forces are tremendously against us. It’s like a picture of a mighty rock in the midst of a moving river. And it takes a mighty rock to stand against that moving river and in many ways it’s a picture of the times in which we’re living. See the culture that we live in today, it’s like a river that is moving in one direction. He’s going downhill. Would you not agree with me? The culture in which we’re living is flowing in a direction of going downhill and so therefore it takes strength to stand when the flow is going in the wrong, in that opposite direction. But many, what’s the phrase today? Go with the flow and they just float along with the culture but to stand firm, is to stand firm against that.
C. Beware of spiritual compromise
Can you imagine what it would be like to be a Christian in the city of Corinth in that day? Think about the challenge, the difficulty. Corinth, if you remember, was like the Amsterdam of the ancient world. It was the very center of immorality in the empire of Rome and here, these Christian’s, are trying to stand victoriously and they’re living in a culture that is completely and opposite against it. Can you imagine what it would be like? Actually we can, we can imagine it. You know why? Because we’re living in a time and culture very much like it. The immorality, we’re living in a culture that is saturated with immorality and the direction of the world, you’d have to agree with me, that the direction of the world is exactly the opposite of the direction that a Christian’s life is pointed.
What direction is your life pointed towards? I submit to you that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you’ve asked him as your lord and savior into your life, and into your heart, your life is pointed towards heaven, and when you walk, you are walking in the direction of heaven. And that is the determined set course and when you breathe your last on this earth, you’re just going to keep on walking because your life is pointed towards heaven. It’s important for us because we are, our life is pointed in the exact opposite of the flow of the world, and it takes a firm set foundational faith, in fact, this is what he says. Notice in chapter 15, verse 58, therefore my beloved brother, be steadfast, be immovable. I love, those are strength words. Be steadfast. Be immovable. Always abounding in the work of the lord. In other words, this is the work of the lord. You are moving in that direction and your life is following right with it, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the lord. What is the direction of your life?
Reminds me, one of the best illustrations I can think of is, comes out of The Chronicles of Narnia, maybe you’ve read some of these books. We read them to our kids and we’ve been reading them to our Granddaughter. One of the characters, I love in these books, is this mouse by the name of Reepicheep, and if you know The Chronicles of Narnia, the animals talk, you know, and the challenges and difficulties. Well Reepicheep is a mouse of noble character. Valiant, you know, in stature. And one of the stories, they go on this long journey on a ship and they want to find this missing lord, he’s been missing a long time. But their secret desire on this trip is to find the land of the emperor beyond the sea, and it’s a picture of the land of our father, you know, the heaven. And so they go from one adventure to another and of course it’s a great adventure with challenges and difficulties, and sea monsters and everything. And they go through the whole thing and on the last island they stop at, and the men are wearied and tired. The ship is battered but they have one final push, one last push, they don’t know what’s out there. Maybe no more islands, no more lands but they’re hoping that they will find the land of the emperor beyond the sea. So they realize we must do this by volunteers. This must be done by volunteers, the risk is so high, but the problem is that the men are beat and tired and spent, and the ship is depleted, but interestingly, of course it’s a part of the story that’s very fascinating, there’s the feast prepared for them every evening, and it’s a great picture. There’s a lot of spiritual symbolism here. Anyway, they begin to realize this may be a problem, we may have a hard time getting volunteers and so one of the leaders says let me make a speech. So the leader gathers them all together and says “Now listen men, I don’t want us to be misunderstood, it’s not that we’re coming with our hat in our hand hoping and asking that you’ll sign up to volunteer. We only want the brave. We only want the valiant. We only want those of highest character. You must put your name on the list, everyone else you can stay behind, and then someone says “Reepicheep, you’ve been quiet. Why haven’t you said anything?”. And he makes his famous speech. One of my favorite speeches in all the books. He says “I haven’t said anything because I have nothing to say. I’ve already made my mind. I will sail on this ship east, as far as it will take me. And when this ship fails, then I will take out my coracle, little boat, and I will paddle that coracle east, as far as it will take me, and when that coracle fails me, I will jump in the water and I will swim with all of my strength east and if I haven’t reached the land of the emperor, and I die there, then I will die but know this, my nose will be pointed east. That’s all I have to say”. Then the men said “Put my name on the list, I’m not going to be outdone by a mouse”.
I love this speech because there’s this set determined place where he said “I know where my life is pointed. My life is pointed east, and no matter what comes in life, no matter what happens in life, I will go east”. See, there’s this picture for us, be steadfast, be immovable. We need to understand this is a call to spiritual maturity. It is an all-in. I’m all-in. I accept the course of my life. I know the direction, my life is pointed towards heaven and I will live according to that direction.
You know, there is a great story in the life of David. You know that David, the king, had many mighty men in his army. Thirty great mighty men are named and then there are three chief mighty men. One of those is by the name of Shamma, and he was told to hold this land. The philistine said advance against them. He was told to hold this line. So he’s holding this line, the problem is that the Jewish army is retreating but he has determined his course. I was told to hold this line. It’s marked by a lentil field. He said “I’m going to hold this line and I will hold this line and if I die here, I will die on that line because I was told to hold this line”. But he’s a valiant warrior and he brings about a great victory, and the other men rush in after him to help. It’s a great story of that determined course and really, the way we should say it is this, beware of spiritual compromise. So to be steadfast and to be immovable, to be firm in the faith means that you have decidedly understood the significance of planting your life and pointing in that direction, to be spiritually alert and firm understandably requires this.
The dangers of compromise are all around us. In Corinth, what a huge issue this was. The opportunity for compromise was all around them. The same is true for us. We have to decide in what world are we going to live? Are we going to live in the world of immorality? Are we going to live in the kingdom of god? They are incompatible. We have to decide.
II. Quit You like Men
Here’s a great verse, psalm 86, verses 11-12, teach me your way, oh lord, that I may walk in your truth. What a picture. Give me an undivided heart to revere your name. I give thanks to you my lord, my god, with my whole heart. I will glorify your name forever. I love that verse. There’s such a strength to it. There’s a settled decision that’s behind it. Teach me your way, lord, that I may walk in your truth. Give me an undivided heart that I might revere your name. I give thanks to you lord, my god, with all of my heart. What a picture for us.
You know, when Israel was held in slavery in Egypt? Remember the story? We read about it in the book of Genesis and Moses confronted (inaudible 00:23:36) with those famous words, “the lord says to you let my people go”. Of course, he hardened his heart, he would not do it and then the plagues, and then eventually he got to a point, after the fifth plague or so, where he said “Okay, alright, you can worship your god but you cannot leave Egypt”. There’s that call to compromise. “Look, if you’ll just compromise then I think we can make this work. Go ahead and believe in god if you want to but don’t leave”. Which is to say, for us, you can believe in god if you just don’t leave the world. Nothing, don’t change anything, don’t go overboard with this thing, don’t actually be sincere with this thing, don’t become one of those people who is actually sincere, don’t become one of those fanatics, you know, that raises their hand and actually reads his bible and actually prays, don’t become one of those people. What’s amazing is that if someone is just simply sincere and genuine and in their faith, the world calls them a fanatic, but if someone goes to a football game in the middle of winter without a shirt on and their chest painted blue and red and wearing a bright orange wig with a hat with horns on, apparently, that’s just being a loyal fan. I’d rather be sincere in my faith and let the chips fall where they may. Amen.
But he goes on to say a very interesting thing, back to first Corinthian 16, the next phrase, I want to quote it out of the King James because the King James says it in a very unique and interesting way. The way that King James says it is this, “Quit you like men”. When I first read that I thought that is an intriguing phrase. What could that possibly mean? “Quit you like men”. My first bible was King James. See, remember earlier in this book, this letter, that he encouraged them to be more than just men, be more than mere men. It’s calling them to spiritual maturity. Here he means the same thing. Grow from spiritual immaturity to become a man. Spiritual, a man of god. Mature in the faith. What does he mean by this? What he said before, put away childish things, quit you like men, means to put away, to quit, put away childish things. It’s a very old English phrase, and the word quit actually, in its original form, meant to be free. So let’s say for example, you quit your job. What you’re really saying to your boss is “I am free of thee. I quit”. That’s what I quit means. If you are acquitted in the court of law, you are freed from those charges against you. You see, it does relate.
A. Put away childish things
The word here is the same idea, be free, be free of those things that mark your spiritual immaturity. Be free of those things that he calls childish things, and he means spiritual childness. See the key characteristic of childishness is selfishness. Look at a child, you’ll see selfishness from the very beginning. It’s only as we grow that our child’s eyes begin to open and they can begin to have compassion, they can begin to understand and feel what others are feeling. And I remember, our Grandson, Ethan, when he was like two, and (inaudible 00:27:13) would sometimes say to him “I love you Ethan” and you know, if he was not in the mood, he would say “I don’t love you” because he was kind of feeling cranky at that moment so he would just say “I don’t love you” which hurt her feelings and she would turn to me with this look and I’d say “He’s only two, it’s okay” and I hugged her and I’d say “It’s okay, it’s alright. He’s only two”. I noticed as he got older, as he began to grow, he began to be more aware of her and her feelings and so, you know, she would say “I love you Ethan” and he would say “I love you too”, even if he didn’t feel like it because I began to see that he was being very concerned for her. I thought, he’s maturing. He’s maturing, look at that, right before our eyes, he’s maturing, and that the same idea in us, you start to grow in spiritual maturity, you begin to realize, wait a minute, I need a bless those around me. I need to really be part of strengthening people around me.
B. Be made strong
In fact, in first Corinthians 14, verse 20, one of the verses is about this. He said “Now brother, do not be children in your thinking. No, in evil, be babes or infants but in your thinking, be mature”, which is an interesting thing. Too many people are experts when it comes to worldly things but babes when it comes to spiritual things. So he’s calling them to stop, put away those things. It’s like this in first Corinthian’s 11, we read before, when I was a child I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man I did away with childish things and it’s an illustration to be applied spiritually. He’s calling us to put away worldly things, immature things, put those things away so you can grow in the strength of the spirit, which is why he then says in the next phrase, back in Corinthian 16, be strong, but literally it’s be made strong. It literally means that. It’s not be strong by pulling yourselves up by your spiritual boot straps. No, this is a work that god does. God does this work spiritually. Be made strong by the work of the Holy Spirit.
One of Paul’s prayers. He says, I pray that he, god, would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power through his spirit in the inner man. Now that’s an interesting phrase. The inner man! See the inner man no-one knows but you. You’re the only one who knows the inner man, you and god. But he’s speaking and addressing that strength of character in the spirit, is a work that god does when he pours his Holy Spirit into your heart and into your soul, and something happens in the inner man. That’s where revival comes from. That’s where faith comes from. That’s where authentic transformation happens. It’s the inner man. To be spiritually mature is to be strengthened with power, with the Holy Spirit in the inner man. Something real, something genuine, no-one knows. It’s just you and god. There’s where it is. It’s the way to have genuine effect of faith.
C. Let all you do be done in love
Let me give you a great verse. James 5:16, I give it to you King James, that’s how I memorized it, I love the way it’s phrased. The factual fervent prayer of a righteous man, availeth much. When to love your life to availeth much. And it gives us this picture of spiritual strength. Be made strong, and it comes from the heart that is all-in. I’m all-in lord. Here’s my heart, my inner man, here’s my soul, I’m all-in. I’m all yours lord, everything I am, everything I have, I’m all-in.
Here’s a story out of the old testament, when Elisha, he was the prophet after Elijah, and he was near death, he was on his death bed, and the king, King Joash, came to him, very concerned about losing this prophet and wanting a word from the lord because there was an imminent danger the army was threatening to invade. “I need a word from the lord, a word from the lord” and so he told them “See those barrels and that bow? Pick it up”. So he does. “Set an arrow on the string”. So he does. And then the prophet reaches out and puts his hand on him. The picture is one of strength being given, puts his hands on him and he says “Now shoot that arrow out the window”. So he shoots the arrow out the window. And of course, in those days, a prophet would use a lot of symbolism and they can really relate to the symbol of it, so he shot the arrow out the window, and he said “That arrow goes forth like victory”. He said “Now, take the arrows in your hand” and he took the arrows in his hand. This is actually the second King’s chapter 13, verse 18, Elisha said “Take the arrows” so he took them, and he said to the King of Israel, “Now strike the ground” he says, and he struck it three times and he stopped. What is the suggestion here? “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to do?”. And he’s like halfhearted. “Look take the arrows in your hand” so he takes the arrows in his hand. “Okay now strike the ground”. Tap, tap, tap. And so the prophet actually corrects him and said “Only three times? You should have struck it multiple times, five or six times but now as it is, you will only have three victories in battle. You will not defeat them”.
He was testing his heart. Where’s your heart in this? Are you all-in? Are you all-in? See, some people don’t like that spiritually. Alright god, alright god, you’re asking me to be all-in here. Here’s three taps. Tap, tap, tap. Is that it? What is he saying? He’s challenging them. What is the point in being halfhearted is basically what he is saying. What is the point of being halfhearted? Either be all-in or not be in. What does the scripture say? The lord prefers us to be either hot or cold. He doesn’t like lukewarm. He doesn’t like half-in. Are you all-in? He said “Be all in. Be all in with all of your heart”. That’s what he’s challenging us to and it translates to spiritual strength, which translates into strength of living.
I love this picture, you know, of Caleb in the Old Testament? Caleb and Joshua are some of my favorite characters out of the stories of Genesis and Exodus. Caleb has great strength of faith. He and Joshua, and he and Joshua alone, have the faith to believe god, that god has given us this land although it be filled with giants and great challenges, god has given us this land and if god has given us this land, then we must go in and take this land. He and Joshua alone, but it translated into an interesting story because, of course, the rest of Israel retreated in fear. And so for 40 years, he languished with the people of Israel in the desert. He and Joshua got to go in, and at one point, when it came to dividing up the land, what land, what tribe etc, Caleb came and he said “Give me the high country”. He’s 85 years old. 85! He said “Give me the high country. Give me the difficult country. Give me the challenging country. Give me that, I’ve been wanting that for the last 40 years. I’m as strong today at 85 than I was at 40.” Wouldn’t you love to be able to say that? As strong today as when I was 40, give me the high country. His faith translates in the strength of character. It translates into strength of life.
Joshua, speaking of Joshua, he’s another great example of a man that demonstrates faith and it translates into strength of living. I love Joshua. Chapter 1, verse 8 and 9, right the lord is speaking to Joshua but listen to this insight. He says, you shall meditate on it, he’s speaking about the world, you shall meditate on it day and night so that you may be careful to do all according that is written into it, for then you will make your way prosperous and you will have success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not tremble, do not be dismayed, don’t have fear, for the lord, your god, is with you wherever you go. You know that promise is for you and me? Do you believe that that word is true for you and me? The lord, your god, is with you wherever you go. Do you believe this? Your word is sure, oh lord. Your word is established in heaven. Your word is the foundation on which I live my life. But the word of god says, be strong, spiritually, for the lord, your god, is with you wherever you go. I will not leave you. I will not forsake you. I’ll be with you even until the end of the age, the scripture says. What a promise! It translates. Faith translates into strength of living. Be all in, he says, be all in.
Last thing he says, and we’ll close with this, verse 14, and finally this, let all that you do, let it be done in love. What a great way to finish. Let all that you do, let it be done in love. Of course, reminds us of that earlier ammunition, the greatest of all spiritual things is love. It’s greater than spiritual gifts and it is part of your character because it is built out of your faith. Love. Love is not just something you have towards your wife. Love is not just something you have towards your kids. Love is defining you, it says, it’s part of your character because your faith has everything to do with all. Whatever you do, let all you do be done in love. What a great way to finish. Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong, and let all that you do be done in love.