(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)
This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Agree or disagree? When you set your heart to walk in obedience you can often expect pushback.
What can represent the pushback? Pushback can come from any direction, any source and sometimes the least expected source. In our text we see Paul referring to different sources of pushback. I call these Fatal Distractions - experiences and realities that can divert, distract, and prevent us from walking in obedience, pushing ahead and staying on the path that God wants us to walk.
Text: 1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Big Idea: To remain faithful we need to contend with Fatal Distractions.
Note Paul’s Calling (v.1)
What are the key words that would define his calling? Note the pronoun, showing that he is not referring to just himself.
The phrase “secret things of God”, many think, is a Greek phrase that Paul stole. Paul is using it to reference the Gospel that is the “foolishness” of God. See 1:21-25, 2:7-10
Note The Challenge (v.2)
What must those who have been given a trust prove?
All Christ followers are servants, entrusted/stewards of the Gospel. How that plays out for each of us is different. Gifts, passions, life call - all shape how this works itself out. Nonetheless, we must prove faithful, endure, be reliable, and trustworthy. It is with this admonition that Paul raises three fatal distractions that can divert our focus.
Note The Fatal Distractions (v.3-5)
1. Critics (v.3)
Paul is not talking about constructive critics, the one that come alongside us because they love us and want to make us better people. He is talking about nasty, mean critics: their tongues are sharp, their intentions are dark and their glance is cutting. Paul had those kinds of critics in Corinth. They attacked his gospel, apostleship, gifting and basically rejected him.
How much does Paul care about the words of his critics? Do you think this meant they didn’t hurt him at all or that the hurt was felt but not deeply? Can you say of your nasty critics, “I care very little”?
I think one of the clues in the text that helps us understand how Paul could say this is seen in the word “servant”, used in v. 3:5 and 4:1. As a servant, his identity was rooted in Christ, (“servant” is an identity word), his security was established and his assignment was clear, thus critics’ words were a very small thing. He knew Who he answered to. See v.4.
Do you think many get sidelined because of nasty critics?
How can nasty critics soil our souls and hinder our hearts?
What does it mean to prove faithful in light of nasty critics?
Do you agree that this issue – critics - can be a fatal distraction?
2. Conscience (v.4)
Critics can be nasty, but consciences can be..... Note the big BUT in v.4. Note what Paul is saying: one’s conscience can be a faulty means of assessing if one is being faithful, staying the course. In fact, if your conscience is your guide, there is a good chance you are way off course and possibly not even knowing it.
The word conscience means to be “with knowledge”. Where does the conscience get such knowledge? What does v.4b suggest is the source of the conscience’s knowledge? The healthy conscience is informed by objective moral laws and truth. The Moral Law Giver ultimately informs and shapes the conscience.
When Paul says he doesn’t even judge himself, he is referring to a certain kind of judgment - ultimate judgement. The conscience is not able to make the ultimate judgment. Only God can. Paul was judging all kinds of issues in Corinth, but ultimate judgment belongs to God. Our systems are broken and faulty and require an ultimate judge.
What was one of the many problems in Corinth? They had what they thought was a clear conscience BUT that did not mean they were innocent. Note in v.5:1,2 - they are proud but they should be ashamed. They are not proving faithful, they are way off course and their blind guide – conscience - is leading the way! Their conscience was not being informed and shaped by God’s word and the Holy Spirit, but rather by worldliness. See v.3:3.
A fatal distraction is when our misinformed conscience supplants the authority of the Lord in our lives.
I think this is a huge problem in our Christian culture these days. Here are statements that illustrate the problem. Discuss and add your own.
“I really feel that this is okay….”
“My conscience is clear”
“I have talked to some of my friends and they agree…”
“I don’t see anything wrong with this…”
“Hey it’s working for me so why not continue in this direction?”
“We just really feel that this is the best for us right now.”
What does one need to do to prove faithful in light of this second fatal distraction?
3. Motives (v.5) ( I will keep this short)
Again note what kind of judgment Paul is talking about. What can we not clearly judge? What is hidden?
These words of Paul reveal a third fatal distraction - our motives. Paul wants them to come clean on their hearts before God. While our behaviour might be looking ok, our hearts could be very unhealthy. As God’s servants, He doesn’t just want our faithful acts, but a faithful, transformed heart. However, reality is that many unguarded hearts have compromised faithfulness. They have allowed broken motives to be the key drivers of their hearts.
As you wrap up, list wrong motives that can be fatal distractions, then pray for whole hearts.
Might we all prove faithful in contending with fatal distractions.
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REFLECTION ON SCRIPTURE
- People: Who are the people in this passage and how are they like us today?
- Place: What is the setting and what are the similarities to our world?
- Plot: What is happening? Is there any conflict or tension? How would I have acted in that situation?
- Point: What was the intended message for the first people to hear this passage? What did God want them to learn or feel or do?
- Principles: What are the timeless truths?
- Present: How is this relevant in our world today?
- Parallels: Where does this truth apply to my life? At home, at work, at school, in church, in the neighborhood?
- Personal: What attitude, action, value, or belief needs to change in me?
- Plan: What would be my first step of action?