10: "Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose." - "NO DIVISIONS AMONG YOU."
17: "For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power." - Unity comes from the understanding that each of us has a task and specific talents. No one is capable of doing everything. Building God's kingdom requires that we work together.
18: "For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." - Everything we do should point people to the message of redemption available through Christ as it reveals the glory and wonder of God's love.
Points to Contemplate:
Are you united?
Or do you find that you spend most of your time arguing and debating your beliefs with others? Do you tend to migrate towards those who believe as you do? Does this "agreement filter" keep you from doing the ministry that God has called you to do? When you look back on the times of your most heated debates, were you building God's kingdom, listening and growing in the direction He would have you grow, or were you simply listening to your own words and furthering your own agenda? Can you find ways to accept the opposing view points of others in order to work together even as you disagree?
Why is agreeing so important? What is wrong with healthy debate, differing opinions, and divisions of perspectives? In the Corinthian churches, this divisiveness took the focus from Christ and towards the differences. Do you see how disagreements within your church can take the focus away from Christ? Can you see how the public labels and debates in our society between the "Progressives" and the "Evangelicals" could be a cause of concern? As you listen to these types of debates are there things you can do to bridge the differences and return the focus to the Cross as Paul suggests?
Has the cross of Christ been "emptied of its power?" If so, how did it take place? Has your focus turned towards issues such as social justice, abortion, homosexuality, and family values? Are these issues of the Cross or are they soap boxes of self-righteousness on which to stand? Does the world need to hear your opinions on how you think they should live their lives? Or is the message of Christ's redeeming love a more important one to spread? If you provided the world the Cross do you think Christ would then have a better opportunity to transform hearts and, thus, move the world into His righteousness? What can you do today to reveal the power of God for others to see? Promises of the Gospel:
The problems facing the Corinthian churches ring a familiar bell in our own Christian lives. We tend to disagree more then agree. Just like the Corinthians, we become defined and identified by our disagreements. "I am a liberal, evangelical, born-again, progressive Christian that focuses on the literal translation of the Bible and how it applies to social justice and other issues of the heart." Even within our own church walls, divisiveness frequently rules the agenda. Can you hear Paul's response to the fragmentation in Christianity he would find in today's modern world? It would be the very same message he sent the Corinthians. "STOP! These debates are tearing down the Cross!" Whenever debates occur in our Christian circles and whenever differences of opinions create stalemates and log-jams, Paul says we are to turn our focus back to the Cross. It is only through the redeeming love of Jesus Christ that anything we do makes sense. It is only through the Cross where justification and sanctification takes place. It is a simple message but, oh, how easily we drift and empty the cross of its power.
Dear fellow Faithwriters: I have received two wonderful comments regarding this devotional that indicate it is too harsh or lacks the joy that the cross represents. Ironically, the worship team of which I am a member is currently working on a series of worship services focusing on the Cross. We are seeking ways to help our congregation feel its power in their lives. With this article and with the comments I received I feel that God is working through all of us to make sure we get this right. Because of this I would like to share some additional thoughts.
There is so much joy to experience when we turn our eyes towards the cross. We sing songs of celebration to this fact every week in our church services. The love from God represented by its stately form is unfathomable. Just sitting here and thinking about its power brings tears to my eyes.
However, I think this is what Paul has in mind as he looks at a Corinthian church in shambles. His words are harsh because of the glory that is being lost by their actions. My devotional may need to be rewritten and may need to put a focus more on the wonders of the Cross, but if our actions as Christians in anyway divert people's attention from the glory of the cross, shouldn't we be dealt with harshly?
May God's glory shine in each of your lives. Gary Sims