Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians 3

Growing old, or growing up?

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah….

(Ps 95.6-8)

“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear: should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.

(Jer 5.21)

“I could not address you as spiritual but as wordly – mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

(1Cor 3.1-3)

I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again….so come on, let’s leave the preschool finger-painting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place…God helping us, we’ll stay true to all that. but there’s so much more. Let’s get on with it!

(Heb 5.11-6.3: The Message; Eugene Peterson)

Much as we may enjoy and even cherish the infant stages of life, we would be deeply disturbed if they never passed into something else – it would be a sign that something was wrong, and cause for great concern. We are designed to grow up, to mature, to become capable of bearing responsibility and in time, nurturing the next generation. This is just as much true in our spiritual lives, as in our human bodies, as these words from an understandably exasperated apostle illustrate!

Each of us must make our own response to God’s word – we are charged to work out what God is saying to us, and then to do it. We are commanded to meditate on the word, letting it dwell in our hearts so that our thoughts and actions are transformed. God’s word can be resisted, we can close our hears and minds to his loving command and if we do so long enough, we become unable to hear him.

Is this not a terrifying prospect? I don’t believe that I can fall utterly away from God’s safe keeping, but I long to be found responsible in my handling of all the good gifts which I have received, to know that I have glorified God by bringing every aspect of my life under his command to be used as he pleases.

The bible teaches us in so many ways, that God is continually seeking to draw his people closer to him in faith and obedience, and that it is through their witness that his name is honoured. The people of Israel brought dishonour on God when they doubted him in the desert after leaving Egypt; they dishonoured him when they turned again and again to the worship of idols; they dishonoured him when – in Jesus’ day – they worshipped the observance of the law and temple procedure instead of the holy One himself. Am I bringing dishonour on Jesus by refusing to let him work out his purposes in  my life, closing my mind to what he says?

As a ransomed, new-created and holy child of God, I am called to grow out of my infant diet; to progress from the early stages of understanding my new position to working out in detail just what difference God makes in my life, and how he does it. Mine should be a mature faith which can stand the test and grow, stepping forward to embrace trials as a means by which God shows his love and manifests his glory. It is maturing faith which can step into positions of responsibility, and be entrusted with the pastoral care of others. It is mature faith which can say with Job – “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”

I know that the days, months and years which God has yet for me will include difficult times, pain and suffering – my own, that of my loved ones and of the wider world. I do not want to be like a vulnerable infant, dependant on the people around me to look after me, but rather a responsible adult, one who can do the task for which God has called and enabled me. I want to grow up in my faith as I grow old in my body, making the most of the time that I am granted to serve my gracious God as faithfully as I can.

May God keep my spirit soft to receive his teaching, and my ears sensitive to his voice. Although I may weary of my own imperfections and repeated failings, God does not give up on me, and I ask for a persevering spirit to continue to grow in faith and to press on towards the glory which he has promised.

..but God gives the increase

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen

(Rev 1.5&6)

I have been reading this week in Deuteronomy, of the end of Moses’ life and his final exhortations to the people whom he had led so faithfully from Egypt, through the wilderness, and to the borders of the land promised to them by God as their new home. It is a poignant tale, as the great leader reviews God’s mighty acts of deliverance, the people’s rebellion and struggles, his own weaknesses, and the very real choices which lie ahead – to obey and receive the covenant blessings, or to disobey, and bring curses upon their heads.

I think Moses knew quite well that there would be great trouble and sorrow ahead – he had not forgotten the disobedience, idolatry and deep doubts which the Israelites had shown during their wanderings. He knew their hearts, their weakness, and had no illusions that the bounty of their new home would bind their hearts permanently to worship God alone. It must have been very sore, to lay down the burden of leadership, to see the faithful Joshua take it up in full knowledge that the job would take all he could give, and at times almost crush the life and hope out of him.

Did Moses ever wonder whether there would be anything to show for all his labour a few years after his death, any lasting fruit at all? In those times of doubt, perhaps he would go back in his mind to the miraculous provision of food in the wilderness, of water from the rock, and take strength in his faith that this God would not abandon the people. Or perhaps he would go further back to the dramatic time when God – seeming to be exasperated beyond bearing by the disobedience of the people when they created and worshipped a golden calf – had threatened to destroy them utterly and build a new nation around Moses’ own family. That day, Moses had reminded God of the promise made to Abraham, God’s own sworn covenant, to build a nation that would show his glory to the nations. What boldness on Moses’ part, and yet, what faithfulness too, seeking always to serve and magnify God, to honour and obey his word.

I think that this is the key to our own faithfulness in serving God – which is what we are called, enabled and privileged to do. We are made new creatures in Christ, commissioned to bring the good news of the gospel and the kingdom of God to all people, and promised the presence and power of God as we go. We are emphatically NOT given quotas, targets, deadlines or performance indicators. We are not given annual reviews and spreadsheets to complete. Paul wrote to the church in Corinth to make it clear where the credit for their coming to faith should lie!

What, after all is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1Cor 3.5-7)

It is God who builds the church, as it was God who called, saved and formed the people of Israel, keeping his promises to them in spite of chronic disobedience over centuries. Moses was not blamed for their failures, but commended for his faithful obedience in doing all that God had asked of him. So also, Paul points out that each labourer in God’s harvest field is rewarded for his labour, but is not responsible for the fruit – or lack of it.

We need to pray for our church leaders, that they will remember God calls them only to obedience, trusting him for growth in due time, and grieving over a lack of response without taking wrong personal responsibility for it. We need to hold God to his promises, as Moses did, that he will build his church, that he will be glorified among the nations and gather his church from every people under the sun. It is not our job to produce the fruit in other people, but to labour as God gives us abilities and opportunities, in loving and proclaiming the kingdom. In this way, all the glory goes to the one to whom it belongs, and we have the joy of exalting him alone!

To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen!

(Jude 24,25)