Friday, March 16, 2007

Lush Journos, A Departed Chicken, Assurance and 1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Lush Journos At DinnerThe Departed Poulet
1. A spouse away in Hong Kong. Therefore: lush journalists and editors at a table of 42 Below vodka and Bols and bread and pate and martinis and chicken cacciatore and several bottles of Cointreau and quiche and Berllini and boxes of Lindt and Godiva and champagne, castrati-falsetto covers of Christopher Cross' Sailing, a great many toasts, helpless fits of laughter, a man marrying a female of bovine persuasion being quite right in calling his wife a cow, role-playing in the bedroom requiring World of Warcraft and laplink, having Irish blood and an English passport but claiming to be Scottish, a profuse fecundity of unpublishables, saving a date for macroloving with microbrewed beer.

2. A screening of The Departed, but first, against the backdrop of IZ Israel Kamakawiwoʻole: somewhere over the rainbow - a wonderful cosy home, a table of Riesling and gazpacho and juicy departed french fowl and pinot noir and a pot of guinness lamb stew and tiramisu, a rather noisy spy camera, discussions on closing the cavities of chickens, the implications of being hanged and drawn and quartered, and querulous questions for querying gourmet kitchen appliance shopkeepers.

Ultimate UltimatelyBirthday Baked Alaska
3. A sunny Sunday: Ultimate ultimately on a football field laced with kite strings.

4. 30th birthday of The Koala Bear: excitement of a surprising birthday surprise, Russian spies, overconfident postulations of possible entry points, non-spontaneous combustion of hunks of baked alaska, a blindfolded trip to a karaoke lounge, angsty renditions of dodgy songs, Hokkien gems, a reprise of the infamous 神啊救救我吧. May your next 60 years, God willing, be full of the grace of God as his child, as a husband, as a father and as a son.

Man Does Not Live On Bread Alone
5. Most excellently, man does not live on soft buttered rolls alone but on happy hour(s), sequestered in comfy chairs, in the company of 3 very good friends, and more to come after.

Thanks to B the Brilliant Beng, a new 80GB ipod served up a silver platter of rich nosh. 1 Corinthians is champagne and caviar, canard à la rouennaise and foie gras, oysters rockefeller and broiled lobster indeed. (Well, actually, far more satisfying than the over-salted unborn young of sturgeons and the blood of strangled ducks.) Absolutely plump stuff to get you drinking Wittenberg beer and sleeping soundly!

Ah, but scrumptious meal-sized pieces to avoid indigestion. So 1 Corinthians 1:1-17 for starters.

The Cross
When Paul writes of "the cross", he is referring, not to a geometrical figure consisting of two lines or bars intersecting each other at a 90° angle, but to the message of the cross, the gospel. Dick Lucas, courtesy of the Proclamation Trust (full text here), starts well by defining the message of the cross that Paul assumes knowledge of - the wealth of meaning in the little phrase:"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures".

Efficacy of the Cross
And at the UCCF South East Leaders' Weekend earlier this month (thanks to Dave Bish over at the blue fish project), Saint Mike Reeves smacks his lips, Jamie Oliver-like, at the yumminess of the cross for the Corinthian Christians and for us:
Corinth was the place for anything and everything in Paul's time: a bustling lively great city to live in. There was commerce, intellectualism, promiscuity, spirituality... And the Corinthian church was getting drawn (back) into this stuff. The solution? Paul's solution was simply to take them back to the gospel! Not only was the gospel the power for their salvation, but it was the power to keep them, to mould them into Christ.

Gospel still is the power of God for initial salvation and also for sanctification. Which means we don't have to stress about church unity. Bickering and splitting into parties? The solution is the gospel. Martin Luther must have lived the most all-time greatly stressful life: he was attacked, kidnapped and spent most of his life under death threats (eg. of being burned alive) and while all this was happening, he was pumping out books, bible translations, sermons. Here's what he said:"I simply taught God's word. Otherwise, I did nothing. And all the time I slept or drank Wittenberg beer, the word did everything." It is the gospel and the gospel alone that has the power to change us and our churches.

The Christian's Past
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours (1 Corinthians 1:2)
Notice the past tense in 1 Corinthians 1:2: the Corinthian Christians had already been sanctified, they had already been made holy. They hadn't been called to be holy in the sense that God called them in the faint hope that they'd become holy at some point in time. Paul was not hoping anything here. Paul was saying that those lousy Corinthians had already been made holy and had already been called saints. When we first trust Christ, we are made saints.

Now, what if we introduce ourselves to people as saints? Hello, I'm Saint Mike. Most people think it weird. Why? What sort of things would we think of someone who called himself a saint? Why, we'd think: you arrogant bastard. Why arrogant? Because we are obsessed by the idea that sainthood is attained by our own good works, by having lived a holy life.

No, said Paul to that. No, no, no. Totally no. Fact is, you can do nothing to attain sainthood. It is the wisdom of the world that you can attain sainthood through good works or piety. Sainthood and holiness cannot be earned. It is not based on your performance.

How do we become saints then? It is absolutely nothing to do with what we do, but it is something given to us, regardless of what we do. It is something available to anyone who calls on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. So if we trust in Christ, God considers us saints!

We have all been born into Adam: he is our father (just a few generations removed), into his family, and into his status - unholiness. But then, when we called on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were born again, reborn in Christ, into Christ's family, sharing his status - holiness. Christ is our unearned, unchanging identity. We are saints, we are holy, not because of what we do but because when we were born again, we were born into that holy status.

This is the secret of Christian living: that we have holy status before God that does not depend on what we do. This bulldozes all grounds of what we can boast about. We are given a rock solid identity in Christ. Our identity does not come from what people think of us. Our identity does not come from what we do. Christ is our identity. That is how God sees us – clothed in holiness. So we are not holy one moment because we've done our quiet time and, oopsy-daisy, we lost it at the pub down the road. No, we are perfectly holy in Christ; we have been sanctified.

The Christian's Present
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:7)
1 Corinthians 1:7. The litmus test to whether we've understood the Christian's past is how we view Christ's second coming. Do we think most Christians really do so? If it was judgement day tomorrow, how would we feel? A bit nervous naturally. We worry about God view us on the day of judgement.

But if we remember 1 Corinthians 1:2, we know how Christ will view us: we are saints! We maybe terrible failures as Christians but we have been born into Christ's holiness, so we have nothing to fear for the future! We are going to pass with flying colours because we have the holy status of Christ himself given to us. What is there to fear? It is not doomsday but a happy last day for us! So we eagerly long for that day because it can only positive for us.

The Christian's Future
our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:7b-9)
Now this is all well and good but without perseverance we will not be saved on the day of Christ for only "those who endure to the end will be saved" (Mark 13:13). Is this cause for worry? Not so. In 1 Corinthians 1:8, we see that God will keep us strong to the end. We all muck up every day of our lives. If anyone knew what was happening inside us, they would spit in our faces. We are rubbish Christians and we are going to be rubbish Christians until the day we die or until Christ returns.

But this does not make the future uncertain for us. Christ will sustain us, make us firm and stable in faith to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. The assurance of the believer is not that God will save us even if we stop believing (for that is a nonsense), but that God will keep us believing - God will sustain us in faith, he will make our hope firm and stable to the end. He will cause us to persevere.

That's the promise. But what is the basis of the promise? What is the assurance that this promise will be fulfilled? 1 Corinthians 1:9 tells us: God is faithful! He has shown himself to be faithful throughout the human history recorded for us in the whole Bible.

Now, isn't that just astounding. My status and my future do not depend on me. My relationship with the Lord and my future cannot be improved on. All because of the faithfulness of God.

Goal of the Christian
Fellowship is the whole goal of why we have been called, why we have been given a holy status, why we have been given gifts: so that we can have fellowship with Christ. Christ is so satisfying, so infinitely lovely that our highest desire is to know him. It would be heaven to us to be with him forever.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
In 1 Corinthians 1:10, Paul says to the Corinthian Christians that if they had been called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ, why are they busting it up? If they have divisions amongst them, they must have forgotten the goal of their calling and of their holiness. They must have taken their eye off Christ and moved away from the gospel, everyone focusing on different things - not Christ, leading to divisions between them.

What happens when we forget that sainthood is something we are born into when we become a Christian (1 Corinthians 1:2). We start to think that sainthood is something we work towards. So some would have gotten there and some wouldn't. We get hierarchies - hierarchies to promote ourselves and elevate ourselves as being more holy. But what more can there be than the holiness freely given by Christ? There is no boasting, because we are saved by grace alone.

What when we forget that we don't lack any spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 1:7)? Then we think that some are in and some are out. There's the elite and sorted and there are the others who cannot make it.

What if we forget that we've been called into fellowship with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9)? Well, we're just not going to bother with fellowship, are we? Ah, just a little clique of my best pals, that'll do.

Bye bye gospel, hello divisions. Say goodbye to gospel and enter problems. And everything conspires to take our eyes off the gospel: structures, speakers... When we give issues or people the centrality that only the gospel should have, we are heading for trouble. Don't confuse the magnificent gospel with the piddling gospel workers. Was John Piper crucified for you? Was Phillip Jensen crucified for you? Was Don Carson? Don't let anything stand in front of the gospel, not even the apostle Paul.

It is only the gospel of Christ that can save us. It is only the gospel that can sort out the problems in our lives and churches. It is only the gospel that can bring us the unity that Christ has called us to and hold us there.

Forget the wonders of the gospel, and we will start showing off, start boasting of our holiness, start trying to get one up on people. But remember the gospel and you will think this behaviour absurd because how do you get one up on perfect holiness? What do you have to boast about if you didn't earn it yourself? What do you have to boast about if God is the one who is keeping you in him?

Let us hold up the gospel to ourselves everyday.

What massive stuff the cross is, innit! How magnificent the gospel! Why, who would ever be daft enough to stray from it?

Yet, we know from our lives and those of our friends and relatives that it isn't that difficult to deny the gospel, really, or forget the cross.

More later. Must stop bouncing off the walls now before the neighbours complain.

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2 Comments:

At March 16, 2007 5:54 pm , Anonymous toby said...

God's faithfulness is great. Man, in his stubbornness and rebellion, may drift away from God, but through it all, God is faithful. That means a lot to me, I'm tellin' ya;) Take care....

 
At March 17, 2007 2:16 am , Blogger thebluefish said...

Glad you enjoyed the Reeves talks. We have a great gospel!

 

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