The Ultimate Enrichment

The Ultimate Enrichment

Sep 17, 2017

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: 1 Corinthians

Category: Christian Living

Detail:

 

Well, we are off and running in our 1 Corinthians series so if you have your Bibles turn to chapter 1 and today we we will be in verses 4-9.

Now I want to introduce our time this morning by talking about this concept inescapable side-effects. Probably the most obvious place to point it out is in the area of medicine. We all laugh at the commercials. You take a miracle drug that alleviates dry skin, but the side-effect is you, your mouth goes numb, your teeth rot out of your mouth and you have a 90 percent chance of getting pancreatic cancer.

Now that can be funny, but it illustrates something. As much as we'd like to, we can't unchain ourselves from the material world of cause and effect in which we live. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. We don't like bugs on our food so we develop poison which does a wonderful job of decimating every bug within four square miles but we didn't anticipate the complete collapse of entire bee population. Now we have no pollinators and we are ingesting carcinogenic residual pesticides in our over-sized flavorless strawberries. Are we better off?

There are inescapable side effects to everything we do, even good things.

  • We water our lawn and in the process we empty the aquifer and drown the worms.
  • We give up a weekend to help out around the church and in the process our lawns and yards at home grow up with weeds that are out of control.

So that's what we mean by side-effect. In that vein, I want to talk about a very real side-effects of caring for someone. Let's start by saying that, of course, caring for someone is really good. That's like the best thing you can do, right. But there IS a side-effect. There's this negative side-effect, an unwelcomed echo, this negative consequence that is unavoidably hitched to the act of genuine care.

And the side-effect is that your joy becomes bound up in the person you decide to love. Essentially you give them a piece of your heart.

  • When they rejoice you rejoice. When they weep you weep.
  • When they make a good decision, it's like it was your good decision. When they make a poor decision, it pains you.
  • When they get promoted it's like you got promoted. When they decide to wreck their life, it wrecks your life.

  • Your happiness, in a way, is bound up in the well-being of this person you've decided to care for.

Now, here's the real question, "What happens when a person you love and care for makes some long term bad decisions? Does that translate to long term unavoidable pain?"

After all, this is the side effect.

You may in an instant be able to tell me an example of what we are talking about. Maybe it's a son or a daughter and you loved them deeply and they go off into the world and they mess up their life. They do everything you told them not to do. And it hurts so badly to watch them hurt themselves. And you wish you could live your life for them and you just can't.

What do you do? The escape route that many take is to stop caring. That comes from a a conclusion that the only way to protect ourselves from the pain is by giving up in our care. Fine. Go live your life. Go hurt yourself, but you can't hurt me, because I don't care.

And while we may agree that this is a bad response, how do you have any other response? How can I live in this constant state of tension and anguish and pain that my child or my father or mother or my grandkids or my roommate is making such terrible choices. How can I continue to care and not be in a state of absolute anguish and misery. It seems like the more I care, the more pain, they are tied together inextricably.

Well, I know that the apostle Paul could relate to these feelings. Paul loved the Corinthians. He loved them deeply. And he saw them messing up their life. They were doing everything he told them not to do and it was destroying them. Because Paul cared it was destroying him as well. Paul talks about this anguish of heart and pain that he experienced in 2 Corinthians.

You can see that Paul can relate to this feeling can't you. Paul cared. He saw they needed correction and it pained him to the core.

Now here's the relevant question for today. We know that giving up is wrong. We know that indifference would be wrong. But what do you do with these feelings?

And I think what we see in these opening lines of the book is Paul's ability to care in such a way that he is absolutely invested and has deep affection for the Corinthians and yet at the same time he's able to entrust their sanctification to God and he does not shoulder a burden that is not his to shoulder. The Corinthians were bad. They were not living like they should. And Paul's going to address that. But Paul opens with these really good words for these really bad Christians.

We will discover as we read the letter that this church is very young, very confused, very worldly and yet Paul is able to open with these incredible lines of encouragement. These aren't manufactured words. They aren't the obligatory, "Say 5 nice things before you say one hard thing." He's benevolently pointing out true graces.

Imagine going to a performance (maybe a sporting event, maybe a musical performance or a theatrical event), and the star of the evening makes an unthinkable blunder that could have easily been avoided. And everyone cringes. It couldn't be worse. What does the loving father or coach or leader say to him when he sees him after the performance? "I want you to know I am proud of you. You were incredibly dignified." The context gives those words a lot of meaning don't they. The blunder was real. It had implications. It will never be forgotten, and eventually we will talk about the reasons for it and how to avoid it the future but before we get to the problem, I'm going to give you words of grace. And those words were carefully chosen because they were true.

Well, these opening words are a similar sort of thing. Paul has some serious problems to confront here and yet Paul can say these amazing things about believers who are are in need of some heavy correction.

So we are going to learn from this passage exactly how to do that. How do you love a believer living in sin, maybe a spouse, maybe a child, maybe a roommate or workmate.

Now this is great. Paul's example here is great. It's so easy when you are frustrated with someone to get annoyed at all the problems. That sin becomes magnified and the graces are minimized

It's like an artist who looks at his or her canvas and frowns and walks away in disgust and another person walks in and breathes in a shock of delight. It's hard sometimes to see the good when we focus to sharply on the bad that is right in front of us.

When you are married for any length of time, you tend to have the same problems crop up again and again. And over time it might feel like you are so different, that you are opposites. But I think someone looking in from the outside would say, man those two become more and more alike every year. On the spectrum of how opposite people can be, you love the same the God, you value the same things, you have the same goals.

What Paul models for us here is how he looks for evidences of grace in these Corinthians when I'm sure it would have been much easier to point out the sin and failure and frustration, to come with guns blazing and for him to explode, "Do you know how much pain you've cause me. Do you know how many sleepless night I've spent worried for you? Do you know how dishonoring you have been to the Lord?"

And he thanks God that for the fact that they had been enriched in their speech, knowledge and gifting.

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him..."

Now there's a lead verb here that's super important and theologically significant. Paul gives thanks that they 'have been enriched' That's an aorist passive verb. Which means it's describing an action that was done to a person in the past.

The passive component of the verb is the part that's interesting. It means some power acted on an object without their permission or consent. When you say the pedestrian was pelted by rain (that's an aorist passive verb). And we mean by it that the rain just came and started assailing this poor innocent sidewalk pedestrian. This external force just acted on them. That's what a passive verb is.

And here Paul thanks God that in the same way that rain assaults the pedestrian and acts on them, so God also assaulted the Corinthians and acted upon them. God has made them rich in speech and knowledge and gifts.

He made them rich. It's a great word. If you look at the secular usages you'll see in almost every occasion it's a father who makes his son wealthy or it's a master making his slave wealthy. That's the idea. Paul thanks God that he has made the Corinthians wealthy in speech and knowledge and gifts

The ESV translates this word ENRICH which is a good translation because it gets at something else important here. There was some value before but God enriched it. When I think of that word I think of bread. We read this bread has been enriched, which means on it's own it's pretty lame. But then they infuse it with all these vitamins and now supposedly it's better for you.

That's the idea. The gospel enriches us as people. Sure an unbeliever has knowledge and uses speech and has some natural gifting, but the gospel enriches it. The gospel changes everything.

  • The word 'love' aquires all sorts of new meaning when you understand the person of Jesus.
  • The word 'forgive' means something entirely new when you become saved.
  • The word 'joy' takes on new dimensions of understanding when you experience the kind of joy God intends for us to have.

It's enriched. Perhaps you are an outgoing personality and you use that in your work to make money. Or maybe you are musical or maybe you have leadership gifts, or maybe you are generous. But then God gets ahold of your heart. That gift is enriched.

Paul is thanking God for the good things that God has done for these believers objectively despite their current behavioral hypocrisy.

And this is appropriate. When a person is sinning, you can thank God that he has opened their eyes and mind and given them gifts.

And what we mean by this is that he is thankful for what is true about the Corinthians because of the finished work of Christ on the cross despite any momentary behavioral sins that are currently being manifest.

Look at verse 8 he talks about this reality that because of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Corinthians stand guiltless and will stand guiltless before the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of judgment. That is a current reality.

They don't have to get their life cleaned up so that one day they will stand guiltless. They don't have to do anything for that happen. That is true right now because the judgment mercy they will one day experience is grounded and rooted in an event in history that has already happened. It's like money being transferred to your bank account. It's a current reality. It's in the bank, you just haven't had a chance to withdraw it.

And Paul thanks God for it. This has huge implications in our relationships. When you get angry with someone or upset at someone, and you have a hard time forgiving them, remember, God has already forgiven them. They currently stand guiltless before the throne of God. They are perfect, white, brilliant, pure, radiant individuals because of the blood of Jesus Christ. That both will be true and IS true. So if God has forgiven them, are you then going to harbor a grudge? Are you saying God's payment for them is not sufficient. Christ must pay for their sin but that's not enough. They also owe you. No. There is something wonderful about being able to forgive someone who God forgives.

And Paul praises God for this invisible reality. In fact, not only is this reality imperceptible by the senses, what is perceived is the opposite.

What can be seen is all the sin, but Paul chooses to focus on the reality. Christ has forgiven them. They stand before the judgment seat of God blameless. Righteousness has been imputed to them. Even in their sin, they are guiltless on the day of judgment. Astounding gospel confidence that comes out of that.

This is my favorite one. Look at the second part of verse 7. He says, I know you are waiting for the revealing of 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."

Here's the reality that Paul points to - God is changing us. God has a grip on his children. Paul is confident in God's finishing work. How does God's sovereignty and our free will intersect here? I don't know. There is certainly mystery here but here's a picture that helps me: It's like you're in a river of God's grace that is pulling you toward this day of completion. And sure you are rowing around and paddling and making all these decisions and you might even violently row against the current of the stream. But the stream is going to win. God will sanctify you. He will redeem you. He will make you holy.

You see I can look back at periods of my life and be pretty embarrassed at what I see. There are some very unflattering chapters. I remember back to my college days and I honestly just shudder, especially when I look at my pride. I will always struggle with being arrogant but man when I look back at my college years, I just am so embarrassed at my attitudes, the things I said, the way I thought about myself and others. And I'm sure my parents looked at me and were terrified. What's that monster going to turn into?

And if you were to snip out this little 5 minute chunk here or this one isolated day over here or this conversation I had over here or the way I lied over here, or the way I cheated here or stole here you could paste together some pretty ugly stuff.

And here's the point: in the moment it looks horrible. In the moment it's so despairing. In the moment when you are staring at the ugliness of it all, you can be so tempted to conclude that this person is on a trajectory to destroy their soul.

But if they are a believer, then my friend, they are in the river. The relentless power of the river will win. So relax. God is redeeming his children. So this is ultimately the answer to the question we asked at the beginning. How do you continue to care deeply and not have it destroy you on the inside if they are making horrible decisions. Answer, because God will finish what he started. If you know the outcome, it helps you so much to trust. Worry and anxiety is always a function of trust. God will complete the work he started. Don't worry. Trust him. Pray for them. Let God finish his work.

I had 1 Thessalonians 5:24 on my wall my whole life growing up. My mom put it there and when she gave it to me when I was like 12 I just stared at it and had no idea what it even meant.

And I'd just sit and read it over and over. And I started to really get it. And now I look at my life just like I'm sure you look at yours and think, man my life is a posture that celebrates the truthfulness of this verse. God is changing me. He constantly is changing what I love, shaping my desires, re-routing my affections. He's giving me such great perspective on what is truly worth living for.

Probably one of my favorite verses

And when you start to think on this, it is incredibly exciting and has endless applications to those we love who are Christians.

If God has the soul, your good. You can totally and completely relax. You don't have to change them. That's not your job. God will do his work through them. This has to be one of the most comforting verses every mom or dad can have in their mind as they watch their cute little child start mouthing off with this bad attitude. And fear begins to grip their hearts as they project forward 20 years and their son or daughter is doing prison time as a straight up thug. You see what it does is enable you to release the change process into his hands because you already know the outcome. Knowing the end of the story creates so much peace.

If you are watching a pre-recorded game of your favorite football team and you already know the outcome, it can be a total nail-biter but ever time you are tempted to get overly anxious, every time you feel the tension rise in your heart, you can just remind yourself, well, somehow they win. So just sit back and relax and let's see how it plays out. Knowing the end does not completely eliminate the pain. If you care, you will always have a certain pain as you watch those you care about suffer. But knowing the end, transforms the pain. It changes the very nature of it.

Watching a patient recover in the hospital is hard to do, but you know it's good. They are getting better. That's different than watching someone die. All the pain we experience as believers is on the trajectory of healing. Because we are in the river.

We can look at someone who is in Christ and totally stubborn. Totally resisting good counsel and we can say, "Well, I was like that too. I remember when I used to think that way. But God overcame my stubbornness. I was rowing with all my might but he flat out overpowered me. And that same power will overtake them. And I'll just wait.

The fruit is going to come because it's a fruit tree. And the Christian is going to grow because Christ is in them. He will overcome their resistance.

And now only will they grow. They will one day be perfect. That is the future toward which Paul looks.

C.S. Lewis is so helpful in this regard. He comments on the sermon on the mount, and this command that Christ issues, "Be Perfect." And that causes all of us to halt and stumble. None of us can just leave that alone. We all want to qualify it in some way or but some sort of disclaimer on it. But listen to how Lewis explains this.