Saturday, July 25, 2015

A strategy for addressing debilitating problems in American churches - Prescriptions for the problems

1 Corinthians 1:10 "Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment."

Over the past two posts we have been offering a strategy for addressing debilitating problems in the American church from 1 Corinthians 1. We saw that the first step had to do with focusing on the positive working of God (1 Corinthians 1:1-9). Yesterday we looked at the second major step - namely the problems needing to be addressed (1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Whenever we read the epistle of 1 Corinthians, we are reading as-it-were Jesus' prescription pad for his people. With the diagnosis in hand, what prescriptions can be offered. Paul's strategy as it was composed under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is amazing in that it begins with the positives of God's work and ends with some prescriptions stemming from Christ's finished work. Let's briefly consider the three main prescriptions.

1. Go to the cross. 1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:1-2
We read in 1 Corinthians 1:18 "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." Then again in 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 "And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." The cross is the ground-zero of the Christian life. Not only is the cross the place the Spirit of God directs us to at salvation, but it is to be the center-of-orbit in the post-conversion Christian life or sanctification. At the cross, division, disagreements and any other unholy activities have no place. The flesh will dress itself up, nod-the-head and act spiritual before ever going to the cross. Only at the cross can the works of the flesh and the carnal tendencies towards self-centeredness be crucified (Galatians 2:20; 6:14). 

2. Emphasize the Word of God. 1 Corinthians 1:19-25
Word ministry. Plain and simple. Unless the Word of God is regularly communicated in teaching settings, preaching services or devotional times, there will be no power. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). In the Word I hear the Savior's voice. 

3. Get involved in evangelism. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
We read in 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” To "boast in God" is the biblical way of saying "testifying about what God has done". When we share the Gospel - we are boasting in what the incarnate God, Jesus Christ, has achieved. I have found that when I or God's people are regularly involved in praying for and engaging in the regular evangelization of lost people, much of what passes for divisions in the church dwindles. 

Paul reminds the Corinthians that God's elective purpose of grace (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) and effectual calling of sinners unto salvation (1 Corinthians 1:26) are the basis for our evangelism. Whoever wants to get saved will get saved - plain and simple. Whenever God's choice and calling in the Gospel are wedded to a willing response to trust in Jesus - salvation occurs (John 1:12-13). As we read in Acts 18:10 "for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people inthis city.” Churches need to realize that there is no telling which ones God has been working in to prepare them for the moment of salvation - which is why we must go to all people. 

Closing thoughts:
As we close out today's post, we consider once more a strategy for addressing debilitating problems that occur in so many churches from 1 Corinthians 1. We first of all must begin with the positive work of God. He is working and wants to do more work in our churches. The question is: are we willing to work with Him?

Secondly, problems have to be addressed and not ignored. Then thirdly, God has prescribed the cross, the Word and evangelism for both mitigating problems that threaten to arise and forging ahead to go from God-given potential to God-ordained actuality in the Kingdom. May we all heed this strategy as given in God's Word. 

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