“What Defines Your Life?”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Thank you for taking a few minutes to join us for this episode. Today we are excited to be in Hawley, Texas, as this wonderful congregation has invited us to film in their church building. This group of believers supports and encourages the “Key to the Kingdom” ministry and we certainly appreciate their partnership in this effort, and it is our distinct privilege to be their guest today. Throughout our short time on this Earth many people and many things become important to us and that which is important receives the majority of our attention, and that's only natural. But where on that list of important things and people is Jesus Christ, or is He even on the list? In our time together today we will give some thought to the importance of Jesus in our lives and the impact He makes on the way we live from day to day. Again, we are glad you've chosen to watch this “Key to the Kingdom” program as we broadcast from Hawley, Texas.
If someone were to ask you the following question how would you respond? What defines my life? Or, we might say it another way, what is the most important thing about my life? Recently someone told me, “The most important thing about my life is my children and my grandchildren,” and perhaps that would be a common response. Others have said, “My life revolves around my job I and that's why I work 60, 70, sometimes 80 hours a week.” And then, I’ve heard some people say, “Well, my life revolves around my retirement, and I look forward to taking those wonderful vacations all around the world.” But then I've also heard the response, “Well, my life revolves around Jesus,” and perhaps you've heard that, too. And when that is said another question is immediately asked; and that is, can other people tell that your life revolves around Jesus? When I think about if I say that, I ask myself the question, “I wonder, what do people see in me? When they watch the way I live, and listen to the way I talk, and how I conduct my life, can they tell that my life revolves around Jesus?” I know some prominent people who say, “Well, I'm a Christian. I give my life to the Lord and I live for Him every day.” And then I look at the way that person lives his or her life and it makes me wonder if that really is the case. But before I pass any kind of judgmental attitude on such an individual I have to pause and ask myself the question, “Am I any better?” And that, perhaps, is something that we all ask our self, on a regular basis. If I say that I represent Jesus Christ am I the kind of person that really does represent Jesus in everything I do and in everything I say? About 2000 years ago there was a group of people living in the city called Corinth who claimed to follow Jesus, they claimed to be His disciples. But the other people who lived there really could not tell they followed Jesus because their lifestyle was not any different from their own. Following Jesus really did not make an impact upon their life. Now the city of Corinth was strategically located between Asia and Italy and served as an important seaport for transporting goods from East to West. The city of Corinth also hosted the athletic festivals, which were 2nd only in importance to the Olympic Games over in Athens. Corinth also enjoyed a very prosperous commercial life and the people who lived there longed to be wealthy, and influential, and socially accepted. But with all that prosperity came an influx of sexual immorality, and idol worship, and consumerism, that greatly impacted the overall atmosphere of the city. And in many ways Corinth was like a growing and important urban city today. And so, in the midst of this environment these Gentile, or these non-Jewish Christians, struggled to live differently. It just wasn't working for them. They had a hard time trying to break away from the lifestyle of the past and be different from every body else around them. Oh, there are a number of issues which kept them from doing that, a number of problems that they encountered on a regular basis. And in essence, these Christians were somewhat confused or maybe even dysfunctional when it came to being a follower of Jesus Christ. They just didn't get it and it was hard for them to make that change in their lifestyle. Well, a man named Paul had spent some 18 months here in the city of Corinth, and through his teaching many people became followers of Jesus. They received that good news message. They were baptized into Him. And now they were trying to live as a Christian, but they were having a hard time. Well, the apostle Paul heard about that and now he corresponds with them regarding these issues and these problems that are affecting their lives, and their relationships, and their influence in Corinth. And he writes a letter that we call 1st Corinthians, and reading this letter of 1st Corinthians is like reading their mail. It is as if we are eavesdropping on the conversation and the mail exchange, the correspondence between Paul and the group of Christians in the city of Corinth. We’re getting a birds eye view, a firsthand look at some of the issues and problems that are affecting that group of people, and Paul is giving his best counsel and teaching. But then it's also as if we are reading our own mail. Perhaps it is as if the apostle Paul is writing this letter to us, and we notice some things here that maybe need our attention. And so Paul addresses their issues and their questions, and he calls upon them to remember what is most important; and what is most important is for them to respect what Jesus did upon the cross. He wants to remind them of the great sacrifice that Jesus made when He left heaven and He came to this Earth, He lived, He died, He suffered, He was buried in a tomb and then He rose from the dead; and Paul says, that's what most important. Remember that. And even today, if those who are called by the name of Christian and who sincerely allow Jesus to be the architect and the basis for their life, if they will respect what Jesus did then they will begin to change their life. And that's the most important part of Christian living, to remember to whom we belong. And so Paul reminds these Christians of that. In fact, we go to chapter 15 and we notice in the 1st four versus Paul writes these words. - I want to remind you of the gospel preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. - The Christians living in the city of Corinth simply forgot Jesus. They forgot the architect of their salvation. They forgot whom they were supposed to be living for and they were living like all the other people around them. And instead of living for Jesus they spend time arguing over who was more important. They spent time identifying certain leaders and they would follow their leaders, and have their different divisions, and groups; and it all separated away from Jesus Christ. And so Paul gets wind of that and he scolds them. He teaches them in 3 different passages to get their lives back on track. And after some initial greetings, in chapter 1, this is what he writes, beginning with verse 10 of that 1st chapter. - I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and still another, “I follow Christ.” - As I read these words from Paul, he makes an appeal to these Christians. And when I think of that I think of a person who has been convicted of some kind of crime and he knows that he will have to suffer some kind of punishment but he doesn't know what. He doesn't know if he will keep his life or lose it. He doesn't know if he will have to pay a fine, or spend time in prison, or be put on probation. He just doesn't know. And so, as he stands before the judge who is about to pronounce the sentence, he makes an appeal to that judge. He pleads. He begs with that judge for his forgiveness, for his mercy, for some kind of grace to be given to him so he doesn't have to experience something to harsh or too bad. And in the same way, Paul makes an appeal to these Christians. He pleads with them. He begs them to quit being divided, to quit separating away from each other and having these little groups, and having their individual leaders, like Paul, and Peter, and Apollos, or whoever else it might be. He said, “When you do that it separates from the unity and the oneness of Jesus Christ.” And so Paul is concerned with these Christians and their lifestyle. They really were’nt following Jesus. They had forgotten about their leader. One of the most dangerous things for a group of soldiers to do is to forget who their leader he is, and that does a couple of things. When a group of people divide away from the whole army then what happens? Well, number 1, that army is weakened because there are fewer soldiers. And then these fewer soldiers go over here and they create some kind of following but they don't have enough numbers to do very much good and so the whole army is weakened. And Paul says that's what happens to you under the umbrella of Jesus Christ. When you separate and take something away from that then it weakens the whole group. Well, Paul doesn't end there. In addition to those consequences he continues on, here in the 1st chapter beginning with verse 13. - Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul? I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; but beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. - For any organization, or group of people, or perhaps even a nation, whose loyalty to its leader is divided, there will be problems. And we know that, don't we? We have seen it, perhaps even in our own governments, in our own city, state, may be in our own nation. People try as hard as they can to get a certain leader out and when that happens there's not the unity, and there's not the oneness. And that nation, or that city, or perhaps even a family, cannot work together in a spirit of unity for the good of the group. And that's exactly the same thing that the apostle Paul is addressing here. He knows the problems that will arise and he reminds them, your unity is found in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. In fact, that’s why you were baptized into Him. You are not baptized into some church, or into some group, and because of that you only have one leader. And as we just read, his good news message focused on the cross of Christ. That was the only source of their real power. It wasn’t found in human wisdom. It wasn't found in all of the wealth, or the consumerism, or the lifestyle which was offered by the city of Corinth. It was found in Jesus Christ and in Him alone. Well, Paul doesn't stop there. He has more to say about this issue of being divided and not being united in Jesus Christ. He continues to drive home his point in the 3rd chapter of 1st Corinthians. Notice these words from Paul, beginning with verse 1 of 1st Corinthians chapter 3. He writes, - Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly, as mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? - Now I don't know about you but as an adult I like to be considered as someone who is mature and not immature. I like to be thought of as an adult and not as a child. I've been around. I've experienced some things. I know how to handle certain issues that arise. But Paul, in writing to the adult Christians in Corinth, says that's not the case with you. Why? Because you are acting like everybody around you. You're acting like mere men. You are worldly in your thoughts and in your attitudes and therefore I cannot address you as mature or experienced people. You've got some issues and problems and they all center on your diversity and your divisions that you focus on among yourselves. Yes, Paul identifies these Christians is immature because they're worldly. They have not broken away from all of the immoral and bad things going on within the city of Corinth. They're focused on their own power and their own authority. They want to create their own body and their own little groups, separated away from Jesus. Well, that creates an even greater problem, doesn't it? The other residents of the city of Corinth cannot tell these Christians belong to Jesus. Their influence carries no weight with them. The people who are not Christians say, “Well, Jesus hasn't made a difference in your life, why should I receive Him into mine? There's jealousy and there's quarreling, your immature, you're acting like all the rest of us. Why should we give our lives to Jesus? It certainly hasn't made a difference in yours.” Oh, I fear that is not much different from the religious world in which we live today. There are all kinds of divisions that exist among modern-day Christians, all kinds of diversity that is found in this world, and it seems to lead to more and more division among those who call themselves Christians; just like it did here in the city of Corinth so many years ago. People today still want to create their own following. They still want to identify their own leaders. And the result is, the oneness of Jesus Christ, for which He prayed, is being slowly taken away. The result is, there are hundreds of denominations, or groups, or sects, and very few of them are able to get along like what Jesus wants us to do. And it seems that in our efforts to identify ourselves as above all the rest we have forgotten who really is above all the rest, and that of course is Jesus Christ. And that was the main problem going on in the city of Corinth, almost 2000 years ago, with the small group of people called Christians. And so that brings us back to the question that we asked a few moments ago, and that is; what defines our life? What defines our church? What defines our wisdom, or our insight into Scriptures? Is it Jesus or is it some other person? Is it some individual group or some idea out here that we come up with on our own? What is the basis for our wisdom and for our authority in the Scriptures? Is it Jesus Christ and Him alone, as the apostle Paul would suggest, or is it something else that we identify as what is important for the basis for who we are in this world? Yes, the unity to which Paul calls all Christians is the cross of Jesus Christ and ones baptism into Him. He points us to Jesus as the only basis for our unity and when anyone or anything else takes His place then something is wrong. We have lots of issues that tend to divide us, and we know what those are. We don't have to list them. But as we read Paul's mail to the Christians here in Corinth, perhaps we hear him calling us to put aside those issues and to be united in Jesus Christ and in His cross, that saves us. Oh it's true we understand that our existence as a church is to be found in Jesus and Him alone, and so we pray to that end. We work to that end, to eliminate anything that divides or separates itself from the Lord Jesus Christ. We remind ourselves that true life is found in Jesus and not in our own individual or church doctrines or beliefs; that the story of Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross shapes our identity and it defines our life. And all those who claim to be followers of Jesus are somewhat of a counterculture as we move away from that which surrounds us and we focus our thoughts and our lives upon Jesus, Himself. And that seems to be the solution! And there's one more passage I want us to look at, to read; it's there in chapter 2, and this seems to summarize Paul's message to them in regards to this issue. Listen closely to what Paul writes beginning with verse 1 in that 2nd chapter. - When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. - The cross of Jesus Christ, to one who doesn't know about it, appears to be a symbol of weakness because the cross is what took Jesus' life. But yet through the power of God, Jesus Christ was raised from the tomb; he was brought to life again. And because of that life, and because Jesus conquered the grave, it is now that our authority, and our wisdom, and our power, can be found in Him alone. The apostle Paul came to the city of Corinth for one reason, to preach Jesus and Him crucified. His message was not; put your faith in me, or put your faith in Peter, or Apollos, or anyone else, but put your faith in Jesus because He is the only source of your salvation. A number of years ago a friend of mine told me, he said, “Bret, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” And perhaps we know what that means. The main thing is to keep Jesus Christ the main thing in our life. As we think about that we ask our self the question; where do we see our self in this message from Paul? What is our task today? Is it not to remember Jesus' prayer and His desire for unity, and to pray for that to happen in the church today? Is our task not to tear down those walls that divide us and seek to stand firm on Jesus Christ, who unites us? And, is our task not to get back to the simple teaching of the cross of Jesus Christ and to make that the basis for unity in the church today? Let us remember that we may be the only Bible some people will ever read. As they look at our life, as they listen to what we say, where we go, and what we do they will determine who we are and whether or not Jesus indeed defines our life.
Thank you for tuning into this “Key to the Kingdom” broadcast. Once again, we are thankful for the opportunity to be in Hawley, Texas, and to film this message in their church building. We are grateful for their involvement with this work and appreciate their support of it. What defines my life is a question I need to ask myself every day, and the answer I give determines my priorities throughout that day. And no doubt it's the same for you. If we belong to Jesus Christ there is only one place reserved for Him, and that is at the top of the list. If there is a way we can assist you in making Jesus the first priority in your life we would love to do so. Please contact us through our website. Remember also, “Key to the Kingdom” can be downloaded onto your Android or Apple iPhone, it can be found in your phone's app store. Again, thank you for watching this program; and why not decide today to allow Jesus Christ to define your life. Join us next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom”.