Coincidentally, the greatest story-teller of all time is God himself. The Bible is very much a story, and a story format is particularly beautiful because it is so engaging and helps take you along on the journey as you read along.
This morning we’re going to tuck into one of the incredible stories of the Old Testament.
We’re going to discover, that very early on in God story, He begins to show us His method of sending help to His children when they cry out to Him.
I just love weddings! I am yet to meet a Christian who doesn’t too and the reason for this, is that weddings were first God’s idea. Before any other sacrament was instituted, God sovereignly decided that marriage is the way to go for two people in love. God is the one who decides how we engage in each and every relationship, and He is the one who decided that a man and a woman should come together in marriage.
In Gen 1 we see that men and women were both created in God’s image,
We all love animals, but in the mind of God there is a massive difference between animals and humans. Humans whether male or female, all reflect the image of God.
This was how we are separated from the rest of creation. The rest of creation is wonderful, but only humans have this unique privilege, to be copies of God on the earth…and just as God is three different equal persons, so in one marriage there is two different equal persons that form a union that can only be separated by death.
Let’s read in Genesis 2 how he institutes this glorious covenant of marriage…
The first letter to the Corinthians is an epistle that remains relevant despite the fact that it is written at a different time and into a different culture. In fact, the problems the Corinthians faced prompted Paul to write a text that has become crucial for us to learn how to behave in a faith community.
When the Corinthians ask Paul a difficult question regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols, Paul’s response deals not only with the issue but more importantly, it deals with their hearts in a way I am sure they could not foresee.
This specific text is still dealing with our hearts as we submit ourselves to the word of God. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 8…
There was a fashion trend in high school that I fell prey to. It involved a body piercing that for some strange reason I was actually very keen on. So one Saturday morning, off I went with my friend, letters of consent from our parents in hand, to willingly go get holes poked in our bodies.
It was a fairly easy procedure. I sat back in the chair, and it was a matter of minutes before they inserted a pretty silver piece of jewellery with a tiny shimmery rhinestone into the piercing. It was actually very fashionable and it didn’t really hurt as much as I expected. I stood up and walked over to the full-length mirror to get a good look at my shiny gemstone in the middle of my belly and before I knew it – Bam!
I’m on the floor! I opened my eyes and to discover I’m just laying on the ground with a host of people standing over me fanning my face, trying to get me to drink a coke (because South African’s believe sugar can fix anything!)
I had fainted! I suppose I must have been in shock from actually going through with what I knew was a just a temporary craze in the world of fashion, and that in 6 months I might be filled with regret having a scar I wish would heal instead of shimmery rhinestone – but there I was in the middle of a little tattoo shop, flat on the ground.
I wish I could tell you that this is my only fainting story – but it isn’t. One of them even includes fainting while minding my own business sitting at my desk and then still bruising my eye on my way down. Apparently, it doesn’t take too much to make me faint!
While my body’s ability to randomly stop sending blood to my brain has become quite the charming anecdote for my family – There is a reality of The Church fainting in our prayer lives that is less humorous and far more serious.
If you have your great big book of everything – the one that doesn’t go out of fashion turn with me to Luke 18 so we can look at what it is that keeps the blood flowing in our prayer lives, and how to persevere without fainting…
All of the best selling Hollywood films follow a certain structure, they call it the Hollywood formula. Every box office hit follows this same pattern: First they set a plot – whether perfect bliss or extreme sorrow – it doesn’t matter much to the rest of it. Second, conflict arises, small at first, then it escalates over a period of time until it almost looks like the enemy will be overthrown. Inevitably, a big disappointment ensues just when it looks as though the heroes might reign victorious. Then against all odds, another plan! One last shot and finally they overcome their dilemma, returning the situation to the desired norm of peace and joy.
There are many different ways in which to build this all important conflict, but one of their favourite methods to destroying peace, is the entrance of the veiled antagonist; the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
He is a new person on the block that dazzles the dames and rapidly wins friends over. He promises much and often tries to disprove the protagonist, but he has ulterior motives. He has secrets that no one knows about. Usually he comes from somewhere else – where lots of good has happened as a direct result of his influence – but there is of course no-one available to verify his story. He gets the people to turn away from the good, loyal protagonist who has been faithful to the people for decades. They follow the newbie, at a hidden cost, one they would have never agreed to if they were made aware.
This is not a new story, this plot has been around for millennia, and the Bible is full of them. In particular, this is the scene that we enter today as we continue with our series on 1 Corinthians, turn with me to chapter 4:1…
I accompanied a friend on a short term mission trip to Malawi in the year 2014 – the warm heart of Africa. Malawi is an absolutely beautiful place, it has mountains and jungles and rivers, and of course lake Malawi is a must see for everyone. But the country is poor. Extremely poor. In fact Malawi is the third poorest country in the world today. On average, each person in Malawi lives off just 342USD a year. That translates to R13,12 a day – remember, this is not the poorest person, this is the average Malawian while a Government employee would earn about R600 a month. To put it into perspective: the average South African lives off of R203,50 a day. So if you’re looking for a place that is in desperate need, you don’t have to look further than Malawi.
When we arrived in Blantyre we saw a city, big and busy and it didn’t seem too bad, but then we drove South through the Shiri river valley and came to a small village close the Mozambique boarder called Nsanje. In Nsanje there were no robots, no stop streets or street lights. There was just bush that suddenly stopped and made way for a few little huts where the people of the village made a small camp for us.
During the next few days, as I wandered about their community and saw a large number of children running around. My curiosity peaked and I asked one of the church leaders where all these children had come from to which he began to explain that the Church has a little school where they take care of the orphans in the community. He showed me a lovely school building with a few classrooms, and a few that were still being built. I immediately wanted to know who was funding this wonderful project. I imagined it to cost quite a pretty penny to be able to accommodate the roughly 100 kids running around – so I asked the Church leader to let me in on who their sponsor was…
Nothing could prepare me for his answer! I was expecting to hear something to the likes of US Aid, a charity from the UK, or something along those first world country lines… but his answer was shocking. It was their local Church!
He went on to show me a small piece of land behind the building where the school was. Half of it was corn and the other half was cotton. They used the corn to feed the children and traded with the cotton to provide clothes, books and whatever else the children needed. All of this from a little local Church, in the middle of the poorest area, in the third poorest country in the world!
All while they still supported 6 other children’s studies at university. How did they manage this?
Well…God has decided that all things belong to his Church, all things! Whatever they need!
The greatest ingredient missing in the life of The Church today is unity.
Christians wage war against each other on many different topics. Then they each run off and decide for themselves what they believe the important things of the Church should be, and somehow still end up spending time trying to find out exactly how they will create unity in the middle of their quite conspicuous disunity .
The situation is so far gone, that almost every church leader you speak to will have a different opinion on how they think we should create unity in a church.
This is such a massive topic and the differing views on how to do this are very scary.
Surely if this is so important, God should have made it clear to us how we can create and sustain unity in a local church?
Of course He did! And he even made it so easy for us to follow.
When I was 11 years old, we had just moved from Potgietersrus, in the middle of the bushveld, to Witbank, the middle of the highveld. In the bushveld many boys grow up on farms, and often times their wrestling opponents are the one-year old calves on the farm. You probably thinking those poor little cows, but they were most certainly not at all pushovers! Us guys who played rugby against these farm boys knew there was something different about those who grew up on farms. Us city boys had to quickly toughen up, or it would not have ended well for.
The situation on the highveld however was completely different! These boys knew zippity doo da about farms, and only developed physically much later. The result was that when I started to play rugby against them, it really wasn’t a very fair match.
I was made Captain of The Team after the first practice and in our first game I scored 6 tries. Everyone was very happy and they enthusiastically cheered me on – it was lovely! Everyone wanted to be my friend – which was actually all I was really interested in.
In the second game I scored 7 tries and to my surprise it was not nearly as well received. The crowds were still cheering, but my team mates grew jealous, saying I was selfish and the game isn’t all about me, and that I needed to pass the ball more because they also wanted to play.
These 11 year old boys from Witbank can be excused for this incredibly immature behavior, but can you imagine if the Lions rugby players start to become jealous over Malcom Marx because he – the hooker – scores more tries than the wings? That would be crazy!! Surely at that level they have just one goal – to win the rugby game. But unfortunately jealousy is not something that is reserved for the younger generation. No matter where you go if you scratch around long enough you will soon find the ugly monster…even in the church.
There is no greater threat to the unity of a church than this very immature jealousy. It comes in and takes away the blessing in many churches because God really despises it.
Christians are meant to be like red wine, becoming more and more mature and more and more pleasant with age. But this is not a given for all. Just like red wine, some Christians do not mature despite how old they are. No matter how much time has passed they still remain immature.
This is a massive problem, but thankfully it is one that Paul addresses next in the book of 1 Corinthians – so that you and I listening today will not have stay immature.
Turn with me in your Bible to 1 Cor 3:1 to see how we can live out the intended Red Wine Christianity…
Foundations Church is currently working through the book of Corinthians, if you would like to follow this series we encourage you to read the book of Corinthians in your spare time to gain a general understand of the book as a whole.
The Church that Paul wrote to was very much like the city of Johannesburg. The city of Corinth was a cosmopolitan port city, with people from all nations, with all sorts of different belief systems living in one geographical area. While Johannesburg may not have a sea-port, this modern fast paced society is bountiful in diversity of people! People from all sorts of places, in all sorts of colours. People with very different belief systems, in a vast range of income brackets all sharing in the same neighbourhood. The extremely wealthy, living right next door to the extremely poor.
But it is not just the city of Johannesburg that shares so much in common with the city of Corinth.
The Church in Corinth is far more like Church you’re sitting in, than you may realize.
See Paul was invited to preach in a synagogue. And not long after he began preaching the Gospel, the people start to really believe in Paul’s message, just as you who are sitting here did when Burger and Cathrin opened their home to teach the Word of God.
As you can imagine – it could not have been pleasant for the leaders of the synagogue when the people were choosing to listen to Paul’s teaching – and out of this controversy came The Church of Corinth.
The biggest problem with this church was that they were extremely divided. The consequences of which were a complete mystery to the people. And so Paul reveals in this letter, not only the consequences of their division, but the phenomenal benefits of the Church getting into agreement and unity. Benefits not only for the Church, but for the entire city!
Turn with me in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 1.10…
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
We’ve all heard these words preached out of The Gospel of Matthew. It is the great commission! But what exactly does this great commissioning mean to believers in 2018?
It is God’s model of multiplication! Multiplication of Jesus’ authority right here on earth. Just like Jesus did, we are each called to make disciplined followers – to train them up and teach them the ways of the Lord; to bring about growth and freedom in peoples’ lives, as the Church reaps the benefits of greater and more consistent maturity in their relationships with the Lord.
So what does it look like when someone has been discipled? What does this lead to?
What do they do?
Who disciples them?
Who should be discipled?
How are they discipled?
John D’achada answered these questions for us at Foundations Church, as we ordained our very first overseer of the Church through the laying on of hands…
If you missed this joyous occasion – we’ve captured the moment so you could still be a part of the celebration…