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Jesus: The Difference Maker

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JESUS: THE DIFFERENCE MAKER

“STAYING THE COURSE” SERMON SERIES

1 CORINTHIANS 1:4-9 says 4 I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way-in all your speaking and in all your knowledge- 6 because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

            (ILLUS) Everybody loves Difference Makers.  In business, we want Donald Trump or Jack Welch.  In football we want Steve McNair or Joe Montana, in basketball we want Micheal Jordan or Shaquille O’Neal, in baseball we want Sammy Sosa or Reggie Jackson. . .”mister October.”  We want someone who can take us to the “next level.” 

            As Christians, we have just that.  Oh, it is not in business or athletics, it’s in the game of life.  Perhaps one of the most authoritative axioms of the Christians faith is this:  Christians are different.  What makes the difference?  Who’s on our team of course!  A study of the New Testament reveals that Christians are different because of the presence of Christ.  Paul described the differences in a Christian’s life using the believers in Corinth as his backdrop.  Notice, Christians are different because of. . .

THE EXPERIENCE OF GRACE

As discussed in the previous chapter, Paul always used the word saint to refer to Christians--not to dead ones but to living ones, not to a few but to all. I think it must have been his favorite word for Christians, because he used it some sixty times in his letters. In the very opening words of this letter (1:2) Paul assured the believers in Corinth, immoral and unfaithful as many of them were, that they were all saints--along with everyone else who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  (from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary)

Of all the churches that Paul dealt with, the Corinthians probably gave him the biggest headaches—migraine proportions!  Nevertheless, Paul continually thanked God for the presence of grace in their lives. 

            No person becomes a believer apart from God’s grace.  “I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus” (1:4).  Becoming God’s child is not a reward of human attainment; it is the unmerited gift of God.  The expression “given you” in the Greek is in the aorist tense, which indicates action completed at a particular point in time.  The moment the Corinthians received Christ, God gave His grace to them.  If you add anything to receiving grace, it becomes works.  I believe in baptism of believers, but if baptism is essential for salvation, you have added “works” to salvation. 

            Amazingly God’s grace means that unacceptable people are accepted, guilty people are forgiven, payback to God is impossible, and all human boasting is nullified.  Although God has showered us with his grace, we still sin, we still die, and we still need full transformation.  Remember: transformation brings reformation NOT the other way around.  In addressing the church at Corinth, Paul first mentioned grace.  People can only begin to be different because of an experience of God’s grace. 

THE ESSENCE OF HOLINESS

            Believers have the essence of God’s holiness within them.  Paul addressed believers in Corinth:  “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy” (1:2).  Notice the expressions “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and “called to be holy.”  “Sanctified in Christ” relates a believer’s position in Christ.  By His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus puts us in the position of being different because Jesus makes a difference.

            When we are called to Christ, we are called from a lifestyle lived independently of Him.  Even more importantly, we are called to something.  We are called to a lifestyle that is holy. “Called to be holy” describes the believer’s process.  The process of holiness occurs as the believer opens his or her life to Christ.  The longer they live in Christ, the more like Him they can become. 

            How different from what we hear so often in our culture.  The motto of the day is God wants me to be happy.  Oh, really?  I have yet to find someone who can show me that idea as a priority principle in the Word of God.  Frankly, it does not feel good to be a Christian sometimes.  And occasionally it is not physically healthy to be a committed disciple.  In reality God wants us to be holy.  It is to be “set apart” to God’s ownership and for God’s use and to have attitudes and actions that reflect His ownership and will.  It does not mean to be strange, weird, legalistic, prudish, or to never have fun. 

            In fact, God makes clear that if we are holy, inevitably we will be happy.  MATTHEW 6:33.  Paul celebrated that he had seen a change in the lives of those in the Corinthian church (1:6).  This change was impossible to miss.  If I were to stick a key in an electrical socket in the wall, I would experience a change in my life!  It would be immediate and observable!  What a picture of the change when someone “plugs in” by faith to the life and power that Christ offers.

THE ENRICHMENT OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS

            In addition, Paul acknowledged the Christians of Corinth lacked nothing they needed for effective spiritual living.  He clearly stated God had given them every spiritual gift to live effectively as Christians and to keep strong in their faith until the end.  We lack absolutely nothing needed for effective Christian living.  In VERSE 5, Paul used the Greek word “plutocrat.”  We get our English word “plutocrat.”  This means an extremely wealthy person.  We are immeasurably wealthy because of God’s grace and because of God’s gifts.  Say with me:  I lack nothing for happiness or holiness.

            God’s people receive spiritual gifts.  (Go to Mike O’Briens Spiritual Gifts class if you did not attend another Discipleship class tonight).  God gives to each believer one of more spiritual gifts.  God gives to each believer one or more spiritual gifts.  Notice two expressions:  “for in him you have been enriched” (1:5) and “therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift” (1:7).  Gift is the Greek charisma, meaning “something God gives a believer that cannot be earned or learned.”  We get the English word charismatic from this root word.  God wants all of His children to be charismatic. . .gifted.  I didn’t say, speak in tongues.  I said, gifted, and we are if we are in Christ.  The gifts God gives are used to do His work, to help His church, and to bring Him honor.  If you are using your gifts, you are on the road to godliness.  If you are neglecting your gifts, spiritual atrophy will set in.

THE EXPECTANCY OF THE LORD’S RETURN

            God’s people have a unique view of history.  They believe history is moving steadily toward a grand climax.  They “eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed” (1:7).  Christians wait for Christ’s return believing that His lordship will be revealed, evil will be defeated, and eternity in heaven will be glorious.  Amen?!

            We may have a difficult time now.  Paul mentions being “hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; and struck down, but not destroyed.”  We really could have a tremendously difficult time during our lives by being falsely accused, falsely imprisoned, continuously harassed, mercilessly tortured, and even brutally murdered.  But none of that takes away or denigrates our relationship with Christ.  The Bible says that we will appear blameless when He returns.  Free from any charge.  We are irreproachable and unimpeachable.  We can never lose what God freely gave us in Christ and what was continually confirmed by our faith in Christ. 

            (ILLUS) Tom Ridge may be in charge of Homeland Security for our nation but Jesus is in charge of my Spiritual Homeland Security and not even Sadaam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden can change that!  I fear nothing because my God delivers!  When God forgives a person, he can never be liable again!  This is the security of the believer!

There is one more difference in the lives of believers. . .

THE ENJOYMENT OF FELLOWSHIP

            In addition to a future hope, Christians enjoy present fellowship with Jesus.  Paul said, “God, who has called into fellowship with hi Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful” (1:9).  Fellowship among believers relates directly to our common experience in Christ. 

            Paul exposes the truth in 1 Corinthians 1:1-9 that God’s people are different.  The reason is evident: a believer’s experience in Christ.  Nine times in nine verses Paul makes use of the name Jesus.  Christ is absolutely central in individuals’ becoming different. 

S.B.C.                                                 Springfield, TN                                    September 7, 2003

Sources:  Outline by Harold Bryson in Proclaim, Winter 2002-03, pages 39-40; Helping Your Church Stay on Course, Lifeway, Learner Guide, pages 7-10; The MacArthur New Testament Commentary; ideas from sermon by Paul Jackson of Union University in a newsletter in summer/fall 2002; DEL and Dad’s study notes.

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