Monday, March 30

Modern Corinthians

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord'” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

By human standards there is nothing among those called to purpose within the Body that would qualify or impress the worldly Christian. God equips and God provides for those to whom He has purposed and uses the seemingly weak to confound the ‘worldly wise’.

Paul confronted me during my morning time in fellowship for the past few weeks………….

Michael Horton, the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of The White Horse Inn national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine, wrote an article in the Modern Reformation magazine (Issue: "Preaching Christ" March/April Vol. 2 No. 2 1993 Pages 22-24) which brought me to consider how far deeper God goes beyond the simple ' weakness of the humans instrumental' in the forwarding of the Kingdom.

I’ve taken a beating because of my position on the missed mission of the Western Church, which gives to mega-sizes, feel good doctrine, spiritual mysticism, post-modern theology and the Barney Gospel of “God loves you, God loves me. We’re a big, happy family.”

I am continually confounded by the increasing ‘hoo hum’ of the modern Christian, who can justify voting for a President based on his color of skin and not the contents of his character, and yet claim understanding and even power in the title of Christian. I am saddened, like Paul was in his Corinth, at the post-modern day Christian living in the gospel of man’s making, and yet claiming godly authority.

Today, most Western Christians are nothing more than ‘modern-day’ Corinthians.

Corinth was a prize in the world of Paul, placed in a strategic location. Following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C., his successors struggled against each other for control of Corinth.

They regarded it as quite a prize, due to its strategic location directly south of the Corinthian Gulf on the Peloponnesian (southern Greece) side of the Isthmus of Corinth that allowed, through its two harbors, the city to control the isthmus between the two seas. Lechaeum was the westward harbor, facing the Corinthian gulf, and Cenchreae was the eastern one, looking out over the Saronic Gulf.

Not only was it a strategic point of control of the sea, but it had a variety of terrain; coastal plains (watered and fertile), flat areas further from the coast that were fairly well-watered, arable sloping hills and even mountainous regions.

From 198 BC to 146 BC, Corinth was nothing more than a bargaining chip between the Romans and the Greek Achaean League until 146 BC, when Rome finally destroyed the city and sold its inhabitants into slavery. Julius Caesar reestablished Corinth as a Roman colony in 44 BC and settled it with Italian lower classes, ex-soldiers of varying ethnicity and Greek, Syrian, Egyptian and Judean freed slaves.

But it is what this mix of various ethnicities created that brings me to believe that America and its 'christian' religious have become the modern-day equivalent of Corinth.

As it was the capital of the Achaia province, the city was a diverse cultural icon of social, cultural and religious beliefs. Even the Judean populations of this city were more cosmopolitan and multicultural than their Palestinian brethren.

The church in Paul's time existed as 'home' churches which reflected the city's diversity.

Much like America does today with its westernized Christianity. There is a place in which even false beliefs can be 'worshipped' in the communities of our country, where faith can be 'catered' to the system of belief we consider our 'world view'. Church is less of a fellowship and more of a social gathering, based on our individual taste.....this is not, in and of itself, wrong.

Just as Corinth was prosperous enough to be named as one of the three economic centers of Greece by Plutarch, a writer of the second century, so was America considered to be the vanguard nation in terms of wealth, security and economic might. Our economy, as has been recently experienced, affects to a large degree the economic status of many other nations.

Just as Corinth was considered a 'hot spot' in terms of prosperity, the many immigrants (both legal and illegal) consider America to be the 'land of milk and honey.'

America 'boasts' an population that considers itself to be 'Christian', though the consideration of what 'type' of Christian must be explored further to find a more complete and truthful number as many of the 'post-modern, emerging' cultural diversity of the religious movement that still bears the name of its Creator has diverted farther and farther from the shape and foundations of the original Judeo-Christian beginnings.

The Corinthian Christians were economically diverse, like much of the American Churches today, with a cross-section of society's rich, trades people, slaves and former slaves.

The modern day equivalents of ‘slave and former slaves’ are not defined by ‘color’ or ethnicity but in a modern sense of ‘slavery’, it is the fate of the modern Corinthian to be a 'slave' to the immoral and secular dictates of consumerism, the idol of the modern world---the "American Dream".

The "Modern day" Corinthian, who grows tired of the battles over such issues as homosexual ‘marriage’, the murder of the generations called ‘pro-choice abortion’, intelligent design, evolution and the insensitivity of the exclusiveness of the biblical Truth has mixed secularism with Christianity and called it 'good'.

These MDC’s believe a church is only as ‘godly’ as its technical finesse and ‘culturally-sensitive’ proclamation of the Gospel, we all get to heaven, works are the methods of a good god, and never speaks of the depravity of man, the sin and judgment of humanity and the guilt of mankind in the action of grace bore by the very Begotten Son of God Himself.

The 'practical' Corinthians liked to think that they were up on the latest ideas regarding the human experience; the Epicureans who believed a philosophy of " We live happiest when we are free from the pains of life, and a virtuous life is the best way to obtain this goal," the fatalistic Stoics who were 'guided' by logic, physics, and ethics in which morality is a life in accordance with nature and controlled by virtue, and the speculative mysticism of Greek philosophy which sought to combine Christianity, folk religion and esoteric wisdom into a 'new' faith.

Temple prostitution was big business at the shrine of Aphrodite (goddess of love), the shrine of Asclepius, the god of healing, was still frequented. This continued even when the twelve pagan temples were converted to "christian" churches.
Silver-tongued speakers put on seminars and promise the keys to success and happiness, making at least some appeal to Christ or the semblance of Him.

The best of secular wisdom and Christian beliefs are being brought together to make Christianity revelent.

To be acceptable, the adherents to the Christian faith have to find answers to questions that aren't contained in the biblical text and to solve riddles the God contained therein wasn't interested in inside their 'places of worship', the church.

Sounds like modern-day America, doesn't it?

This is the culture in which Paul came or wrote about in his Corinthian missals.
This modern "sophisticated" Christian, commonly labeled a post-modernist, enlightened and emergent, is "confident and self-assured" and fully engulfed by a "religion [that supplies the] social glue, [giving] people a philosophy of life and a way of living a happy and meaningful life," Horton writes in what to me is the 'dirge of the post-Christ Christian.'

"In bending over backwards to be relevant, we have actually become politely irrelevant, mumbling when we get to the bit about judgment, hell, wrath, condemnation, human helplessness and our utter dependence on the grace and righteousness of someone outside of us." Dr. Michael Horton notes about the modern-day church.

Much like those Corinthians of old, the modern-day religious movement that bears a curtsy semblance to Christianity are interested in anything but Christ and the absolute simplicity of the Gospel.

There is no room in the halls of worship for moral or ethical debates, or any dogma of "original sin, total depravity, guilt atonement, propitiation, substitution, justification, the sovereignty of God, regeneration and sanctification, judgment and heaven or hell," Dr. Horton notes.

The 'modern Corinthian' wants a 'god who shows us an example of greatness-power, virtue, wisdom [rather] than a god who dies for us.'

Too much of the theology of today's emerging religious movements, misleading labeled as 'spiritual' movements seem to be dressed up human philosophy, much like the Corinthians. It is bereft of suffering, consequences and the realities of living dead in a broken and sinful world.

"In Corinth, the super-apostles convinced some of the believers that they were simply bringing together the best of secular wisdom and Christian belief," Dr. Horton comments.

In our time, no longer is the simplicity of the Gospel truth enough for our appetites, our yearning for complete and utter knowledge to defy even the darkest of times. After all, from the time of mankind's assumption of church 'leadership,' the doctrine has been to leave no stone unturned and to bring enlightenment where the biblical accounts do not venture.

In essence, create the handbook for 'Christian living, thought and deed.' We express surprise and dismay over the fertile breeding grounds that we, the modern Christian, have created throughout the ages….that give birth to the emergent, post-modern and all-inclusive doctrine of a “Christ-less Christianity."

Our job within the 'missional' life of the Church isn't to teach the reality of original sin and the totality of mankind's depravity.

Rather than examine the guilt that all humanity has as a part of their heritage, the atonement and substitution played out upon the wooden cross as the fabric of our judgment and justified punishment or the sovereignty of God; the Church preaches felt needs, social service and the relevance of inclusion, compassionate acceptance because the desire of God is not to be boxed into a set 'label or character' but to appeal to all…regardless of their man-made religion. We have gone beyond the 'keep it simple silly' theology that ran supreme through the original Church.

Throughout the modernistic movement to ‘rescue’ the spiritual movement of Christ from the likes of evangelicals like me sounds like a laundry list of rehashed spiritual philosophy fresh from the Greek houses of ‘enlightenment’, complete with those ‘super-apostles’ with names like McLaren and Bell.

Staying far from the absolute authority in which Paul speaks directly to the Corinthian Christians, such leadership of the modern movement of ‘inclusive spirituality’ promote no longer the utter depravity of mankind and the absolute statements of Christ, who said He” is the Way, the Truth, and the Light” and that absolutely no one would be saved unless they claimed salvation through His sacrifice upon the Cross. The ponderable questions that the emerging, post-modern leadership postulates we have to answer is, “Is God working in all of the disasters and chaos of the world?” and “How do we make the Gospel appealing to those who believe another ‘religion’?”

The questions are no longer bringing people to a place of redemption but teaching them to bring healing (both physical and spiritual), justice (condemnation by commission) and equality (all have fallen short, no sin is greater than another; all are separation from God) for the world into their lives as the way of happiness, peace and prosperity; regardless of what the religious or spiritual movement they follow.

Is it a wonder why Christianity is no longer relevant to the modern world?

We spend our time in churches giving out theories and ‘quick fixes’ to the problems that are unsolvable in this world without a closer relationship with our Creator. Instead of dwelling within those problems and ‘seeing God’s movement’ in the problems, thereby helping people become more mature in the use of those problems to be closer with God, we ‘counsel’ prayer time, lifestyle changes and theories of theological empirialism.

We preach 'felt needs' to a people who are prone to selfishness and idolatry because of our fallen natures. We are like the blind leading the blind, hampered by our own depravity into believing we can define who, what and how God is. What is thought to 'help' ease the burden of this world is nothing more than justification of those 'felt needs' of people who love themselves, money and instant pleasure (gratification).

While Greek culture-Christianity, both in Corinth and America has turned Christian discourse into a combination of magic, self-reflection, and speculation, where understanding the esoteric mysteries of life and the 'secret' laws of the spiritual lead to power through the mystical and self-realized 'awareness' and the 'new nobility' of the Corinthian' who has the niceties of life, and comes from ‘higher’ learning is a Christ who is all about love and nothing about that considerations of what contributes to the salvation of one’s soul and how fear, self-service labeled ‘social activity’ and subjective truth can hinder the application of Grace. It is more about the ‘condition’ of life rather than the ‘calling’ of your life by God, more of the epicurean philosophy of 'living happiest free from the pains of life through a self-defined virtuosic lifestyle.

Where the Scriptures are silent, secular wisdom throws in its fix: calling itself Christianity because it seeks to be the 'social glue' that binds us together, giving us a philosophy of live and a method of living a self-defined, self-attaining way of life that is seemingly happy and meaningful. The sophisticated Corinthian, both in AME and modern cultures who is confident and self-assured, has little time for the definition of irrefutable definitions of sin and judgment, guilt and grace, as established by its Author and our Creator..

It is the philosophy of the ‘Greeks’ in this broken world that calls Christians from the close relationship with God into a more personal, private shadow of what we were meant to be. If you cannot speak some profound wisdom in today’s modern age, you must not be ‘of God.’

David Ben-Gurion, one of the founders of modern-day Israel, once said, “Courage is a special kind of knowledge, the knowledge of how to fear what ought to be feared and how not to fear what ought not to be feared. From this knowledge comes an inner strength that inspires us to push on in the face of great difficulty. What can seem impossible is often possible with courage.”

Is it any wonder that God has chosen to use the weakness of human instrumentally to convert the world, those people who are (by society’s standards) less than wise or powerful? Amazingly enough, it is the weak work of these ‘common’ people that has such wonderful and undeniable power in its movement for there is no ability within the reasoning and logical thought of man of the fact that God moved and did work within that person and through that person for the greater good of all mankind and the salvation of a few.

It is these ‘weak, common’ people who “recognize that [sin] is a power at work in the world that seeks to smother, dominate and oppress [and is more than making good choices],” as Josh Graves, minister at Rochester Church of Christ and author of the Jesus Feast blog states. Just because we all can state verbatim the obvious addictions, such as: “sex, gambling, porn, alcohol, drugs, and eating,” we don’t give voice to the less obvious which are no less deadly such as: “drama, anger, fighting, thrill, avoidance, shopping, TV., film, gossip, vanity, clothes, racial jokes, sports, gender exploitation, comfort, power, Internet, blogging, e-mail and funny you-tube videos.”

“An addiction is the place we go when we want to hide from God,” Graves blogs in a recent post, Addictions.

And that is what Christianity has become, an addiction. We want to get away from the desperation that life enfolds upon us, the suffering unexplained by the esoteric philosophies of the societal consciousness and yet we find nothing that we can come up with in the minds of our ‘greatest’ intellectuals, philosophers and psychologists can make the world bend to our wills.

We find, in the realization of our own depravity and inabilities, an emptiness that we long to fill with the addictions of this world; the obvious and the ‘covert’ as Graves labels the less-obvious ones.

It is those people, who are weak by the standards of an immoral, self-centered society, who come to the realization that to define God is to create a god of insufficient ability and power to control and define this broken world. They understand the absoluteness of God’s authority and the mystery of ‘knowing but not fully understanding’ a God who seems to allow babies to be killed by the millions throughout this broken planet for simplicity’s sake, who allows suffering of a young child who loses a cherished love one, or allows the American economy to tank; causing good and faithful servants to endure financial struggles and pitfalls.

It is these ‘weak’ people; considered ‘intellectually poor’, ‘mystically impaired’ and ‘psychologically impaired’ that fall upon the mercy of a God who has no moral or ethical reason to redeem, no human reason to restore or human designed authority to empower but who has, because of His righteousness and love deemed it His will to rescue from its own corruption a creation unworthy and unfit for its benefits. A God who, through the personal and effective sacrifice of His only begotten Son, gives…not grants nor offers….but gives to those who would ask the purchase price for sin’s commission….it is these people of ‘poor humanity’ that become its greatest orators of its salvation.

It is these people, who seek the simplest answers to the most complex problems and standing upon a absoluteness of a Creator’s authority regardless of the ‘perception’ of human mercies of a non-human God through the relational communication with that God, who are the ones who move in the spiritual battlefield of this world and conquer the enemy’s forces; creating a void in Hell and drawing the harvest of the Lord’s kingdom in.

These faithful, who are neither ‘ignorant’ by mental capabilities or ‘foolish’ by intellectual standards, who come to a realization of an inkling of what God truly is that are impacted to the point of boldness to impact the society around them. These warriors in the Army of the Most High have come to “fully experience Jesus as the One who liberates from the powers of this present darkness” those who believe.

These ‘common, broken and weary’ travelers have come to the understand of “Salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone” is the only way to find joy and happiness in a world of human depravity and sin that will be as strong and uplifting in the days of the storms of life as it will be in days of ‘good times’. They surrender a power that they never were granted by a society driven by materialism, post-modernism and emergent philosophies that are becoming more and more legalistic as they were in Jesus’ time and work on advancing the church to affect an increasingly self-absorbed culture through the respectability and authority of the Gospel message.

In a culture which idolizes self, it is these people to whom wealth, wisdom, strength and nobility fall victim to the authority and absolute Truth of the biblical text and the God who wrote it through human hands. They have come to the realization of the utter dependence of humanity upon the grace and righteousness of a God who is not humanly defined or fully understandable.

As quoted earlier, a God ‘who dies for us’ and tells us how to live through the example He Himself set.

It is these ‘people of simple faith’ that address the culture with familiarity only as a bridge for communication rather than accommodation, who love as purely as fallen beings can under the authority and training of the Spirit and who come in absence of an agenda to be a servant to their fellow human beings. It is these who move the Gospel into the culture by living through the hope established, the inherited riches realized and the power of a righteous, holy, loving, wrathful and compassionate Creator, rejected of society’s ‘magic’ solution of ‘self-gratifying, self-defined and self-serving Christianity of the modern-day Corinthian.’

It is these simple, common and humble servants of the most High that remember where they came from and by who’s sacrifice on the Cross and resurrection from the dead have been granted the eternal gift. It Is these humble servants of Christ that will benefit of His promise that if we will depend on Him the way He depended on the Father, then He will be that power, wisdom, holiness and motivation of self-sacrifice that God was to Him.

"For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose" (Philippians 2:13).

These humble servants don’t seek out the modern Corinthian’s explaination of what makes a ‘good’ chrisitan for they know that they cannot ever attain such a goal, Christ Himself said we would never be able to do it. They know that the God who called them to the Christian life is also the God who wants to live through them and gives them the power and effective strength to live within His will, His purpose and for His glory.

"The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it" (1 Thess. 5:24).

These are the modern-day Pauls, Moseses, Jeremiahs, Peters, Abrahams, Isaacs, Jacobs and Matthews. It is here that the redemption of the strayed, the lost and the broken are found, in the incapable hands of broken, struggling and purposeful servants of the most High God.

Major Ian Thomas expressed who these disciples were in his book The Saving Life of Christ,

“The Lord Jesus Christ claims the use of your body, your whole being, your complete personality, so that as you give yourself to Him through the eternal Spirit, He may give Himself to you through the eternal Spirit, that all your activity as a human being on earth may be His activity in and through you; that every step you take, every word you speak, everything you do, everything you are, may be an expression of Christ, in you as man....

That is what Paul meant when he said 'For me to live is Christ.'... It is for you to be — it is for Him to do. Restfully available to the Saving Life of Christ, enjoying the richest measure of the Divine Presence, a body wholly filled and flooded with God Himself, instantly obedient to the heavenly impulse — this is your vocation, and this is your victory!"

It is these disciples who are empowered to speak the truth of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not for the defeat of the enemy already vanquished, but for the edification of the saints, redemption of the strayed and the repentance of the lost with the unconditional and unconquerable love of their Lord and King!

"I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father. And I will do [I Myself will grant] whatever you ask in My Name [as presenting all that I AM], so that the Father may be glorified and extolled in (through) the Son (John 14:12-13, Amplified).

So, the question begs to be asked and dared to be answered.

Are you a modern-day Corinthian or a disciple of Jesus Christ?

Your answer just might save your life.
"Apart from Me... Nothing." Article by Austin Pryor, Sound Mind Investing

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