We sometimes think about how hard we work, how much we have, or where we are in life and rank ourselves against others. In a culture that is more divided than ever, you don’t have to buy into this lifestyle. The moment you tell yourself “I’m better than…” you begin to live a life contrary to scripture.
- Let Grace Replace Your False Sense of Superiority with Humble Gratitude (v. 7-9)
- What is seen as Worldly Weakness can Often Be Christian Strength (v. 9-13)
Amen. If you have your Bibles this morning, we’re in 1 Corinthians chapter four. As we’re continuing this series, a house divided from the first four chapters of the book that Paul wrote to the Corinthian church. Where this week and next week, and then we’re done with this book where Paul is addressing division in this particular church. And I think, in turn, warning us about division that can happen even here, 2000 years later. He’s done it before, and he’s going to do it again, he’s talking about pride. And he’s talking about the false sense of security that pride can give you. When I was military, I was an officer instructor in a career field called security forces. I would often see this false sense of security that these officers had in themselves and even of course in the equipment that we gave them.
There’s this one course that I loved to teach it was land navigation. We’d give them a map and a compass, and we would teach them to find their way in the woods. Every time I say that, Timmy laughs out loud, almost because she knows I’m one of the only people that can get lost, yeah and it’s Texas. I’m terrible with where I’m going when I’m driving on the road. But a map and a compass, I don’t do too bad. So we’re teaching this to these young officers. And we first teach them, here’s a compass this is how it works, then we’d give them a grid map that had contour lines, so they could see elevation, and we say, “Okay, now you have these grid coordinates. This is how you put them on the map. This is how you create a way to go, a path to go and this is how you get there.
But it’s one thing when we teach them land navigation in the classroom when the map and the compass is taught and a whole another thing when we take them out to the field, we’d put them in what I call the kung fu jungle in northern San Antonio. If you’re not familiar with that, it’s not really a jungle. But as you’re walking through the woods, that guy in front of you pushes that cedar tree lamb, and it bends, but it doesn’t break. As you get past it, sometimes that branch comes up if you’re behind that guy, right back in your face. And so it’s always dangerous. But it’s so thick. If you don’t do your map work right, if you don’t follow the azimuth on your compass just right, you would be lost and alone and we will have to come find you.
In addition to the map and compass, we would give them this other tool. It’s a GPS device called a plugger. Anybody ever used a plugger in your time in the military? Scott’s like, “How reliable is that?”
Not very that’s right. It’s basically a brick that they put technology into, that just holds data. It doesn’t hardly ever work. We knew that. But we said, you can also put the coordinates both on your map, emphasis on the map and in the GPS device called a plugger and then you can use it as well.” But we would say, “Don’t trust in the GPS alone.” ‘Cause we knew that with just a little bit of cloud cover, or when you leave where we’re teaching the class and get a little bit into the woods, that GPS signal is going to be obliterated. But we just told them, you can use the plugger but make sure you do your map work first.
But these young officers, what do you think they did 90% of the time? Yeah they took the easy way out map works hard. It took a long time. They said, “Oh yeah, here’s the coordinates we’ll just put them into the GPS and we want to get to whatever location first.” Because when it was working, it was real accurate. So to find themselves in the woods, following the plugger and like always, 90% of time, it would break down. They had a false sense of security in the GPS device, and it would leave them stranded and we’d have to go find them. Church, my point is this I see this happening all the time, not just with Siri, are you following the maps on your phone?
But I see it happening in Christians’ lives all the time that they have a false sense of security in their pride, a false sense of security in themselves. I can rely on me, I can do it. I have arrived. I’m all this or I’m all that and you know what it does? It does this same thing. It leaves you stranded. It leaves you lost and alone in this world pleading for God to come find you and put you back on track. The Corinthians, it’s nothing new today. They struggled with the same thing. They got puffed up, they trusted in humans as individuals. They trusted in human philosophy, they trusted in themselves and Paul knows this is going to leave them lost. So he warns them against their pride.
Let’s read this passage together. Let’s stand. 1 Corinthians 4:6. Paul says, “Now these things brethren … ” They’re Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ like you who gathered today. “I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes so that in us, you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that none of you will become arrogant and behalf of one against the other.” This is the division verse seven. “For who regard you as superior?” Great question. “What do you have that you did not receive?” Another great question. Then he goes on here not only ask, “What do you have, that you did not receive?” But then he says, “And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” The third great question verse eight.
“You’re already filled.” Now he’s being sarcastic. “You already have become rich, you become kings without us. And indeed, I wish you had become kings, so that we also might reign with you. For I think, God has exhibited us apostles, last of all, as men condemned to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels, and to men.” Here sarcastic irony again. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are distinguished, but we are without honor. To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed. We are roughly treated and are homeless and we toil working with our own hands.” I would almost add a ‘but’ here. “When we are reviled, we bless when we are persecuted, we endure, when we are slandered, we try to conciliate.” It means to give back comfort. “We have become as the scum of the earth, the dregs of all things, even until now.” This is God’s word. Please be seated.
With sarcastic tones, with pretty strong questions. Paul is attacking the pride that he sees in the Corinthian church. So I want to tell you this morning church is do not let pride low you into a false sense of security, but instead let grace produce in you a humble spirit of gratitude. Notice the transition in verse six. Paul is saying these things that I’ve told you in illustrated form, I’m now bringing to you very clearly through application. If you go back to chapter four, really in chapter three, you’ll see Paul’s illustration of the church being a building.
He goes, in case you missed it, when I first said this to you, when I was writing this to you just moments ago, is there a reading? That building is you. It was an illustration to illustrate you. Then he calls them a temple, the temple of God. Just in case they missed it, he says, “You’re the temple and the foundation of that building is Christ and the building materials are biblical doctrine?” He goes, “That was for you.” Paul, then use the illustration of him being a servant of Christ and a steward of the gospel. Now he’s telling them, “That was an illustration, not meant to just described me but I also wanted to describe you.” Church you’re the ones along with Paul that need to be servants to Christ. We are the ones along with Paul that are stewards of the gospel.
Now I explained that to you but he’s just re emphasizing that back to them again. So that, why is he making this clear? That me and Apollos, these illustrations are now I’m applying to you so that you don’t exceed or so that you don’t go beyond what is written. Now, this can be three different things. It can be literally the words that Paul had written down for them to read, or it could be the entire Old Testament. He doesn’t want them to go beyond what the Old Testament what the Scriptures say. Or it could be the specific references to the Old Testament passages that he’s mentioned in the text so far, like from job and from the Psalms that put humanity low so that God can be exalted.
I want to say, it doesn’t really matter which of those three it is because all of them represent scripture. As the Old Testament scripture, yes, God wants you to obey it, he doesn’t want you to go past it. Those references the specific Old Testament passages, their scripture as well. And what about it? Paul is just referring to his own words? That’s also scripture. Paul was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these words down. So all of that needs to be obeyed. But what’s more important than what is written, don’t get stuck there. Look at the motivation behind that. Why does he not want them? Why does he not want you to go beyond what was written? So you don’t become prideful, so you don’t become arrogant. That’s the purpose and that’s a great purpose to have. They had a false sense of security, in their own pride in their own superiority. And what Paul wants to do is bring them back to reality.
Church family, could I say that it’s probably not bad for any of us to have a dose of reality concerning ourselves? Could I be so bold as to think that maybe some of us in here today struggle with pride? I know I did as I was reading this passage of scripture, maybe you as well with me. So let’s start here in verses seven through nine and see since we probably all have pride, how we can let grace replace our false sense of superiority with humble gratitude. If you’re one of those people who struggles with pride, these verses are for you. And I want to tell you, they are on time. If you’re one of those people that’s here today saying, “You know what, Pastor, I don’t really struggle with pride.” You struggle with pride and these verses are on time with you.
As we enter into Thanksgiving. You know, the one thing that keeps you, may not the only thing but one of the things that keeps you from thinking about what you should be grateful for, its pride. You’re all this week going to be asked by that same family member, maybe it’s your momma or your daddy when you say the prayer, don’t forget to say something that you’re thankful for. Don’t forget to express your gratitude to the family I love those kind of exercises. What frustrates me is sometimes we sit there or stand there dumbfounded like we have nothing to be grateful for. Well I pray that these verses and God’s grace would wash over you. And like me today, you would discover that there’s just not one or two things that you should be grateful for, but it’s a multitude thing, pages of things that God can show you that he’s given you that you should be thankful for. He wants them to reflect upon the grace of Christ and the gospel of Jesus Christ. So to bring them down to reality.
So he starts with three questions. Who regards you as superior? Number one. Number two, what do you have that you did not receive? And number three, if you did receive it, why do you boast like you didn’t get it or like you don’t appreciate it? These are great questions to combat the pride in the Corinthian church. But Ladies and gentlemen, they’re also great questions for us today. Paul is going to systematically destroy even through humility or disgrace, the puffed up attitude of the Corinthian church so that the grace can wash over them, instill in them a cross centered, humble filled attitude and lifestyle. So he starts with the shaming with question one, and I hate to say shaming ’cause later in the letter, he’ll say, “I didn’t do this to shame you.”
But if you’re a Corinthian church member, or even if you’re here today, and these questions are hitting home, you fall into this level of pride. I want to tell you what it is, I’ll tell you what it was for me this week. It was shameful. It was embarrassing. So question number one, who evaluates you? Or who looks at your life and says, “You know what, superior? The answer is nobody. And if somebody is saying that, that person is probably you. You’re staring at you in the mirror, “You’re so good, you’re so fine. You’re superior, you’re better than everyone else.” What Paul is saying here is, who do you think you are to see yourself as above another person? “Please.” He says, “Give me your thoughts. Give me your rationale. If facts are your friends, then please share with me some of the facts that you have in your back pocket that you can show to me and you can stand before God with this as, yep, I’m better than that person.”
The Corinthian church. Some of them were in the upper class. Most of them weren’t. But it doesn’t matter what level of social class that you’re in, no one in here today and no one anywhere on the planet has the right to evaluate themselves against another person, and then step up above them and say, “I’m better than you.” But we struggle with this. How do I know? Because I’ve struggled with this before and it’s not a prideful moment to say that. I think the environment that we live in, kind of lends itself towards this. I didn’t plan on sharing this illustration, the first service, but I did and I’ll share with you as well. What do you think the basis of social media is about?
You know it’s to share my life with somebody else. Maybe. But could it be to put out something that you have, so that you get more likes than the other, so you can compare yourself to them and say, “I’m a little better than you because I got this over you or I did this thing. And people laughed at it, or I posted this thing and people liked it.” On and on and it’s a dangerous trap. I’m not saying don’t be on social media. It’s a great tool. But use it as a tool. Don’t let it take you down that path of pride so you get yourself puffed up, ’cause the moment you say, “I’m better.” You’re in a bad, bad spot. Do we not do this in America with money? I’m better than you because I make more money than you. Nobody wants to say it out loud. Maybe some of you don’t think that, maybe some of you do. Not just the reality that I have done well in this world or God’s …
Not just the reality that I’ve done well in this world, or God’s done well through me is probably a better way to say that, but that moment you slip into, that makes me better than you. That’s where we’re in trouble.
Oh it goes deeper and darker than that though. Since the early 1600s until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, that’s a long time y’all. It was in law, you can read about it on paper. Before we were even a nation and after we were established as a nation, that other people can say that they’re better than you based simply on the pigment color of their skin. You found, that’s not true, go read it! Educate yourself, it’s called institutionalized racism and if you think it doesn’t exist, you’re insane or you’re ignorant and you just don’t read the scriptures, well not the scriptures, it says it’s there. You don’t read the foundational documents of this very nation that we live in.
Now what do we do? We don’t have to follow that path and we’ve changed, the 1960s, that was a while ago but it wasn’t 100 or 200 years ago, and don’t think for a second that if that’s in the very construct of who we labeled ourself as white people to be, that it can’t find its way into your heart today. That, would be ignorant of you and it would sneak up and bite you. We have no right based on the color of the skin or the money in your bank account or whatever reason you come up with to say that I am better than you.
Sometimes it’s not so complicated. It’s this idea that you have of what a person should be and then you think that person you’re looking at in the mirror is that individual. That’s a problem, politically, you know, I didn’t think about going there either, but it’s a great example, you can disagree with somebody, you can even think that you’re right. You have a political opinion, they have another. They share it with you, you share yours with them and you say I’m right and you’re wrong, that’s okay. It’s when you say, I’m better than you, because my political opinion is true. You can be right, I think I’m right all the time, that’s why I struggle with pride, but you can not think you’re better.
I don’t know what the reason would be but I’ll ask you again, what makes you superior to somebody else? Think about it, think deep, get mad at me for a second, it’s okay, I’ll recover. Be frustrated with me, be like, yeah, but, but, but. Yeah, bring out the yeah but’s, really do it, go there this morning. Write it down on a piece of paper, send me a card in the mail. Think of the reason that you are better than somebody else.
Then don’t send it to me, take it to God. Here’s one of the answers he’s going to give you, Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew or Greek,” it doesn’t mean they don’t exist, but it means in the eyes of God in heaven. “There’s neither slave nor free man,” this was when slavery was happening. Paul spoke to slaves and to masters. He says, “There is neither male or female,” I might add there’s neither black nor white, brown or any other color, but what does he say here? Paul says, “You are all one in Christ Jesus.” Church there are lots of things that society is going to come up with that say, this should divide you. We’re maybe more divided as an American society than we’ve ever been, but it doesn’t mean you have to buy into it.
What we should be unified about in the church, despite social class, money in your bank account, the color of your skin, we should be unified in Christ. When the world is dividing we need to pray for them and tell them about Jesus but we can’t let that slip in to our congregations no matter what the reason it is. Yes, and it happens to pastors too. We’re no different. Pastors get together, you know what we do? We jockey for position. One of the fairest things you’re going to have a pastor ask you if you’re at a pastors conference is, “How many people go to your church?” I’m not joking. Like every single time like clock work. “How much money’s in your budget?” Really what they’re trying to find out is how influential is your preaching and how influenced are you. You don’t realize it but that’s, that jockeying for position to, if we’re not careful to say, maybe I’m a little better than you.
You don’t need to put somebody else down to be lifted up. Christ lifted you up on the cross, salvation’s enough, that’s all you need. You don’t have to push somebody else down to step on them to make yourself feel better. So it doesn’t matter the context, we can church it up and bring it to a pastor’s conference or it can be ugly and dark secrets in our nations history, it doesn’t mean that it’s right. It’s wrong in any context. What a great question, what makes you superior? The answer is nothing.
I heard about this young pastor, I’ll beat up on pastors for a second, who had been doing some pretty good things. He was talking to his mentor and he had some numbers in his church, he had a pretty big budget, he had all the things that a preacher’s looking for, and almost in like an arrogant swag he asked his mentor, how do you deal with this pride thing? Like almost he was proud of his pride. His mentor gave him a great answer, he says, “What do you have to be prideful about?” Think about the implications of that answer, “What do you have to be prideful about?” That’s where Paul’s going with this, look at the next question, “What do you have,” here’s the answer, “What do you have that you did not receive?” Think about that question if you’re struggling with what do I say at the Thanksgiving prayer this year.
Maybe you’d say, well I have air to breathe. Well that’s give to you by God. Maybe you’d say, I have food to eat. Yeah, it’s a lot of food too, given to you by God. What about if you have, well I got eyes to see, God. Health to live, God. A spouse to love and children to rear, who gave you that? God. What about a family to enjoy, God. Intelligence, wealth, success, power, what? All given to you by God. Yet I still see myself thinking and so many people saying, “No, no, no, no, I did these things. I’m in this position that is so good because of me.” It’s dangerous, pride is.
We move on to the last question, once you realize that what you’ve received is from God and you know I’m just going to assume that we’re all going to get there, but I’m not going to pretend like that journey is not long and hard. Paul’s getting there pretty quick, you may not get there so quickly. First of all you need to see yourself as not superior to another and then whatever the things you have, you need to realize, whatever it is, God gave it to you to be used for his glory, but once you can get there, once you realize that the things you’ve received are from God, Paul says, “Once you’ve received it, then why do you boast about it?” If you know that somebody else gave it to you, how can you stand there and beat your chest about it? We can’t is the answer.
He says, “Why do you act like you don’t even have it?” Go back to 1 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul here is trying to get the people of God to think about the cross of Christ. He’s helping them think deeply about redemption and what was earned for them on the cross. He reminds them that this message of the cross is going to be foolishness to the world, but don’t worry about it, to those of us who are being saved, he says, “It’s the very power of God. Therefore, when you have a cross centered mindset, grace can start to be understood by you,” which is God’s unearned favor towards you mainly based upon the cross.
Then he’ll say this in verse 29 of chapter 1, “I say these things so that no man may boast before God, but by his doing you are in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom of God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption so that just as it is written, ‘Let him who boast, boast in the Lord.'” I guess the simple way to say it is, don’t be prideful. Don’t boast and don’t beat your chest about the things that you do, because on your own, it’s not very nice to say but I think it’s a reality, you’re nothing. Apart from Christ, Paul tells us in Ephesians that you’re dead in your trespasses and your sins. That’s not good. But in Christ, now this is where it gets good right, but in Christ I’ve been given everything. I’ve been cleansed, I’ve been redeemed, I’ve been regenerated, I’ve been saved. That should bring a smile to your face and joy to your heart. Have a cross centered view and at the cross you’re going to start to understand grace.
Now don’t miss this, especially this thanksgiving week, grace always leads to gratitude. You may want to write that down. If you’re prideful and puffed up, just think about who you are apart from Christ and then think about what was earned for you in the cross and in the power of the resurrection and that salvation that you have and where you’re going to start to understand is wow, I’ve been given something in grace. Grace, every time will produce gratitude, but pride, if you don’t let grace come in, pride will come in and that’ll lead to boasting. Boasting will lead to judging one another and eventually division will rise in your heart and it will come alive in the church. This is the biggest problem that Paul is trying to address in these first four chapters.
He knows that pride leads to self dependence, self dependence leads to human boasting, and that boasting leads to division. He says, “Instead, let grace produce an attitude of gratitude.” I know it’s kind of cheesy to say that this time of year but I’m going to say it anyway because it’s good. Have an attitude of gratitude and grace will produce gratitude every time. Yes the Corinthians had let pride puff up their hearts. Some of them like a hot air balloon were full of such hot air they were starting to elevate themselves above others. So what does Paul do? He’s like a sniper. He just starts picking off one reason that swells their heart and puffs them up at a time to bring them back down to reality. Look at what he does here in verse 8 of chapter 4, he goes, sarcastically and ironically he says, “Oh but you, you’re already satisfied.”
That’s what the word filled means. “Oh but you, I guess you’ve already become rich. Oh and you, you’ve become actually kings without us.” Church, the Corinthians thought they had arrived. Some of them literally were elevating themselves above others. They said, you know what, I’m here. Wherever here is, I’ve arrived. I’m satisfied, no it doesn’t mean content, it means selfish. I’m satisfied. Instead of being satisfied, what should they have been? Hungry for a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. He says, “Oh but you’re already rich.” No they weren’t, maybe in the world, but their worldly riches blinded them to the reality that they were spiritually poor. They said, “Oh we are kings and we are reigning in our own little kingdom here.” When in reality they were servants awaiting the final reign of Christ and his return.
Now, when Paul says, “I wish that you had become kings so that we might reign with you.” What he’s saying here is yeah you act like you’re already reigning with Christ but that time has not yet come. The war is not over. Now the victory is already won, but there’s still battles to be fought and you’re sitting there acting like there’s no war. Christ’s reign is not here yet. The war is not over, we have to keep fighting. As soon as you become prideful, complacent and ungrateful in real war time, you’re in trouble.
I mean if you’re fighting like a no kid in war here and you become prideful, it’s going to cause you to start thinking that your enemy’s weaker than they really are and what are they going to do? They’re going to sneak up and beat you. Just think about any good underdog story, like when some division two team, or division one AA team beats like a division one team, the story’s pretty much the same isn’t it? The division one team, the really good team let’s call them, they kind of ignore the not so good team and they’re looking past them, and that not so good team turns out to be pretty good, and because of the pride of the bigger team they sneak up and they actually beat them. Don’t let pride cause you to think that the war is over be your enemy Satan will sneak up on you and try to destroy you.
What about complacency? I see that in war time sometimes, it’s dangerous. Complacency causes you to get lazy. You stop looking around, you stop putting your weapons safe, you kind of just get lazy. Not only will the enemy be able to sneak up on you at night and kill you, but then it can cause friendly fire accidents and you start killing each other. Don’t let complacency happen in the church otherwise your pride will grow out of control and you’ll stop being ready of the enemy. You’ll get a little lazy and then you’ll even start killing each other.
Ungratefulness simply makes you a terrible team mate. It makes you not being ready to fight next to your brother or sister who’s standing beside you. That’s dangerous in wartime in church, that’s dangerous in the congregation as well. Don’t ever be satisfied with your walk with Christ. Pray that God will give you a hunger to spend more time with him. Don’t neglect prayer, don’t neglect reading of the word, but ask God to give you a hunger for these things. Don’t grow complacent. Never think to your self, I’ve arrived. You’re not rich. You’re simply a poor beggar asking of the riches of God to be given to you and to be shown through you. You’re not kings who reign, you’re servants who serve the king, preparing the earth for his reign, how? By preaching the gospel to the world.
Let his grace replace your pride and give you an attitude of humility and gratitude. After Paul confronts their pride, and boy I want to tell you, with me and with him, he didn’t pull any punches. He’s like unrelenting here, but he doesn’t stop, look at verses 9-13. He says, okay, now that I’ve tried to shoot down your pride, he goes let’s just compare your life with mine. He goes into deep sarcasm here. If we look at verses 9-13, he wants them to understand that sometimes what is seen as worldly weakness can often be strength for the Christian, or Christian strength. Paul just finished labeling them without want or rich and kingly. Of course we know this is satire and for the rest of the passage he goes, now I want you to think about the attitude that you’re trying-
For the rest of the passage, he goes, “Now I want you to think about the attitude that you’re trying to show, and compare that with the attitude that I have.” I want to compare that to the lifestyle that you’re trying to achieve for yourself, and I want to compare that lifestyle with the actual lifestyle that I’m living right now.” Look at verse nine. He tries to help them understand, you may be first, but God is looking to make the last first. God has exhibited us apostles, what does He say? “Last of all that.” But he knows that’s not really last. I think he knows that that’s actually first. As men condemned to death because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.
It’s a pretty stark contrast between the lifestyle that the Corinthians are trying to live and the lifestyle that Paul is living. They were satisfied, rich and ruling. He says, “I’m unsatisfied, I’m poor, and I’m not ruling in your eyes.” The word spectacle here is the Greek word [theatroon 00:30:55]. And you may recognize that word because it makes the English word theater. And in Paul’s day the theater was the coliseum. When he says, “I’m being made a spectacle before men,” it should bring to mind these Roman gladiators, which by the way, they were slaves. It’s not as glorious as the movies make it out to be. And these slaves would fight and kill each other in the coliseum for the theater, which is the place of entertainment.
And then after the gladiators were done, the poorest among them were literally just fed to the beast. Their flesh was torn apart and people would clap and cheer and say, “Yay, that’s entertainment.” Paul says, “That’s what I feel like. You’re over here trying to live the life of luxury and I’m being torn apart in the world.” But I think he wants them to understand that he’s not whining. He says, “It’s okay.” Look at verses 9, 11 and 13, which you’ll also recognize here as the words that Paul is using to describe his own life of really misery here. Pretty harsh life. It also reflects the life of somebody else, mainly Jesus.
See if we can look at these verses together and see if we don’t see the life of Christ bleeding through him. Paul says that he was condemned to die a death as a spectacle for entertainment. How is Christ crucified? On a Roman Cross to be a spectacle for all to see. Think about when he was mocked, jeered, beaten, bruised, and murdered. It happened before men and angels alike, and they were celebrating it as he was dying and accomplishing your salvation for the glory of God. Look at verse 11, 12 and 13. In verse 11, he says, “I’m hungry, thirsty, poor, poorly clothed, roughly treated, and homeless. I have to work with my hands,” in verse 12. And verse 13, he says that he was treated as dirt to be walked on, the scum of the earth.
Now think about Jesus. Jesus was the man. He wasn’t a rich man. He was a poor man if you compare Him to the rest of the world. He was often homeless. Didn’t have to lay his head. Do you think Jesus was hungry and thirsty? Yeah, He was like an ordinary man, especially after that 30 days without food and water, right before He was tempted by Satan himself. Jesus was a craftsman, He had to work with His hands. He was treated terribly. Homeless, had no place to lay his head. And by His own people could you say that Jesus was treated as the scum of the earth? I would say so. If you want to read another description of that, not only from Paul and comparing his lifestyle to a savior, you can read Isaiah chapter 53 this week.
800 years before Jesus was even on this earth, Isaiah said he had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon him, no appearance that we should be attracted to him. He was despised and rejected by men. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, on and on and on he goes. Paul is basically saying, “That life of suffering, that Christ lived, I’m proud to live. The life I live I’ll live for Christ, and the example I follow is not one of self boasting or self seeking, but of self sacrifice. Suffering for the sake of another’s benefit.” And he says, “That’s okay because this is just like my savior.”
We got to move on. Look at verse 10. There’s more irony here. I think he’s really just trying to see … help them see the shame of their actions. He says, “We are fools for Christ’s sake. Oh, but I guess you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but I guess you are strong. We are distinguished, but … You are distinguished, but we are without honor.” Again, verse 8 and verse 10 are showing the opposite of what is actually true. Let’s break it down together. When Paul says, “We are fools, but I guess you’re wise,” that you should recognize that because Paul had already explained to us that if believing in the Gospel makes you a fool, what does he say? Be a fool for Jesus. As he goes on to describe these things. He says that, “I am weak, but you are strong.”
I ask you, what is real strength? The world describes weakness in one way and God describes strength than another. Well, let me help you understand it through a word picture. The only addicts I’ve ever seen recover are the ones who are strong enough to say, “I’m too weak to do it on my own. I need God’s help and I need people’s help.” The world may say, “Oh, that’s weakness.” You know what I call that? You know what God calls that? True strength. When you’re weak enough to say that you can’t do it on your own, you’re ready to receive salvation. When you’re awake enough to say that I need help, you’re strong because then help would come. It’s the only effective way to approach eternity, it’s the only effective way to get it your life.
I was listening to a Christian radio host this week, on Christian radio for the world to hear, he admitted that he was an addict. What? Why would you say something like that on radio? Doesn’t it make him look weak? No, I think it makes them look strong. “It was only,” he said, “when I was weak enough to go to an AA meeting that I realized I needed help outside of myself.” And when he finally turned over his weakness to God, God gave him the strength. And praise God, he’s on the radio for Jesus as a recovering addict. To be so “strong” that you say, “I don’t need help,” that’s not strength. That’s pride. It’s arrogance, it’s dangerous, and it will have little effect in your life.
So Paul’s turning the pages on here. They’re not actually strong. They’re the ones who were actually weak. All right, let’s move on. After Paul has falsely flattered them for a little while, I’m sure the Corinthians were a little embarrassed by their behavior and their attitudes. I know I was when I found connection to these verses. I’ll be honest, although he says that, “I don’t want to shame you,” I was a little ashamed at where my strength is coming from. At this point, in reading Paul’s words, I was ready for a little direction. I’m in. I get it. Pride has hit me. What do I need to do? So, after he helps them understand the danger and the silliness of their pride, he gives them some help.
Look at verse 12 and 13. At the end of verse 12, he says, “Let me give you some examples of what we do that you should do. When we’re reviled, we bless. When we are persecuted, we endure. When we are slandered,” he says, “We actually try to endure that slander, but then we hand it back to them through exhortation and comfort.” This once again is an opposite verse, but instead of shaming them, it is actually instructing them. We can see across centered attitude here flowing from Paul and I would recommend these responses to you today. Church, when you’re mistreated like the scum of the earth, give a blessing in return. When you were persecuted, endure. When you’re persecuted for the name of Christ, not only endure but rejoice that you’re considered worthy to suffer as He suffered. “When you’re slandered …” Now, this is a hard one, “Take courage and respond with encouragement.”
Now, I’m not telling you to be weak and I’m not telling you to be a mat for other people to walk upon, but I am telling you reflect Christ when you respond to another when they attack you. Notice I didn’t say react. The adage is true here that says you should respond instead of react. When other people are attacking you, look at how Jesus responded when He was attacked. You never see Him when He was doubted and mocked, you never see Him retaliate or react. You always see Him respond appropriately.
Sometimes He was tough on the hard hearted, but I want to see it in His nature He was never mean, and He was always loving to those who lacked truth. Church, if we were to reflect the grace of Christ and let Him influence how we respond to people when they attack us online. When they attack us because of a political debate. When they attack us in church. If we would let Him influence how we respond, do you know how great it would be? You know how much better this nation would be? You know how much better church overall would be? Some of you are here today and you say, “You know what? Pride is me.” I want to warn you pride should not be you, because pride can cause you to feel things that are in fact the opposite of what they really are.
Pride can cause you to say, “I need to put on a good face and strong face because by Golly I’m strong.” When if you were honest with yourself, you’re still crying yourself to sleep at night, because of the darkness and despair in your heart. Be strong and admit that you’re weak, turn to God and turn to other people for help.
I want to do something that I don’t usually do. If you’re here today and whether you’re struggling with pride or not, I’m going to ask you just to bow your head with me. I think this is at the root of a lot of things that were going through, so I just want to pray over you. Everybody bow their head. Everybody close your eyes, it’s a little old school, but I want you to do it. Nobody’s looking around. This isn’t about your neighbor. This isn’t about me, this pride things about you and it’s between you and God. Maybe just maybe here today that this cross centered grace filled life that reflects the thoughts and attitudes of Jesus is a foreign concept to you, because you’ve never fully surrendered to Him as your savior. Maybe you’re here today and you struggling with pride because you’re not a Christian is what I’m trying to tell you. If that’s you, if you find yourself today lost in the woods because of your pride and you have nowhere to turn. And it’s because you’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, maybe you could just be real humble this morning and honest and say a prayer like this.
Lord Jesus, I’m prideful and I’m lost without hope. I’ve been trying to do it on my own and it’s no good. I’m not getting anywhere. Lord Jesus, I need you. I believe and your sacrificed for me on the cross that paid my sin debt. I believe in the power of the resurrection. Please forgive me and my sins. I trust in you forever. Saying a prayer like that is a great place to start, but maybe the rest of you who are Christians, maybe you’re here today and you really are struggling with pride. Maybe you need God to turn your hard heart of self reliance into a soft heart of humble attitude and gratitude. I just want to say prayer for you.
Lord, I remember this week being on my knees, reading this text, and arriving at the reality that pride had got me, and it’s gotten me before. Lord, I pray that if some of them are going through that same struggle, maybe they’re here today and you know what? They just think that they’re superior to somebody else based upon the honesty of their heart. That their money makes them better, the color of their skin makes them better, or whatever reason, Lord, would you just show them that reality is nonsense. That it’s actually not reality.
Lord, I remember when I confess my pride and I looked up there you were. You forgave me and you put me back on track. You found me lost in the woods and you showed me how to get started again. Lord, if there’s some pride going on on our congregation today before it gets to division, before it gets to disunity, no matter what it is, I pray that you would help them to look at what was accomplished for them in the Cross and let grace wash over them. And replace that superior heart with a heart of gratitude and humility. Lord would you do this today so that when we come to Thanksgiving this week, maybe it’s one day, maybe it’s the whole week, celebrate. Lord, we’d have pages of thanks that we will be able to say thank you for. Don’t let pride prevent that in us, Lord, in Jesus’ name, everybody said Amen.