The following letter is my note to the congregation for the 2019 stewardship drive. It also happens to be the basis for this Sunday’s sermon!
So let no one boast in me. For all things are yours, whether Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
1 Corinthians 3:21-22
We sometimes think, “Wouldn’t it be great to get back to being the New Testament church?” But anyone who studies the matter knows that the churches about which we read in the pages of Scripture were as riddled with problems as any congregation today. Take for example the church in Corinth. Sexual immorality. The rich abusing the poor. Divisions within the body. The flaunting of spiritual gifts. Disorderliness in worship. All of these issues were present in this cluster of congregations found in the city of Corinth. The good news is that our fellowship in being fallen which we share with this ancient group of Christians makes it possible for us to receive Paul’s words of admonishment and instruction in a relatively direct manner. We are still broken, so it is wise to listen in on how Paul ministered the gospel of grace to broken people.
One of the issues in Corinth was the formation of factions within the church. Each faction chose a different leader behind which to rally. For some it was Paul. Others chose Apollos. And still others Peter. There was even a group that said that they were of no one but Jesus (1 Cor. 1:12). This factionalism was contrary to what Paul taught in the concluding chapters of this letter – that each member of the church is a member of Christ’s body (1 Cor. 12). But Paul approached the divisions from a slightly different perspective at the end of chapter three.
Paul recognized that the factions in Corinth were attempting to carve the church up into miniature little kingdoms, controlling resources and worship in small knots of like-minded people. But this was foolish to Paul’s way of thinking. The reason was expressed in 3:21-22 quoted above. Why fight over little bits and pieces of the church when every member of the church already possesses all things? The whole church and every member of the church already possesses everything – including all of its leaders and all of the spiritual blessings in Christ (see Eph. 1:3). In other words – if you have everything because you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God, why in the world would you ever need to fight over little pieces of the kingdom and create divisions? You have everything in Jesus, so why settle for less than what you already have?
Sisters and brothers, we are rich in Jesus Christ. We (and that includes you personally) have all of the blessings available in Jesus. You already have all of Jesus. So why do we persist in living with a perpetual sense of poverty, scrapping for little bits and pieces and trying to stash away parts of ourselves for a future that we cannot control? There is a better way. That way can be summed up in a simple expression – All of Jesus for All of Life. You have everything in Jesus, so you are safe to give everything to him. Every square inch of every area of your lives. 100% sold out for Jesus.
On this Stewardship Sunday, October 27th, I invite you to renew your commitments to Jesus and his people gathered together as First Presbyterian of Hillsdale. Part of this commitment will be financial pledges, but your commitment is never just financial. This month, recommit yourself to give your worship, time, skills, gifts, responsibilities, and everything else of which you can think to Jesus. Remember – you already have (right now!) everything in Jesus. So let us together live all of our lives – every square inch – for him.
Soli deo gloria!