Sermon / November 30, 2014 / Lipton, SK / 1 Cor 1 / Pastor Terry Defoe / Enriched in Every Way
4 I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. 5 For in him you have been enriched in every way—with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge— 6 God thus confirming our testimony about Christ among you. 7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. (N.I.V.)
We have come to the first Sunday in the season of Advent – the first Sunday in a brand new church year. Advent has to do with "keeping watch" – keeping watch for an important event – an event yet to come. The church season called Advent has to do with the arrival of our Savior – his arrival as the Babe of Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago – and his arrival as the Conquering Christ at the end of time. Advent is the first season of the Church Year. It leads up to Christmas. It’s a busy time of year – a time when it's difficult to focus on the things of the Lord. All kinds of other things are going on at this time of year. I pray that God would bless the time we spend in His Word this day!
As I say, the first Sunday of Advent is the equivalent of New Years Day for the Christian church. It's a time of excitement. It's a time of new beginnings. It's a time to look forward to a new year of God’s blessings and grace. And it's also a time to look back at the year gone by. Our Bible text this morning is from the Apostle Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth, Greece. In this letter, the Apostle speaks to Christian friends. He looks back and he also looks to the future. He talks about doing God’s will as, together, they wait for the Savior’s arrival.
It’s important for us modern-day Christians to know that the Greek city of Corinth was a difficult place to be a Christian. Corinth was a large city – an unbelieving city. It was a seaport. Very few Christians lived there. Similar to our day, Corinth was a city full of distractions and spiritual dangers for God's people. And yet, in that rocky soil, the seed of God's word that Paul planted began to grow. A Christian congregation was formed. The Christian congregation at Corinth had its share of problems. Paul's letter was meant to deal with those issues in a God-pleasing way. Paul begins his letter with a heartfelt word of thanks – thanks for these Christian people and for their service in Jesus' name.
You know Christian congregations in our day face many of the same challenges that the Corinthian Christians had to deal with. We face problems from outside the church, and from inside the church, as well. But, when it comes right down to it, we have many things to be thankful for, just as Paul and the Corinthians did. The Lord Jesus wants us to be ready for his coming. But he doesn't want us to sit around, waiting for him. He wants us to be wise stewards of the time he has given us – using that time to serve him and others.
So, as I say, the Apostle begins this letter with a word of thanks to God. Paul thanks God for these Christian believers. Despite the problems they faced, they were getting things done for the Lord. Paul was pleased because, as he put it,
"Our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you."
In other words, Paul’s proclamation of Christ and salvation was being confirmed in the lives of these people. What Paul said about the Christian faith had been shown in their lives. For Paul, faith in Christ transforms people into a "new creation." And that’s what these Corinthian Christians were – a "new creation." They were living proof of the reality of the Gospel. Their lives and their attitudes were being changed. God was at work in their lives. But we must never forget that God is at work here, in this place, too. The testimony you hear about Christ is being confirmed in you, just as it was in among the Corinthian Christians. God is changing you. He's transforming you folks into the image of his Son. He's equipping each one of us, no matter where we live, no matter what the size of our congregation, for service in his name.
Paul was sincerely thankful for the Christians at Corinth. And I'm thankful for you as co-workers, God's people in this place. With the Apostle Paul, I thank God for your service to the Lord. I thank God for those who assist in ministry here in this place. This morning, as you look around this building, and think about its history, you can see just a few of the ways that you folks as God's people have served him in the past. On the Advent Wreath, there is one candle burning, announcing the imminent arrival of our Savior. The Apostle Paul was pleased to see God’s words come true in the lives of His people at Corinth. God's word is coming true in the lives of the members here. And we definitely thank God for that!
Paul told the Corinthians that their faith in the Lord Jesus was enriching their lives in many ways. In our text this morning, we find six different ways that God enriched the lives of his people and I’d like to take a moment to talk about each one. The first blessing that enriched the lives of the Corinthians was the grace of God. The word “grace” in the Scriptures simply means "undeserved love." The Corinthians had their lives immeasurably enriched by God's undeserved love for them in Christ – and the same is true for us today. The Corinthians were richly blessed by their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth, as a babe in a manger – for them and for us. He took on human flesh and lived among us for a while. Jesus' love always brought out the best in those who trusted him. His presence, His words and actions, showed people what God is like.
You know the Gospel. You know that, on the cross of Good Friday, Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. And on that first Easter Sunday, God raised him from the dead. You know that Jesus' sacrifice of body and blood on the cross made possible the entire forgiveness of all our sins – sins past, present and future. Once our sins were forgiven, our broken relationship with God was be restored. Jesus' sacrifice reconciled God and his people. His sacrifice healed broken relationships – with God and with others, too. God's grace declares us forgiven – we have now been made right in the eyes of God. God's grace assures us that we are indeed His children. He loves us and has reserved a place in heaven for us. Paul knew that God's grace was encouraging the Corinthians to be gracious with one another. The same is true today. God's grace enables us to be gracious. As an example, it’s a gracious act when the sick and the shut-ins are visited. It’s a gracious act when we serve others in Jesus’ name. What the Apostle Paul said is true. God's grace is always confirmed in his people. His grace enables us to treat others with respect – even those we disagree with. His grace enables us to love others – even those who don't love us back. His grace helps us to forgive – even those who refuse to return the favor.
According to our text this morning, the second blessing God gives his people is peace. We are blessed, says Paul, with a "peace that passes all understanding." That peace comes from the "Prince of Peace." As Paul says, we have peace with God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The sin that used to separate us from God has been dealt with. God's peace also brings peace to our relationships with others. God's peace brings unity to the church and the Christian fellowship we enjoy. I’m here this morning to remind you that God's peace is at work in this place. God's peace brings rest for troubled souls. It brings hope when hope seems far away. It restores troubled relationships. We to cast all our burdens on our Lord, knowing that he cares for us.
The third blessing, says Paul, that we enjoy as we wait for the Lord's return is Christian fellowship. Christian fellowship has two dimensions. We have fellowship with our Triune God. And we have fellowship with his people. Our fellowship with Christ began in the waters of our baptism. It is strengthened as we read and study God’s word. It’s strengthened as we receive Jesus’ body and blood with the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Our fellowship with the Lord Jesus is strengthened as we communicate our needs to him in prayer. It's strengthened as we meditate on his wonderful works. Our fellowship with the Lord is strengthened as we take time from our busy schedules to worship in the Lord's House with His people. Our fellowship with God's people is made stronger through fellowship events at the church. Fellowship is a critical part of the Christian life. It comes in many forms. You'll experience it at church suppers and pot-luck dinners. You'll find it at soup and sandwich luncheons. Fellowship brings God’s people closer together.
The fourth benefit we enjoy as Christians, according to the Apostle Paul is an enrichment of our speech. Our faith changes the way we communicate – with each other and with God. God's word encourages us and give us hope. Our words to one another do the same. Christ saves the whole self – the whole person – including the tongue. As His Holy Spirit works in us, critical and unloving words are replaced by words of encouragement and hope. As He works in us, hurtful words are replaced by words that sustain the soul and strengthen the spirit. Our speech now builds up. It doesn’t tear down. Our words are more often words of faith. Our words now convey to others what Jesus means to us. Our words express our feelings – our joys and our sorrows. Our words minister to one another.
A fifth blessing for Christians, according to the Apostle Paul, is an enrichment of our knowledge. The Corinthians were enriched in knowledge as they studied God's word together. They learned God's word from Paul. They learned God's word from the Scriptures. We, too, are "enriched in knowledge" by the Word of God whenever we study it and discuss it, whenever it is proclaimed and explained to us.
The sixth blessing that Paul talks about is "spiritual gifts." Paul says to the Corinthians,
"... you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed."
Spiritual gifts build up the church. They help in many ways, says Paul. For example, they guide administration and Christian teaching. They motivate Christian service and outreach. When you think about it, spiritual gifts are the "fuel" that powers the work we do for the Lord. All of God's people have spiritual gifts, bestowed upon them at their baptism. God encourages us to discover our gifts, and put them to use – for our good and for His glory. Pastors seek to match up people with appropriate tasks so that their spiritual gifts are used most effectively. Paul served the Lord, using his spiritual gifts, knowing that Christ might return at any time. Paul served the Lord "in the interim." We're told that the Corinthians "eagerly awaited" the Lord's return. But while they waited, they actively served the Lord, working to match their gifts with the tasks that God had for them.
During Advent, we watch for the Lord's return. But watching for his return doesn't mean that we sit around with nothing to do. While we wait for the Lord's return, we serve him. We make things happen – just as Paul did. Each additional candle that's lit on the Advent Wreath at this time of year reminds us that our Lord's coming is drawing near. Each new candle on the Wreath reminds us that the time we have for serving the Lord is growing shorter every day. As we come to the end of one church year and to the beginning of another, we take time to think about what God has been doing in our midst. We have many reasons to be thankful. God's word is at work among us. It is changing us and helping us to do his will.
So it's true. God’s grace enriches our lives in many ways. God’s grace forgives us. His peace gives us contentment and hope. His gift of Christian fellowship strengthens our unity and our sense of common purpose. Our speech is enriched by God’s holy word so that our words heal others and build them up. Our knowledge is enriched so that we know God's will. Our spiritual gifts enable us to do what he calls us to do. I remember a lapel button that I once saw. It had a series of capital letters on it – P B P W M – G N F W M Y! Those letters were shorthand for, "Please be patient with me, God's not finished with me yet!" God's not finished with us yet, is He? He's still at work, molding us into his image. He's still at work, helping us to serve. He's still at work, prompting us to reach out with the Good News of Jesus Christ. It's true. God's not finished with us yet. This past year, God has been at work. And, as we eagerly await the Lord's Coming, we know that God will continue to work in among us. As you folks move into a new church year, you can rejoice knowing that God isn't finished with you yet.
This morning, on the first Sunday in the season of Advent, we have heard Paul's admonition to "keep watch." May God help us to do his will, in the meantime. Amen.
Let's Pray: DEAR HEAVENLY FATHER – We pray that you would confirm your word in us. Enrich our lives, as we await the coming of your Son. Bless us with your grace, with a peace that passes understanding, with fellowship that brings us closer to you and to your people. Enrich our speech and our knowledge through our study of your Word. Help us to discover and use our spiritual gifts. In Jesus’ holy and precious name we pray. Amen.