1 Corinthians 1:18-31 – The Sixth Sense of Spirituality

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

Brothers and sisters, 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. God 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 the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (New International Version)

Although a lot of people are not religious, I believe every person on planet earth is spiritual. By that I mean we all intuitively know deep in our gut that there are bigger things going on in this world beyond our own existence – that there is a transcendent Someone who is higher than us whom we can connect to and helps us connect with one another as humans.

If our epistemology (the study of how we as humans know things) doesn’t allow for transcendent reality, then it is a deficient and truncated philosophy (the study of truth, knowledge, and conduct); it will not be able to accommodate spiritual realities.

There are times you have no explanation for what is happening – no words to describe the experience you went through. That’s because your five senses (taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound), although alert and reliable with taking-in all kinds of sensory data, are simply inadequate to explain the transcendent situation.

I was once talking with an agnostic (a person who denies that ultimate knowledge can be found, or that knowledge can be located ultimately with a god). This particular guy became a father for the first time. He was fresh off the incredible experience of being in the room with his wife when she gave birth to their son. 

Bill (not his real name) was flush with enthusiasm. He took in the sight of his newborn baby boy, held him and touched him for the first time, and joyfully listened to his very first screams of new life in this great big world.  Bill described it all to me with such awe and reverence. 

Then, Bill said something to me that I haven’t forgotten: “I don’t know how to explain it, Tim. Something spiritual happened when my son was born, something I can’t put into words. All I can say is that I experienced something that was not of this world.”

Something not of this world. That was Bill’s way of saying that he had no mental categories from which to draw from to give him any kind of sensory explanation to the awesome reality of being there at childbirth. 

Our five senses are vital, critical, and significant; yet they do not tell the whole story. As important as our ability to taste, see, touch, smell, and hear is, there are other ways of knowing and experiencing life.

Faith and spirituality are the sixth sense which enable us to discern and know things about ourselves, this world, and God – things that we would not know with only our five senses. 

There is a spiritual reality which transcends the physical. The soul, whether we acknowledge we have one or not, is the place of communion with this unseen reality. The inner person is where we meet-up with God and find a vast world of spiritual resources which boggle the five senses. Somehow, we know this is true, even if we have no language to explain it.

Jesus once said that it is the Spirit who gives life; human strength isn’t even a factor (John 6:63). In other words, God is Spirit, and the One who gives meaning, connection, relationship, and even physical life. Human abilities cannot ultimately do this. Yes, we do have biological explanations for human attraction, marriage, and where babies come from; yet this is not the whole story. 

There is a transcendent reality behind it all that gives life meaning and purpose. There are times, once-in-awhile, when the unique, the astonishing, and the beautiful grab us.

Our souls spring to life. We “see” the transcendent and get an awesome glimpse of this place where the physical and the spiritual “touch.”

We “taste” that the Lord is good, and “hear” the call to a deeper experience of recognizing the care and compassion of Christ. 

We take in a deep breath and “smell” the aroma of him who created us in his image and likeness.

Let your senses draw in all the wonderful information it can. And don’t stop there. Allow your soul to drink in the spiritual dimension of wisdom, and feed your inner person with Jesus Christ, who saves us from the sinful and the mundane, and lifts us to the world of the Spirit where there is life, hope, and infinite love.

Holy God, your knowledge of me exceeds what I grasp or see in any moment; you know me better than I know myself. Now, help me to trust in your mercy, to see myself in the light of your holiness, and grant me the grace that I may have true contrition, make an honest confession, and find in you forgiveness and perfect remission. Amen. – A prayer of St. Augustine

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 – Relying on Spiritual Power

Brothers and sisters, when I came to you, I didn’t speak about God’s mystery  as if it were some kind of brilliant message or wisdom. While I was with you, I decided to deal with only one subject—Jesus Christ, who was crucified. When I came to you, I was weak. I was afraid and very nervous. I didn’t speak my message with persuasive intellectual arguments. I spoke my message with a show of spiritual power so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on God’s power.

However, we do use wisdom to speak to those who are mature. It is a wisdom that doesn’t belong to this world or to the rulers of this world who are in power today and gone tomorrow. We speak about the mystery of God’s wisdom. It is a wisdom that has been hidden, which God had planned for our glory before the world began. Not one of the rulers of this world has known it. If they had, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory. But as Scripture says:

“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
and no mind has imagined
the things that God has prepared
for those who love him.”

God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God. After all, who knows everything about a person except that person’s own spirit? In the same way, no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit. (God’s Word Translation)

We need the Holy Spirit of God.

Without the Spirit’s help, Jesus is just one guy out of thousands who were crucified in history – merely an example of someone martyred for his faith. Yet, Jesus was infinitely more. Christians discern Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world. 

Because of Christ’s life, death, resurrection and ascension, people can be redeemed from empty lives, saved from destructive life-patterns, and given the kind of security and purpose which God intended from the beginning. The Spirit’s role is to take these redemptive events of Jesus and apply them to our lives. 

Christian Trinitarian theology understands we are unable to see the truth about the cross of Jesus Christ unless God the Holy Spirit, sent by God the Father and the Son, breaks into our lives and does an intervention, showing us our denial about how we are really doing – as well as our delusions about who we really are.

Admitting we need the Holy Spirit of God means the power of Christianity and the Christian life rests with Jesus Christ and him crucified, and not with us.

We are, in many ways, powerless. I realize this is not a popular message, especially in Western society. Tell the average American they are powerless, and they’ll think you’re off your rocker. It sounds ridiculous. Some would argue that we have done quite well, thank you very much, on our own. We have a couple of cars, a house, a job, and a family. After all, we worked hard, and we did it.

However, any worldly success we gain, and getting the things we want, may lead us to the delusion we have the power to do whatever we want.

Oh, sure, we might reason, we have problems just like everybody else. After all, we cannot control everything.  But we are not completely powerless. Just because we have difficult circumstances and a few problem people in our lives doesn’t mean I am weak, right? God will step in a take-over where I leave off, right?…

Wrong. Apart from the Holy Spirit of God, we are unable to become Christians and live the Christian life.

If we believe we manage our lives fine, with some help from God, then we might be in denial about how much we place ourselves at the center of the world. Whenever our consistent response to adversity, or the realization we are not handling something well, is to try and fix ourselves, we are living the delusion we have the power to independently change.

A reflexive response in asking Google to find answers to our problems; or dealing privately with our personal issues; or expecting our willpower to be enough; or passively resigning ourselves to mediocre lives because we have tried to change or be different; then we are feeding the delusion we don’t really need the Holy Spirit of God. I just need more effort or information to overcome my problems, right?

Wrong. More won’t solve our issues. And when it doesn’t, we easily become discouraged. We might even chide ourselves for our inability to deal with problems.

Our real need is for the true power source of the Christian life. We need the Holy Spirit applying the work of Jesus Christ to our lives so that we can live a victorious life.

Unfortunately, it typically takes a tragedy or crisis to break our delusion of power – a bad marriage, a family member’s addiction, a runaway child, a terminal illness, a bankruptcy, a death.

How bad do you and I need to hurt before we will admit we are not managing our lives well, at all, and that the real power to change resides with the Holy Spirit?

There is power in the cross of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul believed this with all his heart. Although Paul was an intelligent and learned person, he did not rely on his abilities but on proclaiming the power of Jesus and him crucified.

The crucifixion of Christ was a past action with continuing and forceful ripples into the present time.

The cross of Jesus is more than an historical event; it is an ongoing reality to experience for victory over all the brokenness of this world and all the mess we have made of things putting ourselves at the center of the universe.

The Reformer, John Calvin, repeatedly instructed and encouraged his Geneva congregation that the Spirit joins us to Christ, assures us of salvation, and grows us in confidence through the Scriptures. Calvin, although a genius, did not rely on his intellect or abilities but insisted we need the Spirit’s witness to mature as followers of Jesus.

There are tough situations and incredibly sad realities which are mysteries beyond our comprehension. They defy simplistic answers and are greater than our attempts to explain them. Hard problems stretch our faith. And they ought to cause us to cry out to God and Christ’s Church for help because we are powerless to manage our lives.

We absolutely and totally need the Holy Spirit of God. Without the Spirit, we are lost. But with the Spirit we experience the saving power of Christ’s cross to deal with everything in our lives.

The Serenity Prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that he will make all things right if I surrender to his will; that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with him forever in the next. Amen.

1 Corinthians 5:6b-8 – Easter Is More Than a Day

All Creation Sings His Praise by Jen Norton

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast affects the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. So then, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of vice and evil, but with the bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. (New English Translation)

Easter is more than one day. It’s as if a massive spiritual 10.0 earthquake occurred on that day with a great tsunami of life powerfully overwhelming all of history.

Today begins the Christian season of Eastertide. It is a time of realizing we are without yeast, that is, without any old unhealthy ingredients which may work through the whole batch of dough. We are to live into the new reality given to us by means of Christ’s resurrection from death.

Eastertide spans the next fifty days until the Day of Pentecost. That’s a hefty seven weeks of bringing the new life we enjoy to the forefront. Eastertide’s intentional focus is to acknowledge and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, exulting in our own new life in him.

Now, you might say to yourself, “Why do we need to have some liturgical season about Christ’s resurrection? Shouldn’t we be living like we recognize this every day?” Yes, of course we should. 

Yet, consider this: If we only sing songs of resurrection on Easter Sunday and only occasionally think of Christ’s resurrection outside of Easter Sunday, then perhaps, its sage to bring a highlighted focus to the resurrection in a special season. 

Just as it is necessary to take more than one vacation day in the year for renewal, so it is essential to observe more than one day to enjoy Easter. If nothing else, Eastertide gives believers an opportunity to let Christ’s resurrection percolate in our hearts so that we experience new life, as people who exhibit an alive-spirit. And, God knows, we could use much more of that in our congregations and our world!

If eternal life and being fully alive are needed for us, then it only makes sense that we take advantage of what Eastertide has to offer: A deliberate look at Christ’s resurrection, exploring its implications and impact for us. 

Simply assuming we all know about resurrection simply will not do, any more than my wife assuming I love her without looking her straight in the eye and telling her so. 

If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:17). Being people of sincerity and truth comes with a purposeful eye on a new resurrected life. Without an Eastertide, there’s a sin-as-usual kind of approach to life with a shoulder shrug that says, “Meh, what’s a guy to do?” 

Methinks that unhelpful boasting and sinful pride are directly related to moving on from Easter Sunday and backsliding to the old life. Like a dog returning to its vomit, so is a church who puts away sin on a Sunday, then goes back to pre-resurrection living – which is no life, at all.

Instead, with Eastertide’s full focus, we have the hope of life everlasting because Christ has risen from death.  We have the hope of individual renewal, corporate revitalization, and worldwide revival because there is a risen Savior.

Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to engage in some renewal practices, or even make a few simple changes that show signs of life. Here are just a few ideas for lifting Christ’s resurrection into the next few months:

Pray for a revival of spirituality. Christ brings life, so praying to God for revival is a deliberate way of connecting with God.

Squarely address the leaven of harmful and unhelpful bread. Gossip, back-biting, slander, injustice, oppression, gaslighting, and hate are all poisonous yeast that kills those who are hungry. Casually sluffing-off someone’s acerbic speech and actions as “That’s just the way they are,” will not do, unless you want to exist in a pro-death culture.

Serve unleavened bread. Promote healthy practices of living. If guilty acts and shameful actions bring death, using our words and deeds for encouragement, love, mercy, forgiveness, and building up one another promotes growth, health, and life.

Proclaim resurrection.  I believe the church is meant to be the hope of the world because Christ is the risen Lord. Graciously proclaim the resurrected Christ and how the spiritual life makes a difference in daily existence.

Start a new ministry you always believed would make a difference. It is the appropriate season to take a risk. After all, if you have eternal life, can you really fail? Host a new in-person or virtual small group. Take initiative to up your knowledge of technology. Read some significant books and start a book club. I’m willing to bet you have some idea(s) rolling around inside you about blessing the world. Now, during Eastertide, is the time to turn that idea into reality.

Eat spiritually nutritious bread. If you would not think of skipping meals for days at a time, then consider the erosion to your soul and your church which can occur when folks don’t read their Bibles on a regular basis or pray with any kind of consistency. Stick to a plan. It will not only bring growth to your own life but will impact those around you.

Just keeping the word “Eastertide” in front of you for the next few months can be a simple yet powerful way of reminding us that God has called us to new life. Let the reality of Christ’s resurrection strengthen your heart so that new life informs all your thinking, speaking, feeling, and acting.

Holy and righteous God, you raised Christ from the dead and glorified him at your right hand. Let the words of Scripture, fulfilled in Jesus your Son, burn within our hearts and open our minds to recognize him in the breaking of bread. Amen.

1 Corinthians 15:20-34 – That’s Weird

“Nonsense” by Wanidaem, 2016

But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died. For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all.

Otherwise, what will those people do who receive baptism on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?

And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
    for tomorrow we die.”

Do not be deceived:

“Bad company ruins good morals.”

Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (New Revised Standard Version)

There was a lot of goofiness going on with the Corinthian church.

That’s why the Apostle Paul’s first letter is long and filled with addressing a variety of problems. Some of those issues we can understand and relate to, and some we don’t have much of a clue what’s really going on. I tend to think that because the Corinthian believers tended to keep some bad company, a lot of weird stuff pops up, like vicarious baptisms for the dead. Where the heck did that come from?

“Weird Blue Painting” by Matthew Freese

Well, what we do know is that when Jesus told good old Peter the fisherman to leave his nets behind and become a fisher of people, catching them was only half the work. Cleaning them takes a lot of work, too.

I have done my share of fishing in life (both real fish and real people), and I can say that cleaning fish is a messy affair. Just as a fish gets gutted, so a person, caught for Jesus, needs to be eviscerated of all the worldly entrails of sin. And that didn’t completely happen with the Corinthians.

Rather than hanging out with the goofy weird dudes who are saying and doing only God knows what, Paul brought the Corinthians back to the center of the gospel. He reeled them into Christ’s resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from death is the penultimate event of securing victory from sin’s guilt and shame, as well as death’s sting. It’s the resurrection which enables every Christian to realize the power of cutting out the weird and goofy stuff of worldly sin for the meat of Christ’s words and ways.

Because Christ arose with a real physical body, we, too, will experience a bodily resurrection. This means, as believers in Jesus, we are not to have a goofy approach that resurrection is all spiritual with nothing physical going on, as if the body were just some weird container for the soul that we have to put up with here on earth.

Whenever that weird thinking takes place, people do goofy things, believing they can do whatever the heck they want, since the body is like a paper plate that we’ll just toss in the garbage when we’re done with it. Christ’s kingdom ethics and physical morality ends up taking a back seat to ethereal philosophical musings. Leave it to the Greek Corinthians to do mental gymnastics in order to live however they want. Sometimes, when I read Paul’s letter, it feels like I’m watching an old “Leave It to Beaver” episode where Beaver is having all kinds of goofy thinking and doing weird stuff because of Whitey and Larry’s bad advice.

Jerry Mathers as the Beaver

Coming back again and again to the redemptive events of Jesus helps preserve us from the esoteric bunny trails of theological goofiness. Yet, if we continue to keep company with a bunch of folks who are into power and control through the ungodly means of mistreating the body (and other people), making comparisons between the physical and the spiritual, (as if they were two completing separate identities), obsessing over their weird and unintelligible philosophies, and refusing to take responsibility for their physical actions – then, we’re going to turn goofy, just like them.

Come to your senses, Paul would say, and get your head screwed on straight. Fill the space between your two ears with proper knowledge of Christ’s resurrection, and pay attention to your hands and feet, because they are the tangible means of putting the will of God into practice.

There’s a goofy and weird “ha, ha,” and then there’s a goofy and weird “uh, oh.” Keep the “ha, ha,” avoid the “uh, oh,” and you’ll be just fine.

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy on us, your people, and grant us your wisdom and peace. Amen.