Monday, April 14, 2014, 7:49 a.m. – the Lord Jesus put the song in mind, “Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken.” I read 1 Corinthians 4 (NIV). Servants of Christ This, then, is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (5) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (6) Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? Context is everything. When we try to interpret scriptures out of context, though certainly sometimes that can be done, we can frequently end up with false beliefs and misdirected notions which can lead us astray. In prayerfully considering the meaning of this passage here, in particular vv. 5-6 (noted above), I checked with the original Greek and various commentators before I heard the Spirit’s voice within me encouraging me to look at the context. So, with that, I went back to chapter one and began reading to get the context. In chapter one, we read where Paul addressed the problem of divisions in the church. He picked up that subject again in chapter three. Evidently some of the people in the church (the body of Christ) were quarreling (arguing) over what “preacher” they followed, maybe trying to one-up (outdo) each other, for the last one said, “I follow Christ.” Then, Paul went on to give a discourse on the subject of man’s wisdom vs. God’s wisdom. He quoted a scripture where God said he would destroy the wisdom of the wise. Then, he said, “Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” He explained that God chose those who were weak, lowly and despised so that no one could boast before him. He does not choose as humans choose. So, our boasting should be in the Lord, not in the flesh of humans. He explained that our faith should not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. Then he stated plainly that he and Apollos were “only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task.” In other words, not one was better than another. They were both servants of the Lord, and each had a particular task assigned by God, which should not be cause to raise one above the other. So many times in the church we, the people, exalt one person over another because of personality, giftedness, talent and/or office held, and we devalue, and perhaps even reject those whose personalities, giftedness and/or “tasks” are less desirable in the eyes of humankind. And, that is wrong. Only God is to be exalted, because we come from him, our tasks are assigned by him, and our giftedness, personalities, and talents, etc. are all from him and are to be used for him and by him for his purposes. And, only in the power and working of the Spirit within us are we able to accomplish anything for God’s kingdom work. As well, although we may be ones assigned to plant or to water, it is God who makes all things grow. We can take no credit for ourselves for anything done in the Spirit of God! So, we must see all of the Lord’s servants in the same light, i.e. from God’s perspective, whether the person has a great personality, is young and attractive, has (humanly speaking) desirable gifts and is a great public speaker, or if the person is old or not physically attractive, has gifts that do not attract large crowds of people, is lacking in personality and charm, and stumbles over his or her words when speaking publicly, etc. We are all just servants. All that we have comes from God, so not one of us is greater or less than another (See 1 Co. 12). It is in this context that we are instructed not to make judgments on the Lord’s servants based upon worldly and human ‘wisdom’ which tends to evaluate people based upon the flesh, and which is just as likely to raise up (exalt) a scoundrel and despise and reject a godly person. God does not judge with the same standards that humans use. The word of God should be our only measurement for judgment, when judgment is called for, and not the yardstick determined by humankind. Then we will not take pride in one person over another. The Garbage of The World Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign—and that without us! How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings. We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment. Spoken in irony, Paul continued to address the issue of human pride vs. humility of spirit, which was to be characteristic of the Lord’s true servants. Many of the Corinthian believers were guilty of being worldly in their thinking and reasoning, which is why they were quarreling over matters having to do with which preacher to follow. They thought they were wise, but their ‘wisdom’ was based on the standards of the world, not on the word of God. They were followers of humankind more than they were followers of Christ, so they were not treated with the same disregard and disgust as often were the apostles. Therefore, they were honored when the apostles were dishonored, because they were so worldly and thus they were acceptable to the world whereas the apostles were not. This rings true in much of today’s modern church, as well. So many Christians are following humans instead of God. So many professing followers of Christ are studying books written by humans in place of the word of God. So many church congregations run their churches more like big business than Christ’s body, with humans calling the shots instead of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ, in many instances, is watered down to such a degree that it barely resembles the gospel. And, those who hold true to the word of God are often treated just like Paul described here, only, in some cases, at the hands of those who purport to follow the same Savior as they follow. The modern church has become, for the most part, a center for good, clean and fun family entertainment which is targeted to attract the people of the world, and is marketed just like any other man-made business. And, they are quite comfortable in their worldliness. Not only that, but many who profess Christ are seemingly unconcerned with the lost souls in need of the Savior and are more concerned about their own status and reputations among human beings so that they have little impact for the gospel and the kingdom of heaven. Thus, they serve no threat to Satan’s kingdom, which is why they are not mistreated. Yet, many followers of Christ throughout the world today are suffering greatly for their faith in Christ and their testimonies for him and for the gospel of salvation. Many are being killed for their faith and testimonies, as well, because they hold fast to the word of God and have refused to join in with the world. They are being treated just like garbage to be thrown out, including many are being tossed out or even killed by those within the institutional church who also profess Christ, and one of the reasons is because their gifts and tasks are being judged by human standards instead of by the word of God. I believe such persecution of Christ’s followers is on its way to America, too, and has already begun in small numbers. Yet, the worldly church barely notices nor seems concerned. We live in a rapidly changing world where the true “climate change” is political and is of the nature described in the prophecies of scripture with regard to the last days before Christ’s return. Time is running out. God is calling out to his adulterous church to wake up from her slumber. Deception abounds. Christians are becoming an endangered species. Evil is reigning and has even infiltrated the church and is spreading like a malignant tumor. The old world system is passing away and a new world system is emerging. Many are already being called upon to make the choice between Christ and their lives. We must decide to follow Jesus at all cost, trusting him to see us through to glory. Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken / Henry F. Lyte / Mozart/ Arr. Hubert P. Main Jesus, I my cross have taken, all to leave and follow Thee; Destitute, despised, forsaken, Thou, from hence, my all shalt be. Perish every fond ambition, all I've sought, and hoped, and known; Yet how rich is my condition, God and Christ are still my own! Let the world despise and leave me, they have left my Savior, too; Human hearts and looks deceive me; Thou art not, like man, untrue; And, while Thou shalt smile upon me, God of wisdom, love, and might, Foes may hate, and friends disown me; show Thy face, and all is bright. Man may trouble and distress me – ‘Twill but drive me to Thy breast. Life with trials hard may press me; Heaven will bring me sweeter rest. Oh, ‘tis not in grief to harm me, while Thy love is left to me; Oh, ‘twere not in joy to charm me, were that joy unmixed with Thee. Go then, earthly fame and treasure! Come, disaster, scorn, and pain! In Thy service pain is pleasure; with Thy favor loss is gain. I have called Thee, Abba, Father, I have stayed my heart on Thee; Storms may howl and clouds may gather; all must work for good to me. Haste then on from grace to glory, armed by faith and winged by prayer; God's eternal day's before thee, God's own hand shall guide thee there. Soon shall close thy earthly mission, swift shall pass thy pilgrim days, Hope shall change to glad fruition, faith to sight, and prayer to praise.