September 4, 2019

"How to..." grow in your faith - 1 Corinthians 3:10-18

Theme: How to grow in your faith

1 Corinthians 3:10-18 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. 16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. 18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. (ESV)

I grew up working on house projects. I have five older sisters and when the time came for them to purchase a home, my dad would lead the way in helping them find a bargain – a fixer upper in modern lingo. Contrary to the shows on TV nowadays, there’s not a lot of actual glamour in fixing up a house, especially when you’re the one doing the work and you’re actually on a normal person’s budget. Just about as soon as I could swing a hammer, my dad expected me to contribute.

But early on there was a bit of a problem – I had no idea what I was doing. You see, when you’re doing something as visible as home construction, you can’t hide defects very well. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you mess it up, it will become known. So, what do you do? You send the novices to the demo work – demo meaning tearing things down. I remember very vividly one of my first assignments, I was probably 9 or 10 years old. I was given a crow-bar and told to rip plaster and lath off of a wall. If you know anything about plaster and lath you know it’s an extremely messy process to take it down. I was overly excited at the prospect of using a large metal instrument to rip something apart. But even in that project I had very little idea of how to properly wield a crow bar and as a result I was quite ineffective in my work. The wall came down eventually, but it took a lot longer than it should have and I created quite a bit greater of a mess. But you can’t complain much when the labor is free. 

Eventually, as I grew in my knowledge, I became more skilled. I even was able to contribute to actual construction, instead of just demo work. I learned how to install windows and doors, how to shingle a roof, what was needed on a load bearing wall, how to add insulation to a wall cavity, and many other projects. All along the way, my effectiveness as a worker showed in the end result of the project. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. But regardless – there’s was no room for deception.

In our text, Paul talks about his ministry among the Corinthians as building a structure. this is not a foreign thought in Paul’s teaching, he will actually continue that them to the Corinthians in chapter 6. Paul helped found this congregation. In some respects, people might say he was credited with establishing their church. But Paul didn’t take credit. He writes, For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

This is really the main thought of this section, and the key to understanding how to grow in your faith. It’s all about Jesus. If He is your foundation, you will grow. In fact, it’s even simpler. Unless you have Jesus as the center of your faith, as the foundation, you aren’t a Christian. Not only is Jesus the center, He is the end all, be all. There is nothing about true faith apart from Him.
The problem is that peoples’ ideas about growing in faith are very similar to the Corinthians’ ideas about ministry. They believed in many different options. Part of the problem that Paul was addressed was a growing factionalism in the church. Paul talked about this at the very beginning of the letter, 1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household , that there are contentions among you. 12 Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ."

God’s plan for the Corinthians was clear. No divisions. Unity around His Word. Together in the same mind and the same judgment. This standard continues to this day in God’s Church. It’s what He wants us to follow. Some mistake these principles as a total loss of individuality in the Church, but that’s not the case. As it is in each building, there are different and unique parts, but one purpose. The same is true of another analogy from Paul in this letter, that of the body – different and unique parts, but one united purpose. So it is to be in the Church, different people, but one united purpose and understanding of God’s Word – the light that leads our way as God’s people and God’s disciples.

The same is true of growing in the faith. There are so many additives out there in the world today; so many quick, easy, or prosperous ways to becoming a better believer. Many Christians are led into spiritual despair because their faith does not look like the kind that is advertised with mainstream Christianity today. The idea is that you have to practice your faith a certain way, you have to feel a certain way in your heart, or you have to look a certain way in your daily demeanor, or… you’re not growing as you should be.

These new laws about Christian sanctification and living are really nothing more than worthless building materials. And they divide the church like Paul warned about being factional in one’s ministry. These commands are all directed inward at the self – what you must do, how you must feel, what you must look like – as the basis for proof that you have grown in your faith. And they sound good. It is always attractive for inward-looking sinners who are plagued with an inward-looking flesh to hear commands that point at themselves. But the real danger is that it loses sight of the one true foundation – Jesus.

If it truly is the case that faith is grown by what we do and how well we do it, why did Christ come to earth? Why did He live in our place? Why did He die? What exactly did He rescue us from if we hold the power to change our lives for the good? Those are good questions but the same people will say, “Christ opened the door for you.” “He paved the way so that you now do have the power to help yourself.” “Think more positively, do more good, be better to yourself so that you feel better.” “Those are the signs of growth that Christ unlocks.” Layer upon layer of looking at the self.

Beware of these lies. Christ is not a foundation from which I get to jump off of at some point to another foundation. Christ is not the “model” Savior that I follow and thereby justify myself. He is the total Savior, upon whom I am totally dependent, even after I come to faith. Growing in faith is not about leaving the safety and power of Jesus’ grace. If we are blessed to be given such a solid foundation as God’s underserved love for us, why would we ever leave it? How could we call that growth?

God speaks clearly saying,

·       Romans 3:28 For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.
·       John 6:29 Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." 
·       Ephesians 4:15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-- Christ-- 

Your faith is like a structure. At the heart of that building is the gift of eternal life which rests completely on the foundation of Jesus as your crucified and risen Lord and Savior. Growing in that faith is like building around that structure. You can use the solid materials found in God’s Word, what our text calls the “gold, silver, and precious stones” or you can build with the world’s “wood, hay, and straw.” It’s the same as the tools of Paul’s ministry to the Corinthians.

The one thing you can’t do is deceive God. The value of your faith will be laid bare on the last day, if not sooner. There are certain things in life that will test your faith, but ultimately it will be brought to open view on the final day. On that day, the worthless materials are destroyed – burned up and that fire of judgment reveals what you really have from God. People today can tout all they want about spiritual growth. They can be famous. They can have millions of followers. They can be extremely relevant and in touch with our culture. They can have thousands upon thousands of church members. But, if what they believe does not come from Christ it doesn’t mean anything. It will be burned up on that last day.

This doesn’t mean we have to be perfect in our words, actions, or confession of faith to be saved. Paul says (and remember he’s addressing believers here) that even if your works are burned up because they were false and hollow, you can still be saved. “If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The key is to be found in Christ and you better believe that that truth can apply to many people who currently put stumbling blocks of false teaching in the way of others; just as you better believe that even the most Biblically-accurate Christian is still going to build with plenty of wood, hay, and straw as a sinful person.

The key is Jesus and we rejoice in that at the end of the day. But, Paul’s warning still applies because we are tempted to make so much of what others say when it comes to growing in faith. Satan wants us to play this game – to make our own spiritual judgments based on the popularity of the opinion instead of the truth of God’s Word. Frankly, Satan doesn’t care whether a person is saved or not despite the numerous false beliefs they have, he only wants to start the process along that’s going to gradually shift our faith’s foundation from Christ to some other platform.

Learn the lesson for your faith that I learned as a worker – you can’t hide the end result. It will be revealed for what it is. That truth is so much more appropriate with God and our faith than any other earthly example. So within your faith in Jesus, believe that He not only saves you but prepares you to get to heaven throughout life. Believe that He not only forgives your sins, but He also is the foundation of all growth as a Christian. Believe these truths for one simple reason – Christ has promised them to you in His Word.

Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

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