What You Need to Know Before Sunday

Sermon Graphic - 1 Corinthians 2016This coming Sunday morning I will start a new preaching series in 1 Corinthians titled, “Becoming Who You Are.” The Apostle Paul planted the church in Corinth at the end of his second missionary journey. Even though they had genuinely responded to the gospel, the Corinthian Christians had a hard time living out the gospel in their everyday lives. They were shaped more by their cosmopolitan culture than their connection to Christ. Like the believers in Corinth, you and I need to become who we in Christ.

Paul’s salutation (1:1-9) is surprisingly optimistic when compared to the rest of the letter. In verse 2, Paul describes the Corinthian believers as “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus,” and “saints by calling.” The term “saint” is derived from the Greek verb hagiazō, which means “to set apart,” “sanctify,” or “make holy.” In order to understand this first passage and its connection to the rest of the letter, you need to know what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of sanctification.

Sanctification explains how a holy God can come to have a relationship with sinful people. Sanctification includes two distinct aspects: positional and progressive sanctification. Positional sanctification means that believers are set aside as God’s possession and declared holy by faith in Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross.  This is the kind of sanctification that Paul is referring to in 6:9-10.

Progressive sanctification denotes the believer’s advance towards spiritual maturity and practical holiness.  Sinless perfection is not possible this side of eternity (1:8), but it is the goal Paul has in mind for his readers as he encourages us all to become who we are in Christ.

Please join me at Unity Baptist Church this Sunday if you are in the Ashland area as we kick off this series together.


focus1Like most kids growing in up in a small farming town, I would often complain that there was nothing to do.  While we didn’t have many cool spots to hangout, we did have lots of trails, hills, and fields.  That led my friends and I to mountain biking.  Most people think of a bicycle as an under-age form of transportation; once you reach the magic age of 16 you get your license and there is no need to ride one anymore.  For my friends and I, mountain biking became an escape from the pressures of growing up and a way to channel our sense of discovery.

As I learned more about mountain bikes and mountain biking, I discovered a principle that not only improved my riding skills, it changed the way I view life.   The principle is this: your focus determines your direction.   As you ride down a trail on a mountain bike you are bound to come across obstacles like roots, or rocks, or thick mud.  The temptation is to focus on these obstacles for fear of crashing into them.  The trick is to stay focused on the clear path because wherever your eyes are focused that is the direction you’ll go.

This principle is true for life was well: wherever you focus on, that is direction that you will go.   If you focus on money, you will make choices based on their financial benefits.  If you focus on your family, your choices will be heavily influenced by our family.  If your focus is on your own pleasure, our choices will reflect that too.

Jesus seems to have lived by this principle when we read what He had to say about his life and ministry.  When his fame grew and the people of Capernaum wanted to keep Jesus all to themselves, Jesus said, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).  When the Pharisees criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners he explained, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32).    And when James and John wanted destroy a village of Samaritans for rejecting Jesus, he told them, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56).  It is clear from these verses, and others, that Jesus had a focus and a purpose for his ministry.  He was able to avoid obstacles and hang-ups by saying, “no,” to distractions and misconceptions and by stating his mission clearly.

This leads me to ask some questions: Where is your focus?  Are you focused on maintaining an institution or fulfilling a mission?  Is your church focused inward on itself or outward on its community?  Are you focused on making disciples or just making converts?  I don’t know all of the obstacles you will face in the future, but I do know there will be obstacles.  The trick is to focus on the clear path ahead and keep pressing on.