Sunday, March 25, 2012

Wood, hay, straw, silver or gold?

12:23 p.m. Today's project was to attend People's Church with my son Steven and hear a sermon that is--as far as I know as of this writing--probably the reason I was compelled to come to Fresno for the weekend.

Pastor Dale Oquist has been teaching a series called "Church Rehab," and this morning he had us open up to I Corinthians 3. He began with a comment that the Corinthian church in the Apostle Paul's day thought that they were just doing great, while not living scripturally at all! They were divisive, sectarian, and obsessed with personalities--some favoring Apollos, some favoring Paul, some Peter (v. 22). In their fixation on personalities, they had forgotten whose church it is: God's! In review, I Corinthians 3:6-8:

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor.  

Now on to today's passage, v. 9-15:

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it.  But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. 

Pastor Oquist pointed out that much of the divisiveness and quarreling come from a territorial view of one's service, as if that ability to serve was anything but a gift from God, to do His work, to lift up and honor Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were the focus and sole reason for a ministry to exist, would not prayer together for guidance replace quarreling?

He also pointed out another reason for disappointment with church: people do not understand that the purpose of the church is: to glorify Jesus. For example, an individual comes to church for the church to "fix" him, and doesn't expect to do any of the work himself! Unless they are taught and shown by example to follow Christ in times of trial and crisis, they will leave disillusioned because they came to get, not give.

Oquist went on to discuss those who work in ministry, whether in or out of a body of believers. How and why do they serve? For public recognition? Out of obligation? To have control over a ministry and the group of people involved ? Or do they serve from a love for Christ that compels them through the power of the Holy Spirit, so they can say like Paul did, "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel!" (or teach toddlers, or women's Bible studies, or manage the church finances, lead a small group, visit the shut-ins, meet for daily prayer).

Unless Christians do their service for the Lord, to represent and please Jesus, they will not earn a reward. Verse 15 points out that although worthless work will be burned up on the Day of Judgment for believers, they will not lose their salvation. Because, the pastor pointed out, "Salvation is free, but rewards are earned!"

Will my service (or yours) come through the fire and be rewarded? I honestly do not know! God gives me a tremendous privilege to teach His word, lead and mentor women, and make opportunities for them to use their special gifts to edify the Body. But there are times when I head out to serve in a ministry, and am just so tired already, wishing I could call off, but I go anyway, out of a sense of duty, of keeping one's word to Jesus and the women.That could end up as easily burned "straw," if it weren't for the Holy Spirit refilling me with fresh eagerness to fulfill the ministry I've been given.  Joy at the sight of the women's sweet faces just overwhelms me, and we end up with an anointed time of mutual encouragement, prayer, and learning in the scriptures.

As we consider that we are God's building, designed to center on Jesus, and to lift up His name, we will fulfill our ministries with joy, focused on Jesus, not ourselves or other believers.

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