Sunday, August 11, 2013

Extremely Dangerous

Are you willing to follow?

What we are about to embark on here is extremely dangerous.

I'm asking you to hear me out. That's all.
Every Sunday I get up front & speak and this is truly all I can ask of you. To just hear me out.
In hearing what I have to say, maybe you will find yourself drawn closer to the Living God.
Maybe you won't agree with a thing I say. Maybe you get mad and walk away.

That's a risk I'll have to take.

The Apostle Paul put himself in a similar line of fire.
Between the 10th and 11th chapters of 1st Corinthians, Paul is expounding upon many different subjects with his readers. What begins chapter 10 is an explanation of Israel's history with some warning. He speaks about idols and their connections to how the Corinthians are partaking in the Lord's Supper. He takes a moment a speak about the believer's freedom. In chapter 11 he speaks on the now controversial subject of women covering their heads in worship. He then returns to the subject of the Lord's Supper to reverse a critical mistake the Corinthians have been making.

What became the opening line, the first verse of chapter 11, that seems completely out of place, is a one liner that has been ripped off the page again and again while repeatedly being over looked in the context of the passage.

1 Corinthians 11

New International Version (NIV)
11 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

For all intent and purposes, this verse should really be included with Paul's final words at the end of chapter 10 when he is speaking on the subject of the believer's freedom. He is encouraging people to make a wise decision as to how to conduct themselves when it comes to eating meat. The issues of idols in there in that chapter and the question about meat being sacrificed to those idols is on the table for consideration. The real issue Paul's pulls out is whether or not we are causing someone else to stumble. That meat might not have been offered up to an idol. The again it might have. We operate on what we know. We also operate on conscience. And, if in good conscience, we feel we cannot do a thing, then we don't do it.

Before carrying on that idea into the matters discussed in chapter 11, Paul stops and makes this bold statement. "
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Paul is doing his best to try and follow what he thinks Christ would have done in each situation that comes into his life. And, he wants his readers to do the same.

This is dicey material. To want people to follow you, the man, a human being.
But Paul puts it out there. He boldly calls for his Corinthians audience to consider what he has done and how he is doing it as the line to walk in order to live this Christian life properly. Because Paul is that confident in his walk and what he believes that he feels he can do that.

And, so I approach you with this message. Am I really that confident? Do I really feel that bold so as to put myself out there for your consideration? I have to admit, I'm a little nervous. OK, I'm alot nervous. Putting oneself and what oneself believes under the microscope is not exactly popular.

But, allowing oneself to be examined and criticized is exactly what causes one to grow. The pitfall is to allow ourselves to become the center of attention. To often leaders in religion want to be followed as if there is a popularity contest to won. Read my books. Follow my suggestions. Make me rich. Turn this into a booming church simply because it's ME speaking up here.

That's the exact, polar opposite of what Paul is presenting as he writes.

"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ."
Immediately proceeding his Damascus road experience (Acts 9), when he regains his eye site, he retreats to Arabia (by his own words in Galatians 1.17). Church historians feel he spent about 3 years out of  the public eye. He studies. He learns. Only after that does he return to Jerusalem and begin to speak openly. When some Jews try to take his life, other believers whisk him off to Tarsus, the place of his birth.

But, that doesn't stop him from coming back. Barnabas, the great befriender, comes to find him in Tarsus. They do some work together. Eventually they part company over differing views on how to do ministry, basically. By Acts 13 Paul is off on his first missionary journey.

I look at Paul's history to ask myself this - Am I really that bold? That relentless? That crazy?
I mean if people were trying to kill me...if they hated me that much...whether the hate stemmed from what I had to say or whether they just hated me in general; would I come back? Would I dare step behind the pulpit again? Would I have the will to carry on?

Now, I am putting much outside of the context of the Corinthian letter Paul wrote into a one line statement from said letter, but i think it still fits.
"Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." Christ never gave up. People tried to kill him. People didn't like what Jesus had to say. They eventually did take his life. Paul knows his history. Paul knows what happened to himself on that Damascus road. He is confident in what he believes. He is confident in what God has done in his life.

The thing is...earlier in his 1st letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 3, he has a few words for them about following certain men.
For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? How then can he return to that frame of mind and say to the Corinthians that they should follow him? The connection is in following the Savior, Jesus, and not Paul. Back in chapter 3 Paul addresses their need to follow the man, the human being. In doing so, he called them worldly, jealous, like children, "mere infants"(v.1). Don't human beings need other human beings? We do, and sometimes, not in a healthy way. We want somebody to fight our battles for us. We want somebody to handle the whole "God thing" for us. We want somebody to handle life for us. Paul wants his reader to follow him with the intention that they learn how to follow Christ. Paul always drew attention off of himself and passed he buck on to Christ. Christ deserves the glory. If Paul had any bragging to do, it was going to be about Christ and not himself.

And, so here I stand before you today. My life is an open book. I'm not hard to read. You can tell when I'm upset, angry. You can see when I'm happy or excited. If I'm sad or bothered by something, it's clear. And, if Jesus means everything to me, you're going to know it. By what I say. By what I do. By how I conduct myself in this church and in my family.

I'm putting myself out here and encouraging you to follow me as I seek to follow Christ in the Wesleyan tradition of thought and practice. I've been studying this line of thought for a long time. I agree with John Wesley and much of what he experienced and taught. I've learned it from an early American Methodist perspective through the revival movement that launched the Nazarenes and back to what is called the "extreme middle" through the eyes of a United Methodist perspective.

It's filled with words like "redemption" and "salvation". There is a saturation in ideas of holiness and sanctification. As I began this new blog, I thought it would cover those two issues exclusively, but I was wrong. God has so much more he wants to share. A two sided box has nothing else to help it stand. We need the whole perspective. And, I am going to share it through the eyes of a man who has seen a good chunk of landscape over the last 42 years.

I hope you'll follow. I hope you'll ask questions. I hope you will join me as I seek out what the Lord has in store for those who choose to seek Him out.

It's dangerous, I know. But, the reward is worth the price.

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