Every Individual Christian and Christian Congregation Need Daily Spiritual Renewal!
O LORD God, my dear Father in heaven—as I enter into Your presence today, I pray that You would satisfy my longing soul. Lead me to Jesus, dear Father, and instill within me a fervent faith in and love for Your Son, my Savior, for in Him alone I find forgiveness and freedom. In Him alone will my spiritual hunger be abated and my spiritual thirst be quenched. Amen.
When God offered Solomon anything he wanted, he asked God for wisdom to carry out his calling as Israel’s new king. God gave Solomon wisdom, but also many other great blessings. May we also seek God’s wisdom as we fulfill our individual and congregational callings!
The Pharisees were false religious leaders. Many were hypocrites and most taught salvation by works. They attempted to undermine Jesus’ gospel ministry, but Jesus always responded correctly, giving proper emphasis to the law and explaining Old Testament gospel prophecies. May we likewise uphold biblical truth!
Text: 1 Corinthians 1:4-9
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
In Christ Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts and sanctify our lives, dear fellow redeemed:
In recent weeks I have had two interesting conversations—one with a member of Immanuel and the other with a non-member, both of which ended up dealing with the topic of church discipline. Our Immanuel member mentioned that in a previous church to which he belonged someone close to him had been excommunicated. He added with a note of sorrow that some of the men charged with carrying out the discipline were guilty of some rather public sins themselves, unfortunately tainting the whole matter with hypocrisy. The non-member with whom I spoke was a previous member of Immanuel, but was excommunicated many years ago, she said, for despising the means of grace. She had good memories of growing up here at Immanuel but commented with a hint of bitterness that there was a lot of hypocrisy down here as well.
What did I learn from these conversations? I learned that every individual Christian, while declared a saint by God in view of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, remains a sinner in constant need of spiritual renewal, and that this very thing can also be said of every Christian congregation. Our “Word of Truth” today addresses this thought and, therefore, is used each week in our worship services as a liturgical prayer following the sermon: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me!” (Ps. 51:10)
The apostle Paul when writing 1 Corinthians was certainly addressing individuals and a congregation in great need of spiritual renewal. They were confronted by tremendous problems in a number of areas. Upon reading the epistle we might be tempted to say, “I’m glad that I am not like them, or go to a church like that!” But we must understand that we all are like them—prone to sin and in need of renewal every day. We all go to a church like that, for every church is made up of sinners and needs ongoing renewal! The glorious truth of the gospel is that God is willing, able, and actively renewing us! Let us then consider this important truth: EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN AND CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION NEED DAILY SPIRITUAL RENEWAL! That is achieved when we, first of all, thank God and, secondly, think about Jesus!
Our text serves as Paul’s introduction to this first epistle to the Corinthians. It is a prayer in which Paul thanks God. He begins: “I thank my God always concerning you!” If you are aware of the situation facing Paul, you might ask, “For what did he have to be thankful?” The Corinthian Christians, both as individuals and as a congregation, were committing many serious sins and facing many serious problems—divisions, immorality, illegality, insensitivity, and heresy. It is surprising that Paul does not begin his letter with a series of strong rebukes. For what could Paul possibly be thanking God given this situation? As you review our text, you find that Paul was thanking God for three very important things: His grace, His gifts, and His faithfulness!
God’s grace is absolutely essential for spiritual renewal. Grace is God’s undeserved love for us. We are all by nature “dead in trespasses and sins” (cf. Eph. 2:1,5). It is by God’s grace alone that we are brought to faith and into a living communion with God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9). Yet, even though we have been brought to faith and are by God’s grace His redeemed children, we remain prone to sin—sinful thoughts, sinful words, sinful actions, all of which defile our lives and bring heartache to others. We still are plagued by our sinful flesh. The apostle urges us: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Gal. 5:16-17). Satan remains a real and deadly spiritual foe seeking, as Peter reveals, to devour us (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8). The world around us is no friend and seeks to squeeze us into its sinful mold, causing the apostle to cry out, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:2). Many times the whole situation may seem to be way too much for us to handle. We may well want to join Paul in crying out, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24) The solution is God’s grace, for as Paul explains after that emotive cry, “I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:25) Yes, God’s grace is essential for daily spiritual renewal, for it is only when we as individuals and as a Christian congregation understand the depth of our need in view of the overwhelming nature of our sin, that we will fall to our knees before God seeking His grace and cry out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner” (cf. Lk. 18:13). The joyful news of the gospel is that God has been merciful and, as we confess our sins, He cleanses us “from all unrighteousness” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:9). So, let us each day thank God for His grace!
Let us also thank Him for His gifts! Paul informs the Corinthians: “You were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, …, so that you come short in no gift.” It is a spiritual fact that we saints of God remain sinners before God. However, it is equally a spiritual fact that we have been “enriched” by God, that we have been given “all (the spiritual) knowledge” we need by God, and that we have been enabled by God to accomplish all that He would have us do in view of the gifts He has given us. That was true of the Corinthians in the midst of their troubles, and it is true for us today, whatever troubles we might face. Listen to this very familiar and important message of the apostle given to young Timothy. I will quote it in the NIV Readers Edition, because I think the truths Paul is expressing are stated so very clearly in that translation: “God has breathed life into all of Scripture. It is useful for teaching us what is true. It is useful for correcting our mistakes. It is useful for making our lives whole again. It is useful for training us to do what is right. By using Scripture, a man of God can be completely prepared to do every good thing” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God has given or will give us the gifts of forgiveness, faith, understanding, hope, love, joy, peace, patience, longsuffering, and endurance. Along with many others, these gifts are intended by God to bring about spiritual renewal. Let us each day thank God for His gifts!
Let us as well thank Him for His faithfulness! Paul states frankly towards the end of this prayer: “God is faithful!” We experience great pain and suffering in this life, when we prove to be unfaithful to others, and others prove to be unfaithful to us. Sometimes that unfaithfulness is willful—a willful forsaking of vows and promises we have made, or which have been made to us; a willful misuse of our ability to communicate, so that our words become abusive rather than constructive; a willful destruction of property or the physical abuse of another human being. Other times such unfaithfulness is due simply to our lack of ability to fulfill a promise, or to express our words properly, or to do that which is necessary. But God remains faithful! Paul assured Timothy: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). God will always be there for you as you approach Him with a humble and repentant heart. He will renew you, even as He will renew us! Let us, therefore, thank God for His faithfulness!
Yes, EVERY INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN AND CHRISTIAN CONGREGATION NEED DAILY SPIRITUAL RENEWAL! That is achieved when we, first of all, thank God but also, secondly, when we think about Jesus! Paul’s prayer is filled with references to Jesus. As we look at those references we find three areas in which Paul would urge us to think about Jesus—His testimony, His return, and His fellowship!
Paul writes: “The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you.” What is Christ’s testimony, and how is it confirmed within us? The testimony of Christ begins with who He is, and then it continues with what He came to do and now is still doing. Jesus Christ is God’s Son, who was sent into this world to deliver us from sin. We confess Him also to be our Lord, which means that He is to guide us in our lives (cf. Rom 1:4; 1 Cor. 1:4). Paul writes later in this first chapter of 1 Corinthians: “It pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:21-24). Jesus came to rescue you and me. This He did by living and dying as our substitute. He bore our griefs, carried our sorrows (Is. 53:4), and accepted our shame, so that we might freely honor Him by sharing such sacrificial love with others. Jesus then arose bodily from the grave, so that we might be assured that death is not our end, but rather a passageway from this wretched world to the glories of heaven. “O Death, where is your sting,” Paul later asks, “O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57). So think about Christ and His testimony!
Think, as well, about His return! Paul urges us to eagerly await “the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus is coming back! He is coming back to judge the living and the dead. He promised to do so while He walked on this earth (cf. Mt. 25:31-46). The angels assured the apostles of that fact after Jesus ascended into heaven (cf. Acts 1:11). Jesus revealed the same in the Revelation, for His final words to us in the Bible are: “Surely I am coming quickly!” (Rev. 22:20) It is imperative that we keep this fact before us. It can serve as a curb to our sinful flesh. Do we truly want to abuse God’s grace as we await the coming judgment of our Lord? Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking we can willfully keep on sinning and retain saving faith. John informs us: “Everyone who sins breaks the law. In fact, breaking the law is sin. But you know that Christ came to take our sins away. And there is no sin in him. No one who remains joined to him keeps on sinning. No one who keeps on sinning has seen him or known him” (1 Jn. 3:4-6 NIrV). Jesus’ return, however, can and should be a great comfort to us, for that return signals the advent of eternal bliss in heaven. Therefore let us each day think about Christ and His return!
Let us, finally, also think about His fellowship! Paul ends his prayer by reminding us: “You were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”My dear friends, Jesus did not free us from sin, so that we might become slaves once again to our own sinful lusts and passions. Jesus did not call us to faith to allow us to fall into despair. Rather, He has called us into His fellowship—an intimate relationship based upon His perfect love, which removes any and all reason for fear within our hearts (cf. 1 Jn. 4:18), and thereby enables us to love as we have been loved. It is that love which then serves as a testimony to the fact that we have been renewed by grace through faith. Paul would tell the Corinthians at a later time: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This then, dear friends, is the goal of daily spiritual renewal—to walk in Christ, to walk with Christ, and to walk as Christ…loving one another, even as we have been loved; living together in humility seeking to help one another grow stronger in faith, hope, and love. Amen.