Sermon:         What Stands in Our Way? Scripture:       1 Corinthians 9:16-23 Preacher:       Rev. Michael Bodger Location:        First Presbyterian Church, DeLand Date:               February 04, 2018 Today we go back to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and into Chapter 9. Paul has just given the Corinthians an understanding that those who are strong in the faith, should not by their actions make those who are weaker stumble and he uses the issue of eating idol meat to make his point. His basic point is captured in Chapter 8:13, “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again.”  It is more important Paul says, to not lead others to stumble, than it is to exercise your rights and understanding of what the gospel allows or doesn’t allow you to do. Don’t flaunt your maturity and the freedom it gives. Then, the first part of Chapter 9 continues this theme of what our rights might be and Paul uses himself as an example of one not exercising their rights. He tells the Corinthians he has every right to hospitality, to marry, to have their material support and has established that he should be free to exercise personal privilege and eat or drink whatever he pleases, yet in verse 15 he says to the Corinthians, with you, I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing this so that they may be applied in my case.   Which brings us to our text of today which we find in Chapter 9:16-23 of 1 Corinthians, Listen to what the Spirit is telling the church today.   READ 1 Corinthians 9:16-23   Paul starts out by saying here that what he is doing, does not give grounds for him to lift himself up, instead it’s all about his obligation to go about spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. He says, 16If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, Paul, knowing what the gospel has done for him, has no option but to tell others and furthermore, woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel! There is an implication that there would be consequences for Paul if he did not proclaim that which he has come to know. As he proclaims though, the very proclamation gives him no grounds for boasting, because it’s not about him. Peter and James were brought before the counsel, the leaders of the people in the book of Acts. The counsel would have them stay silent and not talk about this Jesus, and the counsel tries to stop them, but Peter responds,  “Whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; 20 for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”  There is just something within them that means they cannot help themselves, they just have to tell others. It’s the same for Paul, Paul just has to speak about Jesus and says that if it was something that he had chosen to do, then he would be looking for a reward. What was in it for him, what would he gain or get as a result? For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward;   Jesus in Luke’s gospel says that a laborer deserves his reward and is speaking monetarily and so Paul would expect to get something out of it personally. He also might set targets for himself, how many people can I tell in a single day, how many people will confess Christ because of MY words, but that is not what it is all about for Paul, it’s about Christ and being faithful to what Christ is asking of him. Paul states in verse 1 of Chapter 9, Am I not free, Am I not an apostle. He is free in Christ and yet in Christ is captive to the call that has been placed upon him. Like Peter, he has no choice but to proclaim. Why, because he is entrusted with a commission – the Greek rendering of commission is more like ‘dispensation,’ which conveys the impression that he has been entrusted with the administration, oversight, management of another’s property – he has been entrusted with doing Christ’s continuing work here on earth. I am entrusted with a commission. 18What then is my reward? Just this: that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel. Paul’s reward is in fulfilling the very thing he is commissioned to do, by making the gospel readily available to all, free of charge, and not making claim to the rights that are due to him for proclaiming it. Having been set free by the gospel, and because he has been set free, he freely enters into being captive to the call placed upon him. 19For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all Paul understands that in Christ, he has been totally set free from this world and any and all claims the world would try and make upon him and in that freedom, he has chosen to make himself a slave to all and has done so, because so great is that freedom, that others need to know and experience it too and live their lives accordingly. Paul does not in any way give up or renounce the rights that he has, he merely chooses not to exercise those rights in certain situations. And so he becomes a slave to Christ, for an express purpose, so that I might win more of them All then that Paul has said in this particular passage relates to sharing the good news of the gospel, that others would experience the love of Jesus Christ and have the same freedom that he enjoys. In the reality of Paul’s day, the Stoic’s taught that freedom was gained by risking less, by eliminating fear by being in control, and in so controlling, making life less vulnerable to what might happen to you or what others might do to you. They saw and understood that the freedom they had was freedom to exercise the decision to constrain or restrict your own exposure, so nothing bad could happen to you. Paul says the freedom he enjoys is quite the reverse. Paul says it allows you to throw off all constraints, not be fearful at all, but to live life fully. Paul has been given grace, and he takes that grace and because of the very fact that he has it and knows what it is to receive it and live life by it, he is compelled to freely give it away and have others experience the same thing. Can the same be said of us?   So what stands in his way, when it comes to who are the recipients of what he has to share? He is to look down on nobody and to embrace everybody and not decide for himself who is worthy, but to put himself in the shoes of everyone he encounters and let them know that in their circumstances and in their positions, Christ can enter their world and free them from the slavery that the world imposes, a slavery that would have them held against their will, make them fearful and be subject to that slavery – even though the world, with its seductions, postures itself as making people free. Paul says, 20To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law. 21To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law. 22To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak Paul is saying that he does not Lord it over others, insisting on his rights, he instead gets down into the ashes of their lives and in so doing extends Christ’s love to all. In order that he might – kerdaino. Kerdaino means to gain or ‘Win’ others, in this instance to Christ. Kerdaino appears five times in rapid succession – it’s what the focus of Paul’s life has become, because of who he is. Giving away all the rights that might be attributable to him, he instead meets people where he finds them and he gives us some examples. Paul no longer considers himself a Jew, because of all that has transpired, but he becomes one, to kerdaino, to win Jews. To those under the law, those outside the law, those who are weak, in fact, he says I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. Becoming all things to all people is for the express purpose to save others and no other reason. It’s a method that we find employed in the secular world. For instance, the [1]Oakland, California, police force unveiled its first ‘low-rider’ police car. The vehicle had the standard logo, lights, and siren, but it also included chrome wheels, had hydraulic lifts, even had a 500-watt sound system. The car was added to the force specifically to help officers build better relationships with inner-city kids. Meeting the kids where they were, in their place, with things that they could engage with, so that communication could take place. The natural world uses it in many instances, take the chameleon or octopus for example that becomes like its surroundings to blend in. It was the same for Paul, it should be the same for us. Nothing that is exhibited by those that Paul encountered, who they were, the manner in which they live their lives, the station in life they currently find themselves in, nothing inhibited him from trying to kerdaino them for the gospel. Nothing stood in Paul’s way. What about us? When it comes to sharing the good news of the gospel, giving away the grace that we have received - What stands in our way? What are the things that other people express or do or even who they are, that make us shy away, make us avoid them. Who do we consciously or sub-consciously stay away from, those that we figuratively or even literally, cross over to the other side of the street to avoid, so we do not have to associate with them or engage them or even try and save them. Do we go to the same lengths to become like others, that we employ to ignore or move away from them? [2]Officer Tori Matthews of the Southern California Humane Society got an emergency call: A boy’s pet iguana had been scared up a tree by a neighbor’s dog. It then fell from the tree into a swimming pool, where it sank like a brick. Officer Matthews came with her net. She dived into the pool, emerging seconds later with the pet’s limp body. The Arizona Republic later reported, Matthew’s thought, Well, you do CPR on a person and a dog, why not on an iguana? So she locked lips with the lizard. ‘Now that I look back on it,’ she said, “it was a pretty ugly animal to be kissing, but the last thing I wanted to do was tell this little boy that his iguana had died.” The lizard responded to her efforts and is expected to make a full recovery. Tori Matthews did not see a waterlogged reptile; she saw a little boy’s beloved pet. Sisters and brothers, we may never see the beauty in some people, they might be different from us in many ways, but they mean as much to God as we do, and we should do all that we can do to keep them from drowning by sharing the good news. What’s more, others do not have to come to us, we go to them, even into the swimming pools of their lives They don’t have to be on the same page as us with regards to issues of life, they don’t have to meet or come up to our standards. They might even be iguanas to us. It doesn’t matter. Why, because the gospel is bigger than that. Paul recognizes that fact. For Paul, there is nothing on the list that stands in his way. Sharing the gospel is his very ‘reason d’etre,’ the being, the reason for why he now exists. Paul fully embraces the fact that the gospel is so far above and beyond any limitations that he might place upon it, that there is nowhere, that no circumstance exists, that God cannot reach others – it is us that place limitations upon it. The Psalmist cries out… 7 Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me fast. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans, that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. So if we understand that God encounters and reaches out to us where we are, then why should it be any different for anybody else, just because they are not in the same place as us. The power of the gospel is that it reaches out and transforms people. It transforms you and it transforms me. It reaches out to everyone, it doesn’t wait for them to come to it, no it reaches out to them, to us, it reaches out to where they are, the places that they live, the social circles they find themselves in and it doesn’t matter if we don’t like those places or situations or circumstances,   BUT listen to this carefully, it only matters if we let those things stand in our way of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel can transform others in ways far beyond our imagination – so share it everywhere says Paul. Amen and in his own words, Paul says 23I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings We all share in the blessings as others embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. If it has blessed you, then share it and if and when you do, we are all blessed as a result and all of God’s people said. Amen       Bibliography   The New Interpreter’s Bible. Abingdon Software. Abingdon Press 2002     Michael D. Bodger, M.Div. Pastor & Teaching Elder First Presbyterian Church 724 North Woodland Blvd. DeLand, Florida 32720  © 2018 Michael D. Bodger. Sermon manuscripts are available for the edification of members and friends of First Presbyterian Church, DeLand, Florida and may not be altered, re-purposed, published or preached without permission. All rights reserved. [1] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. Edited K Rowell. BakerBooks 2008 [2] 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories. Edited K Rowell. BakerBooks 2008