Verse 16 in 1 Corinthians 3 has always been one of my favorites, because as a young man, the Lord used it to enlighten me, to remind me, and to strengthen me that my body did not really belong to me but it is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. . . .
~ View copy of sermon – (1 Corinthians 3)
Sermon Title: CREATED FOR PRAISE / 1 Corinthians
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Series on 1 Corinthians Part 4
Preached by Rev. Dr. Harold E. Kidd
“Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him, for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.”
If you were to ask me what is one of my favorite scriptures, it would be this verse 16 in 1 Corinthians 3. It has always been one of my favorites, because as a young man, the Lord used it to enlighten me, to remind me, and to strengthen me that my body did not really belong to me but it is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes one generation would like to believe that those of another generation do not know or cannot understand the temptations of life that can create great peer pressure. But Solomon would remind us there is really nothing new under the sun. Amen.
Being that it’s Black History month let me take a page from history. My own generation, the Boomers, was one characterized by the War on Vietnam, the sexual revolution, LSD, and pushing the boundaries of societal norms. It was a time of a cultural and political revolution. Growing up in Northern California, demonstrations on the campuses of UC Berkley, San Francisco State, and Universities across the nation were common.
Between 1963 and 1968 we saw the assassinations of JFK, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. A restless and rebellious spirit of anti-establishment changed the culture of our American landscape. From Angela Davis in the North, to sit-ins in the deep South, to shoot-outs between law enforcement and militant groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army who kidnapped newspaper heiress Patty Hearst who while kidnapped became a member of the SLA were a part of the times. In 1974 there was a shootout with the LAPD that left 6 members of the SLA dead. Almost just like it is today there really is nothing new under the sun. Surely it was but by the Grace of God that many of us lived to see another day or did not end up on the devils rubbish heap of life, wasted and old before our time. Because just like today, the temptations were many.
The Black Panthers were on the rise; marijuana was prevalent even in high school. Surely it was but by the Grace of God that many of us did not succumb to the wiles of the devil and end up on the devils rubbish heap of life, left with unfilled potential and dreams now reduced to a wisp in the wind. And if you did not have God’s word in you, if you had not been raised in a Christian environment, if you had never been exposed to the teachings of Christ, you could have lost yourself, to the ravages of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Some did, but thank God many lived through these years of being the young and the restless, the curious and the adventurous to grow up into a maturity, to live to tell about it. Amen. What many have learned in looking back over their lives, is that God’s word is true, and has kept many from falling into divers places: “Train up a child in the way that he or she should go and when they are old they will not depart from it.”
If this story seems far-fetched it’s really not, because it is the story of life, in any generation. The episodes may change but the storyline remains the same. We were created to praise God, and when we know whose we are. We discover who we are in Christ. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Amen. And in knowing who we are it changes our direction and purpose in this life. There is this memorable poem by John Oxenham which says:
“To everyone there opens A way, and ways, and a way. The high soul climbs the high way and the low soul gropes the low, and in between on the misty flats the rest drift to and fro. But to everyone there opens, A High way and a low, and every one must decide The Way his soul shall go.”
And in a day and time in which people are struggling with morality, and value clarification and making choices that will determine one’s future destiny, the poem as well as this word from 1Corinthians 3:16 give us encouragement, as well as restraint. “Don’t you know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
This word written by Paul has offered restraint many times as though the Holy Spirit would always be there whispering you can only go so far, because you are God’s Holy Temple. And what you do in and with your body is a reflection upon the God who owns you. Amen. Thank God, that like the Prodigal son, many do come to themselves before it is too late to turn around. Because there but by the grace of God go us.
Thank God that when we know whose we are and therefore who we are, the Holy Spirit acting as a guide, a restraint, the voice of wisdom to keep us from choosing to go down the wrong way that might be hazardous to our wellbeing, and God’s ultimate plan and purpose for our lives. Because God knows that like a roaring lion, the devil is on the prowl in every generation seeking whom he may devour.
The context of this letter is that Corinth was a cosmopolitan city. It was an epicenter for trade and commerce. A melting pot for diversity in lifestyles, cultures and religions. Many creatures in nature, like the chameleon, are created with the God-given ability to camouflage themselves so that they can blend in with their environment to aid in their survival. On one hand it’s natural to desire fit in and adapt to the environment.
But because we Christians belong to Christ, we are not called to blend in and to adapt but to stand out and to be set apart. We live in this dynamic tension of being in the world but not of the world. So often rather than going with the flow, Christ often times calls us to stand up, stand up for Jesus.
Born from above and changed from within, our values and lifestyles most often clash with the accepted, values, morality and ethnics of this society and world. Just like us, the Christians at Corinth were struggling with their environment. How to be a Christian in a non-Christian environment. Surrounded by every conceivable sin, they felt the pressure to adapt. They felt the peer pressure. Amen. They knew they were free in Christ, but what did this freedom mean?
Second century writings by Pausanias a Greek traveler and geographer, indicate that the city supported numerous sites of pagan worship and was adorned with magnificent statues of gods and goddesses in public places, including a large statue of Athena in the middle of the marketplace. Temple prostitution was common. On a daily basis, the Corinthians were confronted by these imposing statues of the pagan world out of which they had been called. They lived by the motto: “I am free to do anything.” Which was their justification for numerous practices which Paul found troubling.
Hence Paul, was confronted with the major task of reshaping the thinking of his new converts into this emerging Christian movement that God alone was to be worshipped and God alone owns our minds, bodies and our souls. So he uses an image from Jewish history that they would all be familiar with. The Temple.
While the Synagogue was originally designed to be the place of scriptural instruction and prayer. In Luke 4, when Jesus read from the book of Isaiah to announce the beginning of his public ministry, it was in the synagogue. The temple on the other hand was the House of Worship. Amen. This is where the people of God gathered to Worship Yahweh. Keep in mind that when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians the Temple at Jerusalem had not yet been destroyed by the Romans.
So in contrast to a Temple made with human hands, Paul is seeking to remind the believers at Corinth that they are God’s house of worship and praise. He takes it to a much deeper, spiritual level. The Church is not brick and mortar. The church is not a building. But in actuality the church is made up of the believers who have given their lives to Christ, and who are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit indwells the community of those who are assembled in Jesus name. Amen.
Therefore wherever we are, we are God’s living temple. And how we choose to respond in any setting and under life circumstances can usher forth worship and praise to God. We are not just worshipping God and giving God the praise when it’s Sunday morning at 10:30AM. We are not just worshipping God by lifting our voices in song. Worship and praise cannot be compartmentalized to a specific time, place or act, but is designed by God to be a total life experience. Amen. We are worshipping and hopefully giving God the praise in very element of our lives. When we are up, when we are down, and when we are almost leveled to the ground.
By our responses to life circumstances, situations and people, we are at worship and praise when we are sick or hospitalized. We are at worship and praise when we are on our jobs. We are worship and giving God the praise when we are faced with making decisions that might either give God the glory or deny that He is actually present in our lives.
Wherever we may be at the time, God desires to use us as his living temple of worship and praise. Amen. And strange as it may sound the church does its best work not when we are gathered but when we are scattered. Because wherever we are, God has the capacity to use us for His glory! He can use us in the department store. He can use us at the beauty parlor. He can use us while we are having our car serviced. He can use us while we are voting. He can use us while we are trying to intervene in settling a disagreement. He can use us when we try to help a homeless person or someone down on their circumstance. He can use us to brighten up someone else’s day.
We have this treasure in earthen vessels that the transcendent glory may be given to God and not to us! Amen.