Let us pray: Dear Savior, You have put us on this earth to make a difference, an eternal difference. You have placed us here to reach souls with Your life-changing, eternal-preserving Word of truth and love. Today we ask for the strength and the insight to engage in that work. For thereby we are also given Your gift of joy! Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE AUTHOR AND GIVER OF LIFE!
TEXT: I Cor. 9: 16-23
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
A few months ago I was talking to a friend who bemoaned the lack of Christians. My friend wants to meet a faithful Christian guy who takes his faith seriously, who treats others with respect, and who would be interested in dating and perhaps beyond. O, this lady knows a lot of people who call themselves Christian. But her take is that they are Christian in name only. That is, they very rarely go to church, don’t make any attempt to actually live according to God’s commandments, and know little or nothing of what the Bible actually teaches.
Since I cannot read hearts, I would call such people nominal, or lazy Christians. I see similar attitudes among many in New England and in America. Many people belong to a church simply to get married and buried. They don’t really support God’s Church with money or effort. It almost seems like they are hedging their bets with God in case something goes wrong in their lives. I call this the “rabbit’s foot” syndrome. And a huge number of people seem to fit this mold, don’t they?
In reality, this is nothing new. From our lesson it is obvious that even St. Paul faced similar problems in his ministry. And in our text he tells us how he dealt with them—through hard work and a lot of effort. To summarize Paul:
CHRISTIANITY IS NOT FOR THE LAZY!
In the first paragraph of our text Paul is concluding a discussion of his ministry–his work of serving God by serving people with the message of the cross. And he reminds the Corinthians that he labored freely. That is, he supported himself in this work by making tents so that no one could say: “He’s only in it for the money.” He certainly had a right to expect financial support for his efforts. But he chose not to exercise that right. “in preaching the gospel I offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.”
Then Paul goes on to say some interesting things. “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became a Jew to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all means I might save some.” What does all this mean for us? Well, let’s see.
All of you know what a chameleon is. That little lizard that changes its color depending on surroundings in order to blend in. In essence here, Paul is telling us to follow his lead and become similarly adaptable. Paul was a Jew by birth. Thus, he knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards. He knew Jewish ceremonies and traditions. But unlike most Jews of his time, he also knew that Christ had come to fulfill all righteousness. The Passover was really about the coming Christ, the Lamb of God Who would deliver God’s people from the hand of eternal death. All those Old Testament ceremonies were designed to point the Jews to their Messiah. When he entered a town the first place he went was always the local synagogue. He went there to show those folks that Christ was the reason behind their faith and worship. He talked their talk and walked their walk so as to cause them to listen to him and give him a hearing.
When Paul met people who tried to live moral lives based on making brownie points with God, in other words when they lived under the law, Paul showed them why living moral lives was important.—You avoid a lot of trouble here on earth. But then he also showed them that trying to earn God’s favor is fruitless because you can never be good enough. Only Christ was good enough! Only Christ has earned God the Father’s favor with His perfect life and innocent death. And that Christ gives us that holiness through faith.
Then there are the weak. That is, people who don’t understand the Bible and who fall easily into sin because of their ignorance. Paul took time with them. He didn’t bluntly tell them: “You’re wrong! You’re foolish!” No, he talked of his weaknesses, too, and of how God made him strong in Christ alone. Paul adapted his message to his audience. He put himself in their shoes. He practiced loving his neighbor. And he left the rest up to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s face it, it’s hard work to be a Christian. It’s hard work to adapt yourself to reach others. We always expect people to known what we know and think like we think and understand what we understand. But they don’t, do they? Today most couples live together before they are married. Why? Generally because they don’t yet understand the blessings that result from marriage over and against merely living together. Most people say they belong to a church but never attend. Why? Generally because they haven’t yet come to understand the joy of worship. And they fail to grasp the truth that God makes us stronger, better, and more loving people when we go to church and feed our souls on His love and strength. Most people say they are moral and outwardly try to live a “good life.” But, they have failed to grasp the difference between living that way because it’s expected by society or their parents, and living that way because it’s our way to show love for our Savior.
I’ve learned the hard way in my ministry that I cannot put anybody in a box. I can’t pigeon-hole anyone. Everyone is distinct. And it takes a lot of thought and prayer and effort in finding just the right way of reaching them with the gospel of Christ. Jesus died for every soul on planet earth. They are all precious to Him. And that makes them precious to us. Paul here is talking about finding a way to reach each of those souls. And to do that your attitude, your words, your actions need to be tailored to their individual needs.
Some people need a swift kick. Some need a gentle prod. Some need time to assimilate Godly truth. Others catch on very quickly. Yes, God’s kingdom is furthered and enlarged one step at a time, one person at a time. And since this takes tremendous time and energy on your part, we see that Christianity is not for the lazy!
“I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” Laboring for the Lord is hard work, but the reward is worth it! Seeing an unhappy soul’s demeanor do a 180 will make your year! Seeing kids with dull eyes light up when Jesus’ love fills their hearts will warm your heart. Seeing weak people become stronger and better able to cope with life’s problems because they now trust in Jesus and not themselves makes life worth living! So, don’t despair! Honor Christ by getting busy being “all things to all men.” Amen.