January 22, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFERENCE:
“Or do you not know that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who resides within you. You have received it from God. You are, therefore, not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6.19)
How many times have we found that the hardest person to see is the one who faces us in the mirror? Please, no one start singing Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror.” Paul’s writing to the faith in Christ community in Corinth was the sound of people walking to a different drummer. In Corinth, to be popular one had to mimic the cultures that were present in the city. Corinth was a metropolitan city. It was a crossroads of cultures geo-politically and spiritually. It was because of Paul’s personal experience with bi-culturalism (his father was a Roman and his mother was Jewish) that he found such benefit in being “all things to all people.” He was not untrue to himself nor his faith in Christ. He did not abandon his Jewish heritage nor did he, as a Christ follower, strictly adhere to it. He found benefit in sharing in the cultural expressions of the people to whom he was called to minister. His writing to the Corinthian church (read chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians) espoused the missionary paradigm of how he acted and interacted with the variety of cultures. While on the surface he reflected the vocabulary and perhaps at times the appearances of the people to whom the gospel was given by God through him, he remained true to the constant factor of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He was not his own person any longer. He was a man of God who every day made it his purpose to look more and more like Christ. We do not know if the child Paul ever saw Jesus? We know that Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen which happened shortly after the crucifixion of Jesus. He held the cloaks of those who participated in the stoning of Stephen and gave his assent to the proceedings. (Acts 7.58) This means it was possible for Saul of Tarsus, the Paul of Christ, to have “seen” Jesus. But, Paul did not fashion his physical appearance to “be like Christ.” That is not what he meant at all when he proposed that the mighty ones of God fulfill God’s hope that we all we be more like Christ. He was speaking instead of the internal transformation of our heart, mind and soul to be the goal of our spiritual growth and ministry.
Who we are may be best known by the legacy of what we have done! When an artist paints a picture and puts on the finishing brush strokes, it would include the artist’s signature. It verified that it was the work of the artist. Every artist, even if they are mimicking the masters, has their own style and identity. And such artistry is not limited to the canvas but expanded to all types of mediums. Regardless, their signature confirms that it is their work. So, too, do we have our signatures on the works we have crafted in the various mediums of our life. We may even live for such recognition of the work we have done. We pursue being known by those works and receiving acclaim. But, that being the case, what do those works say about who we truly are? Do they reflect the “cultural” us or the spirit that is at work within us? In accordance with this reflection, I could ask “Do others see Jesus in our works?” Do the works of our hands and the words out of our mouths validate our presence with Christ or the presence of Christ who lives in us in spirit and in truth? What is the legacy we are truly wanting to leave behind? Is it a physical manifestation paying tribute to the “what I have done”? Or is it the spiritual expression giving glory to “what God is doing in and through me?” It is the attitude of Jesus that we ought to pursue, is it not? The words of Paul to the faith in Christ community in Philippi declared, “For it is God who is at work in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.” (Philippians 2.13) Paul would write to the faith in Christ community in Galatia, “Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ who lives in me. The life I live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up for [even] me.” (Galatians 2.20) Those words are the reflections of the teachings which Paul had heard from the disciples, especially John. John recorded Jesus saying at the Passover meal preceding His arrest and crucifixion, “The Father and I are one. If you have seen me then you have seen the Father [that is enough.]” (John 14.9f) It is not our signature that should be seen on the works we do as believers in God through Jesus the Christ. It ought to be the signature of Christ in God by the Holy Spirit. Now I look at the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and see God’s finger reaching out to man not simply to be “in touch” with Him but to scribe His signature on him as to say, in the words of Paul, “You are, therefore, not your own.“
So, while Paul may have “walked” like others, “talked” like others, “worked” like others, “ate” like others, maybe “dressed” like others when he was in their presence, he declared it was so that they could hear the truth about Christ without tripping over the non-essentials which they may have held dear to their sense of acceptance. When Paul was confronted with the image of Christ on the Damascus Road, he saw himself woefully lacking internally. The truth of what he falsely believed about Jesus as the Christ and thus those who claimed Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior was shown for what it was. It was not righteous indignation. It amounted to righteous ignorance. He had crafted the expression of the Spirit of God by those who had shown him their truth. Now the finger of God reached out to him. It etched on him from the inside out the signature which said “You, therefore, are not your own but mine.” Now Paul’s outward manifestations reflected the inward transformation which “seeing” Christ had wrought in him. And so it should be with us. We must see the “me” we were becoming and declare when compared to Christ Jesus that it is not all we can be! Once confessing that there is a spirit of truth and authentic life in us which is not of our own making, there we can begin to see Christ manifesting Himself in us. In that moment, we declare our purpose is to be all that we can be by growing into the full measure and stature of Christ. Jesus taught that such “measure and stature” comes in being a servant to all. We are not elevated by the works we do or the acclaim of others for what is done by us. We are elevated by God alone who looks to us and declares, “Well done, My good and faithful servant. Rise and go your way.” This would be the life and reflection of the Spirit which ought to be the very goal of our lives on a daily basis. It is a goal not to condemn us but challenge us to be more of the more we have been made because we put our faith not in the works of our hands but in the work of God’s hand in us and on us. Seeing that person shouldn’t be difficult at all. In truth, that person should be the first person we see when we look in the mirror and give thanks to God for who He is making of us to His glory and for the benefit of others. And it will be because of that that others may begin to see who they are to be as well in the image of Christ made visible through us by Him who is at work in us.
Father, we thank You for breathing true life in us. fill us to overflowing with the truth of Your Word in flesh and in spirit. Let us become the witness of faith, hope and love which You have always intended for us to be naturally. May it become second nature to us in Jesus’ name. AMEN.