[forthright] A Rude Awakening About Being Spiritual

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Wed, 24 Sep 2003 21:51:55 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


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Barbara has her first journal entry in Oliver's Twist
since she arrived in India. Check it out online!
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COLUMN: Hands-on Faith

A Rude Awakening About Being Spiritual
by Barry Newton 

It must be a rude awakening when members of a congregation who were
probably celebrating their freedom that "all things are permissible for
me" and who seemingly were confident of their own spirituality suddenly
discover their flight feathers being clipped by an apostle?s pen. But it
appears that at least part of the letter of 1 Corinthians may have served
this purpose.

Based upon what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10, it is not too hard to
reasonably reconstruct with a good measure of probability what some
members of the church at Corinth were thinking. It probably went
something like: I have been baptized into Christ. I am being spiritually
fed by Christ. My spiritual health is outstanding and secure! 

Contrary to such thinking, Paul argued that just because someone has been
baptized and is even feasting on true spiritual nourishment proves
nothing about that individual?s spiritual health. What? Alarm bells might
go off in some heads today just as they may have sounded back then. But
in fact, Paul?s actual teaching goes beyond my bland summary paraphrase
to even assert that being nourished by Christ proves nothing about your
spiritual health before God! 

To teach this lesson, Paul retold an Old Testament story. Paul reminded
them that all of Israel had experienced a baptism into Moses when Israel
had crossed the Red Sea. Furthermore, all of the Israelites had even been
nourished by Christ himself! Yet, and this is where the clap of thunder
rolls in, God was not pleased with most of them as seen by the fact that
He strewed their bodies throughout the desert. Their spiritual standing
was far from secure. 

As important as it is to start the journey by being baptized and to be
sustained by feasting on spiritual nourishment from Christ, something can
still be lacking! Israel had failed to faithfully live out the message
they had received; their actions were blatantly rebellious. 

Paul?s point must have smashed home to the Corinthians as a rude
awakening. Just because they had become Christians and were being
nourished by Christ proved nothing about their spiritual health. More was
required. To be pleasing to God and to avoid falling, the Corinthian
Christians could not afford to flaunt grace while living out lives
estranged to the message. They had to live in accordance with God?s
message. Not everything is truly permissible. Sin is still unacceptable. 

Yes, Christ?s blood has the power to forgive all sin. Yes, we can not
merit God?s forgiveness. Yes, those in Christ have been released from the
condemnation of sin. But if we allow the apostle to speak for himself,
these truths do not relinquish us from the responsibility of being
careful that we do not fall. Grace teaches us to say, "No" to ungodliness
and to pursue godly living. Titus 2:11-12 

Since 1 Corinthians 10 is directed to Christians, we need to make sure we
have learned the lesson as well. The individual who is spiritually
healthy, has not only entered Christ and feasts upon spiritual
nourishment, but also lives out God?s message through his life. 

Paul?s next words in 1 Corinthians 10 are comforting. God is faithful
when we are tempted by not allowing us to face more than what we can
handle.

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