Sinning Against Christ

earthIn 1 Corinthians 8 Paul addressed a very specific problem in the Corinthian church: eating meat offered to idols. Some possessed a special knowledge:

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” (1 Corinthians 8:4 ESV)

There was nothing wrong with this knowledge: as a matter of fact, there was everything right with it! Idols have no real existence. Their power is not inherent–it lies in the illusions of peoples’ minds who worship them. There is no God but one.  God, the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the universe stands alone as God. He is unequaled in power and position. In 1867, Walter Smith wrote these words:

Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might: thy justice, like mountains high soaring above, thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

Some, knowing how great God was and how foolish idols were, had no problem eating meat offered to idols. “There’s nothing wrong with that meat,” they thought! “God is greater than those idols.” What they didn’t realize was that, sitting in their midst, were weak-minded new Christians. Their faith wasn’t sure–their understanding shallow. They were spooked by the meat and for them to eat it meant they had returned to their old way of life. Paul made it clear: when you notice such a brother, put the meat aside. Don’t offend him. How far did he go in giving this instruction:

Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:12 ESV)

From Paul’s statement we learn that Christ lives in his people–weak and strong. The strong are to bear the burdens of the weak. Rather than wounding their conscience, build their faith. This takes the focus off of meat and puts it on the Message.

Smith finishes his great hymn:

To all, life thou givest, to both great and small; in all life thou livest, the true life of all; we blossom and flourish like leaves on the tree, then wither and perish, but naught changeth thee.

Thou reignest in glory, thou dwellest in light, thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight; all praise we would render; O help us to see, ’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

How to Pray When You’ve Blown It

The steps of a man are established by the LORD, when he delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the LORD upholds his hand. (Psalm 37:23-24 ESV)

What happens when you stumble? How do you pray when you’ve blown it? This prayer from The Valley of Vision shows us how to approach a holy God when we’ve not been so holy:

O Eternal God,

Yours is surpassing greatness, unspeakable goodness, super-abundant grace; I can as soon count the sands of ocean’s ‘lip’ as number your favors towards me; I know but a part, but that part exceeds all praise.

I thank you for personal mercies, a measure of health, preservation of body, comforts of house and home, sufficiency of food and clothing, continuance of mental powers, my family, their mutual help and support, the delights of domestic harmony and peace, the seats now filled that might have been vacant, my country, church, Bible, faith.

But, O, how I mourn my sin, ingratitude, vileness, the days that add to my guilt, the scenes that witness my offending tongue.

All things in heaven, earth, around, within, without, condemn me–the sun which sees my misdeeds, the darkness which is light to you, the cruel accuser who justly charges me, the good angels who have been provoked to leave me, your countenance which scans my secret sins, your righteous law, your holy Word, my sin-soiled conscience, my private and public life, my neighbors, myself–all write dark things against me.

I deny them not, frame no excuse, but confess, ‘Father, I have sinned’; yet still I live, and fly repenting to your outstretched arms; you will not cast me off, for Jesus brings me near, you will not condemn me, for he died in my stead, you will not mark my mountains of sin, for he leveled all, and his beauty covers my deformities.

O my God, I bid farewell to sin by clinging to his cross, hiding in his wounds, and sheltering in his side.