Christianity grows when believers unite

5/16/2006

Editor’s note: “The Mississippi United Methodist Advocate” and the “South Carolina United Methodist Advocate” share Sunday school lessons through an exchange program.

By Cynthia Burrows Williams

 

June 4

Living In Unity

Purpose: To remind us that our calling from Christ is to live and work with unity for the great purpose of proclaiming the gospel.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17

Key Verse: “Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there is no divisions among you., but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.” — 1 Corinthians 1:10

Paul is urging us as brothers and sisters in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to agree with one another so that we are not divided. There should be no division within the body of Christ. We should be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same spirit. There must not be any contention among us. In our relationships with each other, we must not seek fulfillment from man but from God. Christ died on the cross for us, and through the cross we obtain unity and completeness.

We can all relate to the closeness and unity felt at a family reunion. At the reunion, all members of the family are coming together for a day of fun and enjoyment. There is so much preparation for this event. T-shirts were ordered months ago. The family tree is on the back with all of the names of the elders. Telephone calls were made to determine what coordinating colors we are to wear. Grandmothers have been baking for the past week. Secret sauces have been mixed and ready for the grill. Everyone is happy about being apart of this event.

When we all step out of the car, all you can see are the bright yellow T-shirts with royal blue shorts. Every member of the family is so proud to wear the coordinating colors and to be a part of the family. At that moment, we are all united. There is no division of any kind. No quarrels, no competition. We are perfectly joined together.

Paul is telling us that we are to be as excited about our relationship with the church family and our community. The tie of the name that binds the body is the name of Jesus.

Our churches as well as our communities should have common ground and common interest ahead of all else. Self-interest and strife have no place in the body of Christ. God is expecting us to overcome the world and strive for life in the spirit.

Society teaches us to be competitive. Religion, as we experience it today, teaches us the same. We still have quarrels among us as was common among the church in Corinth. Whom are we following? Whom do we worship? We affirm we believe in God, we believe in the Holy Spirit. We should walk the walk we talk.

We too often align ourselves with personalities \ rather than the word of God. We allow division within our church based on feelings for one another. God gave all of us gifts. Our gifts should be used to strengthen the whole. The whole is the body of Christ. We should not connect ourselves to the leaders, but to God.

“I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

June 11

Finding Wisdom

Purpose: To distinguish between the wisdom of the world and the eternal wisdom revealed by the Holy Spirit.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 2:1, 6-16

Key Verse: “We speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.” — 1 Corinthians 2:13

Paul denounced the spirit of division which he saw in the Corinth church. He teaches us that divine wisdom is unlike anything we have ever seen. God’s wisdom is not understood by the human man. “Eyes have not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

Often times, we rely on our own ability to testify with such flowing words that we expect everyone would be able to receive, understand and be saved by our testimony. Paul was able to deliver eloquent messages. However, he refused to do so. He teaches us not to try to impress others with fancy words. We should not put our trust in the gospel of human talent. The Holy Spirit was the most important thing to Paul, as it should be to us. When we begin a work for God, we should expect the Holy Spirit to show up and to show out.

No one knows the things of God except the spirit of God. Natural man does not receive the things of God, for they are foolish to him. The natural man is not able to discern the things of the Spirit.

Many times in our Bible study class, members will ask why this event happened. Our pastor has pointed out to us as long as we are in the flesh, we will not understand all of the things in the Spirit. Only when we allow ourselves to be totally absorbed by the Spirit, will the Spirit reveal what is necessary for us to know. The human man can not know all of the mysteries of God.

Where is our faith? We must believe without seeing. We must believe because we know who we are and whose we are. Our faith should be based on our experience and our relationship with God. As we build on our relationship with Him, we will have a deeper level of understanding that cannot be shaken or explained to secure our faith.

We should strive to have the mind of Christ. Christ’s mind will lead us to behave differently. We would not look to our own interest first. We would seek ways to serve others rather than to be self promoting. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, set their minds on things of the Spirit.” (Romans 8:5). True wisdom is only found through the Spirit. Let us seek the Spirit of God.

June 18

Building Together

Purpose: To teach us that we when work together, God uses us to build on the foundation of Christ.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 3:1-15

Key Verse: “For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.” — 1 Corinthians 3:9

Paul is shaming us for our behavior of the flesh to encourage us to find our appropriate place in Christ. He says he can not address us as spiritual for we are still worldly. “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”

Paul talks to us using a metaphor, “milk” as opposed to “solid food.” The contrast between milk and solid food speaks to us as infants and adults. As an infant, we are worldly and must be weaned off the milk before being able to eat solid foods. Infants are not yet able to understand things of the Spirit. We must adjust our thinking in order to become mature and spiritual.

Many of us may exercise gifts. However, jealousy and rivalry lead to strife and quarrelling. Paul says we are still fleshly and carnal. These behaviors are worldly and have no place in body of Christ.

Paul speaks to us as being ministers, fellow workers with God. He says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.” One view of this could be that as we go out into the world spreading the Gospel of Christ, the word would fall on many ears. If the word represents the seed, the ears of the people could represent the soil. When the seed falls on the ears, they would hear. We would call that good soil. If the seed falls on the deaf ear, they would not hear. We could call that bad soil. We are to be encouraged in either case.

A tiny kernel of corn is harvested from a living plant. Man in all of his wisdom cannot make a kernel of corn. In all of the knowledge we possess, we cannot produce that kernel.

The seed, the gift of life and productivity could represent the Gospel message. “God loves us so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ, who gave his life to transform us from God’s sinful enemy into God’s beloved friend.” We could think of the seed, the Gospel, being placed in our hands to spread it all over the world.

We are ministers, fellow workers with God. We should be busy planting as many life giving seeds as possible. We each have a mighty work to do for God.

June 25

Serving Responsibly

Purpose: To explore what it means to serve responsibly in the community of faith.

Bible Lesson: 1 Corinthians 4:1-13

Key Verse: “Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.” — 1 Corinthians 4:1

Stewards were household managers. They were usually slaves given the responsibility of the day-to-day management of the household. They were to carry out the specific demands of the master. The only purpose the stewards served was to please the master. The only thing the master cared about was whether his steward was faithful and reliable.

The members of the Corinth church were evaluating the apostles according to their ability to be an effective speaker. Paul told us in the last lessons that he refused to use his gifts in that manner. He was capable of effective speaking, but he relied on the Holy Spirit to do the speaking. He used his life circumstances and his attitudes to teach and to preach.

This lesson tells us to focus on the fact that we are all stewards. Our goal should not be to impress anyone with the things we have. Our time is not our own! The money in the bank is not our own.

Too often we get caught up in thinking “my money,” “my home,” “my life.” We need to remember that all we have belongs to God. God has given us gifts and those gifts are to be used for His glory. Our time, which is His time, is to be used to help others. Just as the stewards were here to please the masters, we are here to serve and to satisfy God. God should be getting the glory out of our lives.

The United Methodist Church teaches us that each one is a minister. We are all servants of God. We are all baptized and called into the work of the ministry. All believers are commissioned to be stewards. How are you fulfilling your commission? You are to nurture and strengthen all of God’s people.

Williams attends St. Paul United Methodist Church in Kingstree, S.C., and is a member of the Board of Trustees for the “South Carolina United Methodist Advocate.”