Compelled

Sermon, Epiphany 5B Sunday February 4, 2018, St Petri

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like 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. 21 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. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

What compels you?  What is absolutely “non-negotiable” for you?  We probably all have things we believe SHOULD compel us, but whether or they always do is another thing altogether!

How do you tell what compels you? Maybe if we think this way this morning.

What if the principal of your school, or your partner in life, or your mum or dad, or your most trusted and respected buddy said, “No, you cannot do that, believe that, say that, be that”. And you had to respond: “I have to. I am sorry. I am compelled. I have to do that, believe that and say that”?

For me there a few non-negotiable things:

  • You just cannot throw your empty disposable drink container out of the window of the car. It is wrong. Looking after the environment is important.
  • You just cannot ride anything but a triumph motorcycle. (No good reason here!)
  • You just cannot say anything bad about bald people, red haired people or people over 50! All people count! Everyone needs encouragement!

There other things that compel us;

  • A parent’s fierce protection of their child?
  • A man of the land’s protection and care for his land?
  • Your fierce loyalty to your team or your family name or your home, your country, your friends?

Paul says he is compelled to live something. He says it  because this Corinthian congregation, who seem to have replaced Paul and his gospel with their own self-importance, seem to believe that Paul is just “fake news”, or in it for himself. Paul needs to speak some words in defence of himself as an Apostle (along with Barnabas).

He has just talked about the freedom that he and all believers in Jesus have, and yet, how we are indebted to each other under the debt of self-giving love.

Now he goes on to speak of how in his calling as a “Sent One” (an Apostle) of Jesus, he has never placed burdens on them by demanding that they pay him for his preaching of the gospel. He has always looked after his own needs (money from his Tent making trade) and exercised his freedom in the gospel to preach the gospel among them for free. He is not in it for himself. He is not indebted to them in any monetary sense, but he is indebted to love them, and they he,  brothers and sisters in Christ.

And why does he do what he does and do it with no benefit to himself? Because he is compelled. There is something that drives his life. He just has to do this no matter what they say or do and above all else in life.

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Like a grape-grower harvesting the fruit, a woman bearing down in labour, a small business owner doing the end of year tax, this living and telling of Jesus and his story, his promise, his calling just has to be done!

Not surprising when you know Paul’s story. He was a fiercely committed man to the cause of the Jewish faith. So much so, that  he was an angry man bent on destroying that first community of the gospel in Jerusalem. Remember, Paul held their coats as the Jewish leaders stoned Stephen, the first martyr of the gospel to death.

But then, Jesus reached out to this violent Paul on that road to Damascus and called him of all people to be a good news man of love. He is now to live and tell the gospel among non-Jewish people for the rest of his life.

No wonder Paul just has to say it! For two big reasons,

  1. From his own experience of the underserved and unlearnt love and acceptance of Jesus and

  2. Jesus’ direct calling. Paul just has to speak that good news to as many as he can, including the people of Corinth.

 

OK pastor. We get it. You are saying that we should be like Paul in his “non-negotiable” proclaiming of Jesus. Yes, I am.

But here is the truth. I am not always compelled by this gospel I know. I suspect you aren’t either.

Often, I proclaim other things, other gods in whom I trust more than the mercy of the Lord because they compel me more at the time.

What might you and I proclaim more loudly than the good news of his grace? It could be many things.

  • Financial security and a comfortable life
  • Good name that says we are if not as good as the next person, we are probably just that little bit better than the next person – we are winners, not losers, we are the strong, not the weak. We are the right, never the wrong.
  • Health and wellbeing as we want it – which is achieved by the avoidance of opposition, any suffering at any price.
  • Our self-determination without any responsibility for others – “guilt free living” by living for one’s self and that is it! “I am not my brother’s keeper”.

I can easily use my freedom in Christ to speak of just about anything as my life driver, my “non-negotiable”, more than the love and calling of my Saviour, and often do. As a result, I come up short.

Jesus says that as we let anything other than his life and hope and forgiveness compel us, drive us, spring out of us –  we come up so much shorter than if we allow his word to compel us. “We have received our reward in full”, says Jesus (Matthew 6), if we set our hearts and lives on the pursuit of things and people and the things we have mentioned. There is no more. The world is as good as it gets and there is no more.

Paul has to speak more because he knows there is more. He knows to the bottom of his soul that Someone was compelled to reach out to him in his anger and arrogance, his mistrust and self-importance, and, not to condemn him but love him. He knows Jesus! He just cannot but share that. Paul has to respond to his call, lest he shrivel up and die inside.

He is compelled to love you, friend. His words, his life, his rugged cross and bleeding body, his rising light, his gifts of grace, his presence now tells you that.

Proclaim him. Angry man, sad woman, frightened child, broken heart, lost soul, empty spirit, proud man, right woman, popular young person but dying inside, he is compelled by love to call you and turn you into a person of gifts, grace and God-given go.

Go ahead. Speak him. No boasting, no seeking self-congratulation or accolade, just serving; just giving, just trusting him; just taking him at his word and being his witness to the weak and the strong, the proud and the timid, the well-healed and the damaged and disenfranchised in your sphere.

This community needs your voice and your presence, even if they are unsure or quite clear on their rejection of him. Nothing new there.

Some community of graced people need to give everything to the task and pay whatever the cost to get the message out in word and deed. People’s lives depend on it. Time for comfortability is past and opportunity for winning some for the gospel is upon us.

What compels you? If it is not the grace of Jesus, then it is only you and there is so much more than that.

He loves us beyond limits. He is crucified and we are raised. He is sin and we are free. He is lost and we are found.

28 He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. 29 To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. (Colossians 1:28-29)

O Lord Jesus. Compel us again and we will speak and act and share in the lasting blessing and life of your blessing. Amen

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

What is ‘non-negotiable’ for you at the moment? Make a list of the top three things that compel you to be involved in what you are. Share these….

 

Read the text slowly/deliberately taking note of things that jump out at you are raise a question in your mind. Note these as you go…

1 Corinthians 9:16-23

16 For when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, since I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! 17 If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. 18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make full use of my rights as a preacher of the gospel.

19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like 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. 21 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. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

 

Paul is defending himself. There is much evidence that the relationship between Paul and the congregation is rocky. For many reasons the people have sought other teachers and become “puffed up” with their knowledge about spiritual things. They also seem to be experiencing some kind of conflict.

 

What is Paul saying about himself and his integrity under question here?

 

How do you go about winning others to a good appreciation of the good news? Paul says it is important to be “all things to all people”. To be all things to all people would require beginning where the other person is at and going from there. Think about/share and example of when you did this and what happened.

 

Being all things to all people would require more listening than speaking, lest you just speak words that cannot be received/understood. How would you describe your ability to listen to others at the moment?

 

Paul’s motivation for becoming what he needs to be to relate to people and share the good news in a way they can receive it is to “win them”. That implies that the motivation is not to tell people what they should think, as if they are completely wrong! Sharing the good news to be right automatically makes the other person ‘wrong” and they sense that. This is a denial of the Spirit’s work in the person’s life long before you or I turned up!

 

It also implies that when we have an opportunity to share something of our relationship with the Lord that we don’t do this to be right. or good, or better than the other person, and certainly not to judge and condemn them for being wrong, but to ‘win them’ back to their heavenly Father who loves them. How would you say you go about this, or would like to go about this in your workplace, your family, your home, among your friends?

 

Most people, find speaking about their faith in the Lord a little daunting at times. Why is this so for you? Are you scared of what people think of you – that they will dismiss you or even reject you? Is it just a fear of getting something wrong – saying the wrong words or misleading someone? Is it just that you are not that compelled to win others to God’s grace? It is easy to be complacent rather than be compelled in our busy and largely comfortable life here in the Western world.

 

Share/think about your motivations and fears when it comes to sharing the gospel and ask the Spirit to show you what the real barriers are and give you his power to have courage and try sharing your faith next time the opportunity presents.

 

One thing that has helped many people be more confident in this is just to “bring Jesus” into the conversation. This means just sharing a story or parable or event in Jesus’ life that you know in your own words and letting that just be in the conversation. In this way you cannot get it wrong. You are not forcing your opinion on the other person (which we all dislike!). You are simply speaking what you know from experience and God’s Word in a way that does not judge or condemn but simply is. People can make of it what they will and the seeds of the gospel are planted and in the Spirit’s hands.

 

Pray for one person whom you would love to see come to a living faith in Jesus this week.

1 Comment

  1. A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, and must empty ourselves. Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness.”
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