A Plate Full of Faithfulness: How Food Reveals and Reforms Our Faith (1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1)

sermon photo“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” is John Piper’s famous dictum fusing God’s passion to be worshiped and man’s passion to be happy. Yet, spoken into our hyper-individualistic culture, this glorious truth might lead some to think glorifying God is an individual’s task.

In truth, God is glorified as we use our freedom to serve others. We cannot glorify him if we care nothing for our neighbors or God’s creation. This is the point of 1 Corinthians 10 where Paul concludes his instruction about food sacrificed to idols by saying we are not to seek ourselves, but the good of others. God is glorified in eating and drinking that aims to strengthen others, not just ourselves. Likewise, if eating and drinking are shaped by the gospel, then it stands to reason (once again) that every area of life must be gospel-shaped.

In this week’s sermon, we consider a theology of food and drink and all of life as Paul finishes his discussion about food sacrificed to idols in 1 Corinthians 10:23–11:1. You can listen to the sermon here and read the sermon notes here. Discussion questions and resources for further study are below. Continue reading

Get a Rhythm with Christ and his People: Communion, Culture, and Co-Mission (pt. 2) (1 Corinthians 10:14–22)

sermon photoLast week we saw the covenantal nature of communion and how the Lord’s Table not only creates a thick relationship with Christ but also with one another. This week’s sermon furthered that discussion looking at ways we must resist the pulls of demonic-inspired idols. In an applicational message on 1 Corinthians 10:14–22, I argued

  1. Communion creates culture—for good or bad; therefore,
  2. Gospel culture reinforces communion with Christ; and
  3. Godless culture resists communion with Christ; so
  4. We resist the table of demons by taking our gospel culture public.

From these four points, we considered further how to recognize and resist modern temples, false gospels, and demonic idols. Specifically, we looked at the way iPhones function as modern-day temples with gospel promises, inviting us to make them our functional idols.

Sermon audio can be found here and sermon notes here. Discussion questions and further resources can be found below. Continue reading

Liturgical Lathes: Idolatry, Imagination, and James K. A. Smith’s ‘Homo Liturgicus’

jkasFew books have been more illuminating for me in 2016 than Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith, professor of philosophy at Calvin College. In fact, his anthropological observations have provided much background to the dangers of idolatry that we find in 1 Corinthians 10 (our church’s current sermon series).

In what follows, I will trace a few of his main points, to show how Christians who don’t want to worship idols yet create them through the rhythms of their lives. This post is the first in a brief series to interact with Desiring the Kingdom and the modern challenge of identifying idols and the liturgical lathes that create them.

Homo Liturgicus

In biology, the human species is called homo sapiens. Sapiens, or sapient, is a term for wisdom and intelligence (e.g., God is omni-sapient, all-wise). Compared to all other species, humans possess a higher degree of rationality and intelligence, hence we are called homo sapiens. 

Smith takes this idea and shows how philosophers and theologians have defined humanity in terms of rationality (“I think, therefore I am”) and belief (“I believe, therefore I am”) (40–46). In contrast, he argues we should understand humans as basically affective–“the human person as lover” (46ff). He critiques purely-cerebral anthropologies, and argues we must consider the human body and the heart: “If humans are conceived almost as beings without bodies, then they also are portrayed as creatures without histories, without any sense of unfolding and development over time” (47).

While his argument may, at first, sound as if he is denying the place of the intellect, it must be remembered that this philosopher (whose vocation trades on the intellect) is offering a corrective to disembodied anthropologies which forget how much our bodies impact our thinking, feeling, and believing. In fact, Smith’s taxonomy of thinking, believing, and loving anthropologies helps us recover an Augustinian view of humanity, with its attention to affections and desires. In our hyper-visual, über-sensual world, we desperately need this corrective. So, let’s dig in. Continue reading

Let the Reader Understand: Interpretation That Sanctifies (1 Corinthians 10:1–13)

sermon photoTypology. Intertexuality. Biblical interpretation. Sanctification.

Those are esoteric subjects for a nerdy few, right? Well, I don’t think so. At least, according to 1 Corinthians 10, we see how the Apostle Paul cites ten different events in Israel’s history, which he says were written down for the church, as a means of instruction and sanctification.

In a section of 1 Corinthians where Paul continues to confront idolatry, Paul teaches us how to read the Bible and what ongoing purpose the Old Testament Scripture has for New Testament churches. You can listen to or read this week’s sermon. Below are discussion questions and resources for further study.  Continue reading

Communion as a Community Meal

bread

Because there is one bread,
we who are many are one body,
for we all partake of the one bread.
– 1 Corinthians 10:17 –

The Lord’s Supper is a treasury of Christ-remembering, kingdom-anticipating, church-unifying, soul-stirring symbolism. As Jesus said of the bread in Luke 22, “This is my body, which is given for you” (v. 19) and of the fruit of the vine, “This cup . . . is the new covenant in my blood” (v. 20). Laden with spiritual significance, both of these statements are symbolical. The bread represents the body of Christ (and more specifically the death of Jesus); the cup represents the blood of Christ (and more specifically the promise of new covenant pardon). Together they form the two elements Christians “take” and “eat” (Matthew 26:26).

However, these edibles do not exhaust the symbolism of the Lord’s Supper. Far from it, in fact. Consider Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:17. Calling the Corinthians to flee from idolatry (10:13), he cautions them about their practices of eating from the Lord’s table and the demons’ table (v. 20). In this context, he teaches us a twofold lesson about the nature of the Lord’s Supper. Continue reading

What Good is the Book of Numbers?

serpentFew books in the Bible hide their riches better than the book of Numbers. Concealed by an accountant’s title (‘Numbers’) and begun with a lengthy census (ch. 1), the casual reader of Numbers may come to the honest, but mistaken, notion that this is a boring, impractical book.

However, Paul has the exact opposite feeling. In 1 Corinthians 10, he says that the events of Numbers (along with everything in the five books of Moses) “were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (v. 11). Specifically, Paul lists Israel’s sexual immorality at Baal-Peor in Numbers 25 (vv. 7–8), the incursion of serpents in Numbers 21 (v. 9), and the grumbling of Israel which occurred throughout the exodus journey (v. 10).

In truth, Paul reminds us that these ancient words are ever true and that in God’s wisdom they were written down for me and you. To put it more generally, the book of Numbers is not simply a book of Jewish history, a record of priestly duties, and medicinal wound care for scabs and leprosy victims. Oh no. It is more. It is a book of Christian Scripture that points us to Christ. Continue reading