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1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Have you ever been told you are not good enough? How does that feel?
For much the same reason that sermons about evolution send me bananas, many sermons about morality drive me nuts. It has been said that anything that can be put in a nutshell, belongs there. I feel this way about a lot of sermons I hear and articles I read about Christian character development. Not because they are bad, just because they come from a different worldview than the Bible.
There are lots of books that teach strategies for being a better person. And there are lots of sermons being preached from those books. But, to a large extent, those books are built on a naturalistic worldview rather than the theistic worldview of the Bible. Let me show you what I mean.
I recently received a letter from a pastor who stated that good Christian leaders need to have ethos, pathos and logos to earn respect. Because these words are in Greek, we stroke our chins and say, “Ah, yes. Greek! The New Testament is written in Greek. This must be Biblical.” But, it’s not. These three things, which basically mean ethics, emotions and logic are strategies for building persuasion by reason - called “the three artistic proofs” by their creator, Aristotle. They are the foundation for presenting a good version of you in which you compare yourself with other people and your previous self - growing ever more persuasive as you increase in moral virtue.
The journey from the mind of Aristotle to the pen of a pastor is one of nearly 2500 years. Aristotle was a student of Plato. Plato was a student of Socrates. All three were the founders of the worldview whose rule we live under today - naturalism. In short, these three philosophers described the foundational rules on which are built mathematics “of two things, each is one and both are two”, science “the matter of knowledge is existence” and philosophy "I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” From there, two thousand years later, naturalism and her bedfellow the scientific method evolved.
A handful of centuries after these three men started spinning natural answers for supernatural questions, the Christian church began to form, and with it, her first apologist, Paul. The Apostle Paul was a Jewish thinker. He was also Greek thinker. And he knew the teachings of these three men - teachings being developed and taught in The School of Athens for generations. Paul saw how the society around him was being shaped by these ways of thinking. And he said a lot to counter naturalism with supernaturalism.
In Greek thought, you are the hero in your own story.
In Biblical thought, you are a single player in the storyline of God’s epic narrative in which He is the Hero.
Paul worked hard to rescue the Christian worldview from the Greek worldview permeating the world around them. He wrote many letters (and preached many sermons) explaining that God’s people are to build their lives on God’s thoughts, not their own. Christian character development is not about making yourself more persuasive - through developing ethics, emotions or logic - but about showing God and His Truth as more persuasive through faith, hope and love.
Faith - looks back.
Hope - looks forward.
Love - looks everywhere.
All are outward focused. None are self-centred.
All three are from God, for God and in God.
If you spend your days becoming a better version of yourself, your story starts and finishes with you. But if we spend our lives focusing on Jesus, His story, which has neither beginning nor end, will increase and embrace - leading others toward Jesus and into the Kingdom of God.
Stop looking at yourself.
Look to Jesus.
He will shine through you into the world.
And He will change you, from (your) glory to (His) glory - to the glory of God the Father.
** Continued in Living Art tomorrow **