The Messenger

Orangethorpe Christian Church

(Disciples of Christ)

Dr. Robert L. Case Pastor

"The Small Church with the Big Heart, Everyone Welcome"

2200 W. Orangethorpe Ave.

Fullerton CA 92833

(714) 871-3400

November, 2017

~~~~~ From Pastor Bob ~~~~~

Paul's Peculiar Understanding of Sprituality

There were a group of Christians in the early Church who felt that worship should be loud, demonstrative, filled with speaking in tongues and miraculous gifts of healing. They believed that without these obvious outward manifestations it simply was not worship. So, they would revel and even boast about their spiritual ecstasies and exploits. But Paul had a very different understanding of worship. The Apostle Paul felt that what was more important than speaking in tongues was the gift of prophecy—that is the ability to proclaim the message of Christ in a language that everyone understood. Furthermore, he also believed that those seemingly mundane gifts such as teaching, administration, and child care attendant were just as important as the flashier, flamboyant gifts.

In fact, Paul had a very peculiar approach to his spirituality. In II Corinthians 12:1-10 he writes:

“It is necessary to boast; [but] nothing is to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. 3 And I know that such a person—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows— 4 was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. 5 On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. 6 But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, 7 even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

You would have thought that Paul was going to finally share with us the details of that wonderful experience that he had on the Damascus road when he encountered the resurrected Christ or the other spiritual experiences he may have had but he doesn’t. Paul doesn’t talk about his own spiritual experiences but the experience of someone else. Paul refuses to boast about any of his spiritual experiences and instead insists on boasting about his weaknesses. Why? Because Paul realized that his salvation and any spiritual experience he may have had was totally and completely based not on his own accomplishments but on the grace of God. Paul had come to realization that Christianity was not about him or his spiritual experiences, Christianity was about God’s grace bestowed upon us through Christ. So Paul is “content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

In Philippians 3:7-11 we find a similar sentiment:

7 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Paul is very much aware that his obedience to the Law did not bring him salvation. In fact, he considers all of his own efforts to be rubbish. So, how did Paul find salvation? Paul found salvation not through works of the Law or for that matter anything that Paul had done but by becoming like Christ in his death. Dying to ourselves seems to be the true path to salvation and spirituality, not reveling and boasting about spiritual experiences.We need to be careful. We, like Paul, want to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection” but we do this not by boasting about our experiences but by being willing to share in Jesus’ suffering and death. This, indeed, is a peculiar understanding of what it means to be spiritual and not the "feel good’ religion one encounters in many Protestant churches today but it is the true path of spirituality.

See you in Church this Sunday and may God bless,

Pastor Bob