In today’s world of ministry scandals and church leadership failures, what constitutes a healthy church? As we dive into the fifth week of our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy “TA” Ateek shows us how healthy churches require healthy people and healthy pastors.
Standing Firm In A Fallen World | 1 Corinthians 16
The Purpose of Spiritual Gifts | 1 Corinthians 14
A Church Marked by Love | 1 Corinthians 13
How To Build A Church | 1 Corinthians 12
God's Design for Men and Women | 1 Corinthians 11:1-16
Repentance, Allegiance & Deference for the Glory of God | 1 Corinthians 10
Giving, Sharing, and Living for the Gospel | 1 Corinthians 9
Christians and Controversial Topics | 1 Corinthians 8
Being Single | 1 Corinthians 7:7-40
Fighting For Your Marriage | 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Sex and Glorifying God | 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Conflict: An Inevitable Opportunity | 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
Church Discipline: Sin, Grace, and Shepherding | 1 Corinthians 5
The Resurrection Is the Remedy to Our Hypocrisy | 1 Corinthians 15
The Purpose, Plot Twists, and Power of Christ | 1 Corinthians 4
Being a Healthy Church | 1 Corinthians 3:1-23
The Miracle of Spiritual Maturity | 1 Corinthians 2:1-16
The Miracle of Salvation | 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Priority, Preference, and Power | 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
Called, Gifted, and Kept by Jesus | 1 Corinthians 1:1-9
In today’s world of ministry scandals and church leadership failures, what constitutes a healthy church? As we dive into the fifth week of our 1 Corinthians series, Timothy “TA” Ateek shows us how healthy churches require healthy people and healthy pastors.
Blake Holmes: This morning, we're continuing our series looking at the book of 1 Corinthians. The more time I spend in this book, the more I'm just like, "That's what I needed today." I need to be reminded of these truths. I'm reminded how easy it is for my heart to drift. I need the rebuke, the correction of 1 Corinthians. In fact, that's what I consider the key word of 1 Corinthians: correction. It's so applicable for today.
It's as if TA and Elmore and I and others are in a room talking each week about how we want to pray in the service. We're reading through this and going… It's as if it's written today. It starts talking about divisions in the church and all of the things that work to divide us. It talks about sexual temptation and lawsuits. It talks about marriage. It talks about spiritual gifts and the role of women in the church and the centrality of the resurrection. There's so much for us here.
What I want to do, before TA comes up here, is I want to read to you where we're going to be. We're going to cover all of 1 Corinthians, chapter 3. I want you to hear it first before it's taught. So, if you have your Bibles, go ahead and turn to 1 Corinthians, chapter 3. Let me read it.
"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." Let me pray for us.
Father in heaven, as 1 Corinthians 3 reminds us, Jesus Christ is the foundation of the church. We, Lord, are your field. We are your building. We are your temple. There is much, Lord, just like in Corinth, and still today… There is much that works to divide us. Would you forgive us, Lord, for how we divide so easily over personal preferences and petty jealousies, pride, and personalities? Lord, would you fix our hearts on you this morning?
As your field, I pray, Lord, that you'd cultivate our hearts, that we'd be receptive to your Spirit, we'd receive what you have for us, that as you're building, Lord, each one of us would consider how we fit in relation to the other. Thank you, Lord, that we're not meant to live the Christian life alone, but together, and as we come together, we are your body. We are your temple. I thank you, Lord, that your Spirit no longer resides within a physical dwelling place but within our hearts.
Lord, may that make all the difference in the world for us today. May your Spirit speak to us. Would you give us receptive hearts? And not only to us, Lord. I pray for every gospel-believing, Christ-exalting church in our city, our country, and this world. I pray, Lord, that as this world looks frantically to and fro for peace and solutions, Lord, that we wouldn't find it within man's heart or the wisdom of this world, but we would look to you.
I thank you, Lord, for friends like Mark Davis at Park Cities Presbyterian Church, whom I met with this week. I thank you, Lord, for his faithfulness. I pray, Lord, that that church would be a prevailing church today. I pray, Lord, that Watermark would be a prevailing church today because of the gospel preached, your Spirit at work in our hearts, where our focus is, where our devotion is. Thank you for TA, for the ways you've gifted him. Lord, would you give us hearts to receive the message you've prepared? May you speak through my friend, and may we be receptive. We pray all this in the name of your Son and by the power of your Spirit, amen.
Timothy Ateek: Good morning. How are we doing today, Watermark? Hey, it's good to see you. I hope all is well. I'm so glad we have the opportunity to open up the Word of God together. I want to start by sharing with you… Yesterday, I watched some intense competition. You might be thinking March Madness. I'm not. I'm talking about the 4-year-old soccer field I watched my son Jake play on yesterday. We do have a 4-year-old who is playing soccer each Saturday.
Yesterday, a kid from the other team scored a goal for the wrong team. That's what happens on the 4-year-old soccer field. Kids will score goals for the other team. When goals are scored for the other team, do you know what the parents do? They celebrate. Why? Because it's inconsequential. No one is keeping score. One of my older kids yesterday was like, "Who won?" I was like, "That's a great question." No one can know for sure. It's inconsequential. It doesn't matter.
But here's the thing. In the church, when you score points for the other team, it does matter. It really does. The reality is this church, and any other church that proclaims Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior, has a true Enemy, and that Enemy's desire is to render this church, and any church that proclaims Christ, ineffective. We've seen in recent history… There is a very popular podcast that came out detailing the fall of a very famous church.
Then just this month, a documentary was released on a major platform exposing different failures within a very well-known church. So, some points have been scored for the other team. We don't want to be one of those churches, and we are not immune from becoming one of those churches. So, this morning, as we step back into the book of 1 Corinthians, what Paul is going to encourage us to do is to fight for health at Watermark Community Church.
Here is the truth I need you to get your minds and hearts around: if we are going to be a healthy church, then we have to understand that healthy churches require healthy people and healthy pastors. Period. You cannot have a healthy church without healthy people in it, and you can't have a healthy church without healthy pastors leading it.
If you're not in 1 Corinthians yet, turn with me to 1 Corinthians, chapter 3. As Blake just read, we're going to process through the whole chapter, so we have a lot of work to do this morning. Our goal is to identify what it looks like for you to be a healthy people, and what it looks like for us to be healthy pastors so that we can be a church that is healthy, not scoring points for the other team. So let's jump right in. First, I just want to address… Because Blake has already read the passage, we don't need to read it again.
I'm worried about the person who, when I said, "Healthy churches require healthy people," automatically identified as the healthy person without hearing the message. That's the problem. I'm coming after you this morning. We need to make sure you are healthy. Healthy churches require healthy people.
One of the reasons looking at 1 Corinthians is so effective is because 1 Corinthians was a very unhealthy church. As we look at the unhealthiness of the Corinthians, we are able to look at that and figure out what it looks like for us to pursue healthiness. Let me just tell you what it looks like to be a healthy people.
I'm first going to address healthy people, and there are going to be three points for you. Then I'm going to talk about what it looks like for the people on this stage to be healthy pastors, and there are going to be three points for us. After that, I'm going to give us three application points. So, nine points total. Some of you are like, "We're going to be here all day." We will be. Good luck. Get comfortable. It's going to be awesome. (Not really.)
A. Healthy people are fully surrendered to the Spirit. Did you see how Paul started? Look back at verse 1. "But I, brothers…" That's kind. He's like, "Hey, friends," and then he's going to be like, Bam! He always softens it, like, "Hey, we're all family, but…" " [I] could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ."
He says, "I couldn't address you as spiritual people." We understand what it means to be a spiritual person because of what we talked about last week. Do you remember what it means to be a spiritual person? It means to be someone who is fully surrendered to the Spirit. That's why I said healthy people are fully surrendered to the Spirit.
What Paul told us last week is what spiritual maturity really looks like. Do you remember how we defined spiritual maturity? If you weren't here last week, and you're like, "I want to know what it means to be spiritually mature," here it is: spiritual maturity is simply thinking how God thinks. That's it. You're like, "That's not enough." No, it is enough, because what you think will determine what you feel, and what you feel will determine what you do.
Spiritual maturity is simply thinking how God thinks. How is it possible to think how God thinks? Well, that is what Paul unpacked for us last week. He talked about the Spirit of God who fully understands the mind of God because he is God. When you come to a place where you invite Christ into your life to be your Lord and Savior, that same Spirit, who is God and fully understands God, comes and lives inside of you and leads you into understanding of God.
When you are fully surrendered to the Spirit of God, you begin to think like God would think, and because you think like God thinks, you begin to feel what God would feel, and you begin to do what God would do. That is how you become a spiritual person. Spiritual maturity is not the result of spiritual activity; it's the result of spiritual availability.
So, if you want to be a truly spiritually mature person, then the best thing you can do is start every day on your knees with hands open, just saying, "God, I surrender every square inch of my being to you. Holy Spirit, you can have your way in me. Would you make me as much like Jesus as possible? I want to think how you think. I want to feel how you feel. I want to do what you would do. Your way is the best way. I am with you. You do whatever you want." That's how spiritual maturity comes to pass.
The Corinthians aren't doing that. They're not fully surrendered to the Spirit. So, Paul says, "I couldn't address you as spiritual people. Even though you have the Spirit in you, you're acting like you don't have the Spirit in you. You're acting like people of the flesh. You're acting like people who are physical beings who are operating in life but don't have the Spirit of God inside of them." He then slaps them in the face. He's like, "You're acting like infants in Christ."
He's like, "You're not growing up. You're spiritually stunted. I preached the gospel to you years ago. You put your faith in Jesus, yet you're still in diapers. You're still nursing on the bottle. Something is terribly wrong here. You are Christians, yet I'm having to talk to you like you aren't." Do you guys remember those books you would read when you were sitting in the doctor's waiting room, the Where's Waldo? books? Do you remember that? Just me? Great. This illustration is not going to go well at all then.
If you don't know what Where's Waldo? was… There would be these different pictures just full of people at the carnival or at just life, just people everywhere, and your job was to find Waldo. How did you find Waldo? You all really don't know Where's Waldo? It was because he was a guy wearing stripes. He was a guy with a beanie with red stripes. Even in the middle of the summer, Waldo was rocking the beanie. Super hipster. You found him because of his stripes. Paul is like, "You guys are Waldo without stripes. You look no different. You're not growing up."
Back in the fall, I went to this reunion thing for my fraternity at Texas A&M. It was such an interesting experience, because you have these guys who have been out of school for 20-plus years, and some of the guys… It's like, "Man, you really turned it around. Way to go. You got married. Never saw that happening. And look at you. You have these sweet little daughters. You're a soft dude now. That's amazing."
Then there are other guys… It's like, "What are we doing here?" It's like they act the same way. They're telling the same inappropriate jokes. They're drinking the same amount of alcohol. They're sharing the same war stories, the same conquests of women. It's like, "Really? That was something in your 20s. It wasn't good then, and now you're in your mid-40s, and nothing has changed." You just want to get in their face and be like, "Hey, welcome to your mid-40s. We need to do something different. It's time to grow up."
That's what Paul is saying here spiritually. He's like, "Guys, there has been a stunting to your growth. You have the Spirit of God living inside of you, yet you're not living fully surrendered to the Spirit." In verse 2, he says, "I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh."
What you need to understand is when Paul uses milk and solid food, he's not drawing a distinction in content, because Paul's content actually doesn't change. The gospel is actually milk and solid food at the same time. What Paul is talking about is the Corinthians' perception of the gospel. The Corinthians actually thought they were very spiritual and mature people, but they were pursuing other wisdom apart from the gospel to become spiritual and mature.
The Corinthians were looking at the gospel as milk, so Paul is like, "In your eyes it was just milk, not solid food." What Paul is addressing here is the Corinthians' lack of application of the gospel, that there was a digestion issue, and they were refusing to apply it, because they were just viewing it as milk when what their lives needed was not just the milk of the gospel but the solid food of the gospel.
When I talk about the gospel, I'm talking about Jesus Christ dying for our sins and rising from the dead. That's what I mean when I say the gospel. I'm talking about the reality that we could never make ourselves right with God. If you're here this morning and you don't know Jesus and you think that one day you'll stand before God, and if he were to ask you, "Why should I let you into heaven?" you're going to tell him all of the things you've done to be good enough for him, I assure you it won't be enough.
The good news of the gospel is when we could do nothing, God did everything. God in his sovereign plan sent his Son Jesus, who was, in fact, God, and Jesus Christ was punished so that we wouldn't have to be. All of our sin became his so that through faith in Jesus, all of his righteousness could count as our righteousness, so that when God sees us, he sees Jesus, and he can love us, and he can accept us and express his approval of us, not because of anything we do, but because of what Jesus Christ has done. We never outgrow that reality.
Jerry Bridges actually said to preach the gospel to yourself every day. Why? Because the gospel isn't just a means of transportation to heaven; the gospel is a means of transformation. Now, I'll give you an example. Let me just choose something that probably the majority of the people in the room struggle with, even if you don't realize it. It's comparison. We compare like we breathe. You've been comparing since you walked in.
You might have been walking through the Town Center and were like, "Okay. That guy is way more jacked than I am. That's just the reality." Or "You know what? She's skinnier than I am. She fixed her hair today, and I didn't." It could be you walked in here, and someone is raising their hands, and you're like, "Okay. They're more spiritual than I am. Today, they're more into this than I am." We compare like we breathe.
You're going to walk out. You're going to see people getting in their nicer cars, and you're going to be like, "I kind of want that." Or you're going to drive past someone's bigger house, and something is going to compare. Why do we compare? Well, Leon Festinger back in 1954 popularized the social comparison theory, which basically says the reason we compare is to determine our worth in society. We're trying to figure out how valuable we are.
Here's the thing. If you figure out your value based on how you perform or how much people applaud you, your value is going to constantly be fluctuating, yet when you look at the gospel… What we'll see in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, is it tells us you were bought with a price. When Christ was crucified, his declaration from the cross was "This is now what you're worth to me. The value I'm putting on your life is this: you are worth my body and blood, not because of who you are or what you've done, but because I have chosen to make that your value."
You are now valued at the body and blood of Jesus Christ. When you embrace that, it changes everything. You don't have to chase approval because approval is chasing you. Do you understand? This is how the gospel speaks to our lives. We have to teach ourselves the gospel every day. But with the Corinthians, there was a lack of application of the gospel. I hope that won't be true of us. Healthy people are fully surrendered to the Spirit.
B. Healthy people don't sacrifice unity in the church for the sake of their preferences. Let me say that again. Healthy people don't sacrifice unity in the church for the sake of their preferences. Going on in verse 3, Paul says, "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, 'I follow Paul,' and another, 'I follow Apollos,' are you not being merely human?"
Paul gets very specific and says, "Hey, I'm talking about the fact that you're Christians but are acting like you're not. Let me tell you precisely why I'm saying you're Christians but are acting like you're not. It's because you're fighting. You're fighting in the church, and you are dying on the hill of your preferences. You guys are looking at your favorite pastors, your favorite teachers, and you're like, 'You know what? He's better than so-and-so.' You're just doing what the rest of the world is doing."
In Corinth, traveling orators would come to town, and people would flock to see them. The way the orators would develop fame or success would be by winning their arguments, having an argument that was better than another orator. So, these orators would gather followings, and followers would find their identity in the orators they followed. They would look at followers of other orators, and they would feel some sense of superiority.
He's like, "You're doing the same thing inside the church. You're looking at Paul or Peter or Apollos, and you think you're somebody or better because you really like listening to one more than the other." Do you know what Paul is saying? He's saying, "That's actually a sign of spiritual immaturity. You're dying on the hill of your preferences, and it's fracturing the church." Unfortunately, that happens all the time today.
Thom Rainer, who was a church consultant for years… He was the president of Lifeway Resources. Now he has a ministry of resources to church leaders. He just asked on Twitter for people's horror stories of what churches have fought about. Let me just read you two of them. One church argued over the appropriate length of the worship pastor's beard. I just want you to know Jon Abel's beard is elder approved. We're good. You don't even need to fight about it. We're good.
One church fought over (this one is actually pretty good) whether or not to install restroom stall dividers in the women's restroom. I don't know if that was, like, a barrier to community. I don't know. Y'all usually go in groups. I just figure y'all are doing community. I don't know what's happening. (Sorry I said that.) Here's the reality. Paul is saying, "You know what? You insisting that your way is the best way is actually a mark of spiritual immaturity." Isn't that interesting?
Even in this church, you insisting that your way is the most godly way is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Now let me be clear on my wording. I said you insisting. I didn't say you believing that your way is the most godly way, because you're entitled to your opinions, but when you insist by sending a heated email to leadership or just kind of emotionally vomiting on your Community Group about things that are not gospel related but just all about your preference inside of the church… I love you enough to say it's actually a sign of spiritual immaturity in your life.
I know some of you are like, "Who's the new guy? What, you've been here, like, five minutes?" Here's the thing. There are 7,000 to 8,000 people on this campus every single Sunday, which means there are 7,000 to 8,000 opinions of what the most enjoyable and comfortable way of doing church is. It is impossible for us to cater to every person's personal preference of what is most enjoyable or most comfortable, and that's not our calling. That's not what God has called us to do.
So, there are going to be times where we do things one way, and you'd prefer for us to do things another way, but it has no impact on the gospel, and it'll be okay. We don't have to divide because of our preferences. We'll actually go along with another way for the sake of unity in this church. (It's too convicting. Let's move on fast.)
C. Healthy people have a correct understanding of and relationship to spiritual leaders. Look at what Paul says in verse 5. Again, he's just dialing in on their tendency to assert their preferences of their spiritual leaders. In verse 5, he says, "What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each."
He's saying, "Look. God has given each one of us a job to do in the church, so we're just doing our jobs. We're just servants." But do you know what our tendency is? Our tendency is to turn servants into saviors. I remember speaking at these different youth camps in the summer, and kids would come up to me and ask me to autograph their Bibles. I'm like, "That feels all sorts of wrong." The kids were like, "You changed my life." I'm like, "I really didn't." But that's our tendency: to turn servants into saviors.
I was the director of a ministry at A&M called Breakaway Ministries, and the director before me… His name is Ben Stuart. I'm not just saying this. He is one of the most gifted communicators in our nation today. I remember talking to this college student. It was just a conversation with me. Here's what he said: "Nobody speaks to me like Ben Stuart does. I mean, you're good, but nobody speaks to me like Ben." I'm like, "No. The Holy Spirit actually can speak to you better than Ben does." But our tendency is to make saviors out of servants.
Let me just tell you who I am. Let me tell you who John Elmore is. Let me tell you who your favorite pastor is, the person you podcast, the person you think everyone needs to hear. We are all just spiritual mailmen. I am just a spiritual mailman. I did not write the letter. I didn't. This love letter from God to you was written by God. It was not written by me. I am simply the mailman who delivers the letter. That's it. John Elmore…spiritual mailman. The pastor you love and everyone needs to hear who you podcast all the time…spiritual mailman.
Our tendency is to glorify the mailman. Let me ask you. When's the last time you took a selfie with your mailman? Anyone? When's the last time you got nervous when you saw the mailman coming, like, "Oh my gosh! Oh geez. All right. Here he comes. Okay. I just at least want to say hi." When's the last time, when they were driving by your house, you walked up and were like, "Hey, I really like how you give me my mail"? When's the last time? No. They're just a mailman. I'm just a mailman. John is just a mailman.
Let me just beg you at this church… Don't refuse to hear the letter unless your favorite mailman is delivering the letter. This is so unhealthy. Healthy people have a correct understanding of and relationship to spiritual leaders. Paul continues to emphasize this. Look at verses 6 and 7. "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth."
Paul picks up this gardening or farming metaphor. It should be even more meaningful to us today than it was to people back then, because we are dialed in on agriculture. Scientists can get in a lab with all of the different elements from Mars, and they can grow things. They know they can grow things.
Yet it's different in the spiritual realm, because John and I can spend 15 to 25 hours every week preparing our messages, and the worship band can rehearse like crazy, and our production team can come in here and play with the lights and get the audio dialed in just right so that every Sunday it's just this amazing experience, yet 7,000 to 8,000 people can go to all the effort to get dressed, fight traffic to get in here, sit here for an hour and 20 minutes, and fight traffic out of here with no spiritual movement in their lives.
I can plant or John can plant or Blake can plant. Any one of us can water, but what does Paul say? God gives the growth. That's why spiritual growth is a miracle. If God doesn't do a work in you, you're out of luck, because I can't save you. I can't make you more spiritual. Verse 8: "He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor."
All he's saying is, "You know what? What I'm doing right now…" Ultimately, this job wasn't given to me by the elders of Watermark. It was given to me by God through the elders of Watermark. So, I am most accountable to God for the job I do, and you're going to see that starting in verse 10. But in verse 9, he says, "For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building."
He says we're God's fellow workers, and you are God's field, and you are God's building. He's saying we all belong to God. I don't belong to you, and you don't belong to me. I belong to God, and you belong to God. But if you look at what we're doing here… We're in a huge auditorium. I have a microphone on. There are lights on me. People at certain points during the last 30 minutes have raised their hands or sung along to something.
When's the only other time in our world that that is happening? At a concert. Right? And what's the expectation at a concert? Well, the performer on the stage is performing to gain fame, and the people in the audience have paid a ticket, and their goal is to be entertained and to leave satisfied. If they leave unsatisfied, they might choose to never come back or to post a bad review or to post something negative on Instagram. Our tendency is to bring that into the church.
If we're not careful, I'm going to use this stage to build a platform, and you're going to use this church to make sure life is as enjoyable and as comfortable as possible, but that's not the point of the church. I belong to God. You belong to God. We're his. We're here for his exaltation, not mine. We're here for his glory, not your comfort. So, healthy people have a correct understanding of and relationship to spiritual leaders. Okay. So, we've established that healthy churches require healthy people.
A. Healthy pastors know who they are and who they aren't. Who am I? I am a servant. That's what we saw up in verse 5. That's all we are. We are just servants. Who are we? We are just spiritual mailmen. If John and I aren't careful, we're going to begin to believe that we need your approval and your applause, so we're going to begin to care too much about how we're delivering the mail. We're going to care too much about whether or not, when we hand you the letter, you're like, "Thank you so much. You are the best mailman out there."
We just have to remember that's all we are. Our job is to faithfully deliver the mail. John the Baptist is a great example for us, because when John the Baptist was on the scene, the religious leaders of the day didn't know what to do with John the Baptist, so they went to him and just asked him, "Who are you?" They wanted to know if he was the Messiah who was coming. What did John the Baptist say? John 1:20: "He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, 'I am not the Christ.'"
"I'm not the Christ." Let me just echo that. I'm not the Christ. I cannot save any of you. I cannot change any of your lives. When I stand before God, none of y'all are sneaking in behind me, like, "Well, he was my pastor, so I'll just follow him in." No. Hey, you have to deal with Jesus on your own terms, just as I have had to deal with Jesus on his terms. I'm not the Christ.
Tim Challies said this. Blake sent John and me this quote, and it was such a good encouragement. Blake is such a good encourager. Tim says, "The preacher is not someone who is to be looked at, but someone who is to be looked through. The task of the preacher is not to stand before the church and be seen and recognized as a great man or even a great preacher. The task of the preacher is to draw the minds and hearts of his listeners to God. He has failed in his calling if he is looked at instead of looked through." Healthy pastors know who they are and who they aren't.
B. Healthy pastors always preach Jesus. Look with me at verse 10. Paul says, "According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it." What Paul is saying is, "Look. Everything that has been going on has just been a demonstration of God's grace."
Paul is saying, "The fact that I'm even a Christian is the grace of God. The fact that I have the wiring and the gifting and the calling I have is the grace of God. The fact that you have put your trust in Jesus Christ is the grace of God." Paul is saying, "When I came to you and preached the gospel, I laid the foundation." What is the foundation Paul laid? It was the foundation of Jesus.
That's why, in chapter 15, Paul says, "I preached to you of first importance…" What did he preach? "Christ died, was buried, and rose from the dead." That was the foundation he laid. So, Paul is basically saying, "Look. I'm not with you guys anymore, but anyone else who comes after me and leads in the church needs to be careful how they build upon that foundation, because there's a right and a wrong way to build upon the foundation of Jesus Christ."
Verse 11: "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." He's saying any other type of foundation would be inappropriate and unnecessary. So, what do you do if the foundation is Jesus? You make everything about Jesus. Verse 12: "Now if anyone builds on the foundation…" Watch the building materials. "…with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done."
Paul right now is talking about what is known as the judgment seat of Christ. We find in 2 Corinthians 5:10, Paul says, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." This isn't about standing before God and him deciding whether you're going to heaven or hell. This is talking about believers standing before God and giving an account for how they've lived the life God has given them.
God will reward you on that day for what you've done. Paul is talking about that moment, and we'll see that in just a moment. That's just what you need to know he's talking about. He uses fire here. Fire is a sign of judgment, but what we are not talking about here is eternal judgment in hell. Fire here is what tests the work. It is not what destroys the person being judged.
I want you to see the building materials: gold, silver, and precious stones. What happens to those when they're put in fire? They stay. Right? They might become liquified, but they remain. What happens to wood, hay, or straw? They burn up. What Paul is saying is, "Hey, look. Spiritual leaders, you need to be careful how you build upon the foundation, because what you build with determines the quality of your work, and when you stand before God, all the work you did is either going to burn up or you're going to be rewarded for it."
So, what does it look like for a spiritual leader, for a pastor, to build with gold, silver, or precious stones? Here it is: you always preach Jesus. Healthy pastors always preach Jesus. Why do I say this? I say this because if you look back at chapter 2, verse 6, Paul says, "Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age…" He's talking about the wisdom that is taught to Christians. Then in chapter 1, verse 30, we find out what that wisdom is. "And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom…" Jesus is the wisdom.
So, this church will always be about Jesus. If we make you a better husband but not a more godly husband, that's a problem. If we make you a more disciplined person but not a more godly person, that's a problem. We're not just going to gather together and figure out how we can be more high capacity or more strategic or more disciplined or how to just do more good things. We are always going to come back to Jesus.
C. Healthy pastors know that one day they will stand before Jesus. That's what we were just talking about: the judgment seat of Christ. Verse 13: "…each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."
God will test the quality of our work. What is quality work in God's eyes? Quality work is Christ-exalting work. So, if you're out there and you're a young, aspiring pastor, let me just remind you what James 3:1 says. "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness." Anyone want to be a pastor? God cares about what we do.
I remember sitting in a room with a bunch of leaders, and Francis Chan, if you're familiar with him, was addressing this group of leaders. Here's what he said. I loved it. He was like, "You know what? If I die on the way home, and I stand before God, I'm not going to give a rip about what you just thought of me speaking. I'm only going to care about what he thinks." I have to remind myself of that.
There are times when I'm preparing for Sunday morning, and I'm praying for God to purify my heart for Sundays. There are times where I'll pray, "God, if I die on the way home, may I be found faithful in the last message that I preach," because ultimately, I'm going to stand before him, and when I stand before him, I won't give a rip about what you think of me. It's just good to remember healthy pastors know that one day they will stand before Jesus.
So, here's what we've established this morning. Healthy churches require healthy people and healthy pastors. So, what do we do? What's our response? Three things: recognize, repent, and rejoice. Recognize where you're unhealthy, repent of the ways you're unhealthy, and then rejoice yourself to health. We see that in the remainder of this chapter.
First, recognize. Look at what Paul says in verse 16. "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple." Paul is introducing this idea that, "Hey, you're not just any old building. You're actually God's temple." What was God's temple in the Old Testament? It was the place where God's presence resided.
Now he's saying, "That's who you are." When he uses the word you, it's not individual; it's plural. He's saying that's who we are. As we gather together as Watermark, we are a place where God's Spirit resides. May we be a people who are marked by God's presence. When visitors come, my hope is that you would come, and you would leave saying, "God is here, and I've met with him."
When you come, if you've been coming here for 22 years, my hope is every Sunday you would come, and you would believe, "God is here, and I have the opportunity and the privilege to meet with him," because God is present in the midst of his people. Yet there are ways we can destroy what's happening here.
How do we do that? By you majoring in your preferences, by you bringing divisions to the church by dying on the hill of your preferences. How can I destroy what's going on here? By building my own platform, by caring too much about what you think of me, by insisting that you worship me instead of the one I proclaim.
So, it's just good for us to, first, recognize. Where is there unhealth in our lives? If you're not fully surrendered to the Spirit or if you're majoring in your preferences or if you have an unhealthy relationship with the people who are on this stage or podcasts you listen to, you need to recognize that. John and I need to recognize anywhere where our hearts are not right before the Lord when we get up on this stage. We need to recognize.
Secondly, let's repent of it. Paul says, "Let no one deceive himself." It feels like he starts talking about a different topic, but he's not. He says, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, 'He catches the wise in their craftiness,' and again, 'The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.' So let no one boast in men."
He's saying, "Look. You guys have thought that you're wise in this age, but wise in this age means you're wise apart from God and the work of the Spirit in your life. The reason you think you're so wise is you've been putting your hope in the pastors who lead you, but if you think that's what makes you wise, be careful, because your wisdom in God's eyes is foolishness."
So, what is his recommendation? What did he say? He says, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age…" Here's his recommendation: "…let him become a fool that he may become wise." What's his word? Repent. Turn from what you think is right and turn toward what God has declared to be right. Repent of any unhealthiness.
Then, finally, rejoice. Look at what he says. Look at how he ends the passage. Verse 21. This is interesting. I just want to unpack it for you. He says, "For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
What's Paul saying here? Here's his point. Don't miss it. His point is "Look at what Jesus Christ has done. Because of Jesus, everything…the pastors who lead you and everything in this world…is actually now to your benefit." So, before we address the leaders' names that he mentioned, did you see the list? He says, "Whether life or death or the present or the future…all are yours." What's he saying? Jesus Christ has flipped everything.
There are things in this world that cause suffering, yet even those things Jesus has redeemed. Now all are yours, and all are to your benefit. Jesus Christ went to the cross. He died and was buried. He rose from the dead. When you put your faith and trust in him, it changes your reality. Your life now is a life where the Spirit of God fills you and leads you. You get to live life with God now. You don't have to wait until heaven. Heaven has come to you to be with you.
Death is not your greatest fear anymore. It's actually your reward, because when you die, life doesn't get worse; it just gets better. Your present now has purpose. Why? Because Christ has brought you into his family, and he has invited you into the family mission. You're an ambassador of Christ, and your future is secure, because one day you will spend all of eternity beholding the beauty and glory of Jesus Christ.
Paul is saying, "Everything is for your benefit." What does it have to do with Paul, Cephas, and Apollos? He's like, "Why are you choosing one over the other? You get all three! All three are to your benefit. Don't play favorites, because you get them all. Be faithful. Be grateful. Rejoice that God has given you all things."
Do you want to be healthy? Recognize, repent, and rejoice. I assure you… Just watch the correlation between gratitude and health. The more grateful you are for what's happening here at Watermark the healthier you will be. Healthy churches require healthy people and healthy pastors. May we not be a church that scores points for the other team, but may we recognize, repent, and rejoice. Let's pray together.
Lord Jesus, I know we have downloaded a lot this morning, yet we need it, God. We never just want to assume we're healthy, and we never want to just assume that this place is healthy, but it is our desire to be a healthy, Christ-exalting, Christ-glorifying church. I pray for the people in this room. May they be fully surrendered to your Spirit. May they not die on the hill of their preferences at the cost of unity. I pray their understanding of and their relationship to the leaders who are on this stage would be healthy, Lord God.
I pray for the people on this stage and the leaders at this church, Lord God. I pray that we would be clear on who we are and who we're not, that we are not the Christ. God, my hope and prayer is that we would always preach Jesus, that there would never be a Sunday that feels more self-help than Christ-exalting. Lord, may we live with the sobering reminder that one day we will give an account to how we used our time on this earth.
May we be a people, God, who recognize. God, would you convict us even now. May we repent, and may we rejoice. If there's anyone in the room this morning who doesn't know you, Lord God, then I pray that they would see the beauty of Jesus for the first time and they would put their faith in you. We love you. You are a good King, Lord Jesus. Amen.