One of the greatest overlooked challenges facing follower of Jesus is the influence of culture. It is something that influences all of us, many times we are not even aware of it’s influence. It is so significant that a significant portion of the teaching in the New Testament warns believers about this spiritual danger.
Let’s focus on Paul’s statement to the church at Corinth. We read, “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12) Paul is reminding the followers in Corinth that they are called to be different. He is calling them to be Christian. The situation addressed in the first four chapters is division in the church. If you have ever been party to a church fight, this is probably what is happening here. The challenge in these emotional situations is that we forget to follow Jesus. Paul is reminding us here that our actions (and words) should be different from those that are not followers. He uses the metaphor of the “spirit of the world” to remind us of the influence that culture has on all of us. Now the Bible teaches that the follower wrestles with three forces; the world (culture), our flesh (sin force/nature) and the Devil. Let’s quickly unpack each of these. The Bible uses several meanings for “the world” (Greek: Kosmos). It can refer to people, as in “God so loved the world…” It can also refer to the physical creation but here, in another usage, it refers to the cultural belief system that is anti-God. The flesh refers to the residual sin nature that is the result of Adam’s fall in the garden. The follower still has to deal with this force in their lives. And to compound the struggle, Satan and his legion of fallen angels, are actively engaging in your life to promote sin.
Our verse reminds us that we are called to be Christian, I mean act like Jesus, especially in those difficult situations. This Christian response is especially vital when the conflict involves people. It is so easy to do more damage by taking matters into our own hands rather than applying Biblical truth and letting God work. But we struggle with this… and one of the reasons is our lack of confidence in God to work. And that is the challenge of Paul’s message in the first four chapters of 1 Corinthians. We need to be mindful that we are called to be different from the culture, we are called to be Christian. We are different because we have been changed through salvation and have the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives to guide and direct us. Also He reminds us of all the blessings that we enjoy. Let me leave you with one thought along this line.
Is this a hill worth dying on? I mean, in light of eternity, does it really matter if the other person wins and you lose? A little later in chapter 6 Paul reminds us that when we get pulled into conflict everyone loses and the Church with it as it involves Christians and the reputation of Jesus Christ is tarnished in the eyes of others.
-Pastor Joe Parkinson