Keep Your Humble Servants Faithful

December 5, 2021

Pastor John Hering

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

This is the way a person should think of us: as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. In this connection, moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But it is a trivial matter to me if I am evaluated by you or by a day in a human court. Why, I do not even evaluate myself. I do not in fact know of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this; rather, the one who evaluates me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing ahead of time, until the Lord comes. He will bring to light whatever is hidden in darkness and also reveal the intentions of hearts. Then there will be praise for each person from God.

Some people wear masks and some don’t.  Before you think about yourself in this regard you might be interested in hearing that God wears a mask all the time.  It is a good thing that God wears a mask all the time.  I’m not talking about a mask that protects God from the virus of your sin.  Jesus took care of that already.  I’m talking about the mask that God wears all around you.  You see, God isn’t very far away.  He is closely involved in our world.  God hides his activity behind a wide variety of masks—every breath of wind, each ray of the sun, every drop of rain is a mask of God who rules the weather and seasons in order to provide for us. God masks himself behind every farmer, truck driver and Kroger Manager to bring us food.  He is behind every concrete worker, electrician and realtor to provide shelter for us.  God is behind every government, every doctor, every teacher and every pastor all as a mask of God works through in the world.

There is a mask that ranks as chief among God’s masks.  It is the mask of believers. Through his people God’s primary purpose and goal is not to care for people for this life, but for the life to come in heaven.  Before Jesus returns on the final Judgment Day God uses his special mask of his humble servants to speak to people who don’t believe in Jesus.  Because of sin no person can see God face to face and live (Ex 33:20). So, God has arranged a middle way to come to his people.  He uses the mask of Christians to save people by speaking his Word through us.  Today St Paul writes to the Corinthians and us with a prayer: Lord,

Keep Your Humble Servants Faithful!

In Proclaiming God’s Word

The lessons from God’s Word today show us these masks of God.  Just look at the mask he used out in the desert!  This mask of God “wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey“ (Mark 1:6).  Unique for sure, and perhaps even frightening! But, God did this in order to fulfill his prophesy that there would be the “voice of one calling in the desert” (Mark 1:3).  John the Baptist is a Bible character with so little personality of his own.  He was simply the voice of God.  He was a messenger-mask of God.  When Jesus talked to the crowds about John in the desert, notice how he addressed him, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 No. Then what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Yet those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you” (Luke 7:24-27).  Jesus didn’t refer to him as a “who” but a “what!”  John was the mask of God.  John wasn’t just giving his opinion blowing in the wind.  He didn’t wear fine clothes that would attract you because of his nobility, fame or influence.  But, they went out to see WHAT?—a prophet of God that stood for something—the Humble Servant of God, Faithful mask of God in his Duty.  Sadly, many saw and heard John, but they rejected his message.  He was preparing the way for the Messiah, but after seeing Jesus and rejecting him, they ended up rejecting John as well.

This was a similar problem Paul was having with the Corinthians.  They weren’t listening to the Master behind the mask of his apostle.  This begs the question for us as well.  What did you come here to see?  Was it the music?  The atmosphere?  The friendliness?  The people?  The preacher?  Let Jesus focus your answer: You came into this wilderness through the doors at Divine Peace to hear the Word of God.  You came to hear Jesus who was born, lived, died, rose and ascended into heaven for you.  During Advent you came here to prepare your hearts for Christmas and for Jesus’ return in glory.  You came here to listen to God’s Word through the Mask of God’s Servant.  If that is true, then we’re ready to listen to Paul teach us a key prayer: Dear Lord, Keep Your Humble Servants Faithful as the Carry Out their Duty.

This was a sore spot in Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians.  Paul’s faithfulness to God’s Word wasn’t enough.  Paul was a preacher who lost his audience in a popularity contest.  The Corinthians were familiar with Paul, Peter and Apollos.  The Book of Acts records how God masked himself behind these missionaries.  God equipped them and sent them out to tell the world about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.  But, the Corinthians didn’t see them as the Masks of God Doing Their Duty, but added these new faces to the long list of philosophers they already had.  Who is your favorite?  Who gives you meaning for life?  With which one do you identify the most?  Who gives the best speech?  What if we were going to have a call meeting to call a new pastor.  How would you like to hear these resumes?

Missionary #1 Paul of Tarsus, once a top shelf Pharisee, now a rogue missionary for Jesus and the resurrection and the first one to come to Corinth.

Missionary #2  Apollos, well-educated from Egypt, whose words and style oozed with a high education and the second one to visit Corinth.

Missionary #3  Peter, one of Jesus’ close disciples throughout his earthly ministry, a bold preacher, strong personality, and very persuasive.

So, who’s your favorite?

You can well imagine them comparing these preachers of God according to their personality, teaching style, and ability to communicate when actually the important issue was this: Are they Humble Servants Faithful in Proclaiming God’s Word?  Paul wrote: In this connection, moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. But it is a trivial matter to me if I am evaluated by you or by a day in a human court. Why, I do not even evaluate myself. I do not in fact know of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this; rather, the one who evaluates me is the Lord.” Can you see the deeper issue?  What was causing divisions among the Corinthians was the root issue of arrogance. So Paul wrote: “This is the way a person should think of us: as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.”   Paul wasn’t having a pity party for himself because he was sad he lost some of his followers to Apollos or Peter.  Paul realized the Corinthians were boasting in preachers for the wrong reasons.  They were basing their decision about who they wanted to follow on their own likes, wisdom and decision.  They were sacrificing food for their souls on the altar of less-favorite Humble Servants who were Faithful in Proclaiming God’s Word. They desperately needed encouragement from Paul’s inspired letter

In Order To Know God

When I think of the Corinthians it reminds me of the phrase I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious.”  Usually they mean they believe in Jesus, but they don’t believe in organized religion or something like that.  But, listen to that statement.  If God masks himself behind those who proclaim God’s Word, aren’t they really saying I don’t need God who is masking himself behind the messenger?  Granted, God has given people the ability and joy of reading God’s Word on their own.  And we would encourage that.  But, if they are reading God’s Word wouldn’t they read this: Therefore judge nothing ahead of time, until the Lord comes. He will bring to light whatever is hidden in darkness and also reveal the intentions of hearts. Then there will be praise for each person from God.”  What is the danger of a person who doesn’t want to hear God’s Word proclaimed by God through his representatives In Order To Know God?  The danger is accountability when a person reads God’s Word but picks and chooses for themselves in order to fashion their faith apart from the whole counsel of God.

We need to be on our guard as well.  The temptation is to think, “This or that Bible topic appeals to me.”  Can you trust your gut on that?  Maybe the topic or Book of the Bible being studied is exactly what you need.  Or how about, “This or that style of worship appeals to me.”  These are preferences.  Overemphasizing your preferences gets dangerous quickly.  To be sure music touches our emotions, but we don’t want our emotional response to become more important than hearing God’s Word proclaimed In Order To Know God.  Perhaps it even pertains to the preacher.  It may not be a preacher I think isn’t feeding my soul, but he may be preaching the exact sermon my soul needs to hear In Order To Know God.  It is not a sin to have preferences, but let’s be on our guard that our preferences do not get in the way of feeding our souls the truth of God’s Word.   Yes, we are talking about hearts, and we can’t see hearts, but God “will bring to light whatever is hidden in darkness and also reveal the intentions of hearts.”

Some people wear masks and some don’t.  God always wears a mask.  You are the mask of God.  Jesus died for you, chose you to be his own, washed you in your baptism and today he strengthens you through his Holy Supper.   While we are living on this earth God will hide behind the masks of his people.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will Keep His Humble Servant Faith in proclaiming God’s Word, in order to know God.  Then one day, the mask will come off and Jesus Christ will reveal his glory.  On that day we will give thanks to the Lord for Humble Servants who faithfully proclaimed God Word to us and prepared us to see the Lord without his mask in heaven.  Amen.

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