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心智上做大人 Mature Thinking

October 20, 2019, More from this speaker 更多关于此讲员: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee (1 Corinthians 14:20-40) For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: 1 Corinthians
Preached at a Mandarin (Sunday) service

Tags: 1 Corinthians 哥林多前书

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Title: Mature Thinking
Date: 20th Oct 2019
Preacher: Rev. Wong Siow Hwee

Paul confessed in 1 Corinthians 13: 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. Have you ever looked back on your younger days and get so embarrassed that you wish you could go back in time and change history? I have. In fact, many times. Once in a while I’ll get a flashback of one of my past actions and I realize just how immature I was. I’ll face-palm myself, saying “gosh that was so stupid.” I also noticed that most of these actions were induced by an inflated ego. Sometimes I thought I was being funny, when actually I was being hurtful. Sometimes I thought I was being suave, when actually I was looking foolish. I could tell you that it is normal for a young person to be more self-centred during the journey of self-discovery. But still, I wish I had the life perspectives I have now during those struggling situations I had then. I wonder what the older me would say to the younger me if I had the chance. How would I advise on what is maturity? “In psychology, maturity is the ability to respond to the environment being aware of the correct time and location to behave and knowing when to act, according to the circumstances and the culture of the society one lives in. Maturity emphasizes a clear comprehension of life's purpose.” 【1】 I think what I would advise myself would not be so different from what Paul advised in Chapter 13 about loving behaviour. Love is doing the right things at the right time for the good of others. As Elder LinEng shared last Sunday, we understand love fully through the life of Jesus Christ.

In our passage today, Paul told the Corinthian Christians: 20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. Paul described their way of using their spiritual gifts of tongues and prophecy as childish. They are childish not in the sense of innocence, which is a good thing “in regard to evil”. They are childish in the sense of immaturity. In light of what we learned last week from 1 Corinthians 13, their childish behaviour was essentially unloving and selfish behavior. We could speculate that the corporate worship in the Corinthian Church must have become very disorderly from the members’ misuse of their spiritual gifts.

Imagine what it was like in the Corinthian Church. Some in the Corinthian church might have been proud to have the gift of tongues or prophecies. And in order to show how special they were, they were disrupting the worship services, or trying to outdo one another in hogging the spotlight. But if it was not done for the good of the community, and only to show-off and gratify their self-importance, then the effects were like “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal (13:1).” Imagine in our service today, someone is trying to clash the cymbals whenever he likes, and another person is using a gong to drown the other person out. These are childish behaviours that sometimes happen when you have mischievous children fooling around a drum set or a piano. Yet sometimes, people with spiritual gifts behave like that because they thought that their spiritual gifts made them special and everybody should give them special attention.

That’s why Paul’s conclusion was that 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way. Having worship in proper order might seem like common sense to us, since we have been worshiping in a traditional church with a liturgical order all this while. But we might not have associated order in worship with love and that connection requires maturity.

Maturity is doing the right things at the right time and with the right motives. And that goes the same for the use of tongues and prophecies. Paul advised proper order so that everyone had a chance to exercise their gift. They must take turns and not overwhelm the entire service. For tongues, 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God. For prophecies, 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. What Paul meant to say was that nobody could claim that the Holy Spirit compels to jump queue in speaking, or that they could not stop, or they were above discernment from others.

Paul was also talking about maturity when he raised the point about women speaking in church. 1 Corinthians 11 already told us that women were free to pray and prophesy in church. So the instructions in verses 34-35 about keeping quiet must be related to how some women were disturbing the order of service. “It is likely that the men and women were segregated during worship, as in synagogues. But if public worship was conducted in the main formal language which of the day -- in Corinth, obviously, mainstream Greek -- many of the women, who might only understand their local dialects, would not be able to grasp what was being said. The women might become bored and begin to talk amongst themselves. Or they might start calling across the central division to their husbands to explain what had been said. Another possibility is that some women might have taken it upon themselves to evaluate what their own husbands had said. And do so rather too personally and sharply. (My wife can easily shout out “how can you talking about serving in church when you don’t even bother to sweep the floor at home?”) Paul might have them take up the matter at home, rather than airing what could be a domestic disagreement within the context of public worship.” 【2】 Being mature means knowing when to stay silent no matter how much you want to express yourself.

Paul’s advice to the men and women was about keeping the service orderly, so that everybody including the newcomers could benefit from it. It is the same in Jubilee Church. It is easy to take for granted that our worship service runs smoothly every Sunday. But from what we learn in creation, order has to be engineered from chaos. Everybody has their favourite bible passages and their favourite songs. Everybody is eager to share their gifts. How do we handle this with maturity, so that our love can be conveyed through worship order? The planning of every service starts at least one year in advance, starting from the selection of the biblical books. The pastoral team then has to bring the discussion of the theme to the Session. These bible books are selected with a purpose in mind, based on how the church leadership intends to transform the Church. We then arrange the books into weekly passages and assign and invite speakers for them. Then we have to roster the rest of the team that makes up each element of the order of service: service chairperson, corporate prayer, worship leader and translator. One month before each service, chat groups will be formed for each Sunday team to discuss the passages to be read and songs to be sung for the service. When we reach the week itself, there will be a rehearsal of the songs by the worship team. I would say that the preparation and organisation of the entire process have steadily improved over the years and I have great faith we will continue to progress in years to come.

With so much that goes on behind the scenes, as church members, there is much that we can do to make our worship experience even more enriching. Remember: we all have a part to play. As Paul says, 26 Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. Taking Sunday worship seriously is also a sign of maturity, because you know it does not revolve around your convenience. You are not here in church as a consumer but rather a contributor. First, prepare your hearts starting from Sat night. You can choose to read Sunday’s bible passage beforehand. You can also pray for the people who have to serve in various ways. Second, during the service, participate fully with your heart, mind and strength. If you have difficulty following the sermon, you can take notes and ask questions after the service. Every speaker would welcome direct feedback. Lastly and most importantly, after the service, trust and obey the word of God. None of us can force you to change, not even God. The choice to change starts with you. The Chinese have a saying “台上一分钟,台下十年功”. That speaks of the amount of preparation for the service to be well executed. I think it is the same for life transformation. Except instead of preparation, it is the amount of commitment to practice what you heard. But do not lose heart. God is with you. Being well-prepared on stage and well-committed in life are both signs of maturity and love.

It is easy to talk about maturity with the advantage of hindsight, just like how I look at my past immaturity. I’m sure when I look back from the future, I can see the immaturity of my decisions now. The problem is how to be mature when you are carried away in the moment of strong reactive desires. Your pride and ego will take precedence over the needs of others. I will end the sermon with the story from Isaiah 28 as a cautionary tale.

Paul referenced an interesting passage from Isaiah 28 in 1 Corinthians 14:21.
Isaiah 28: 9 “Who is it he is trying to teach?
To whom is he explaining his message?
To children weaned from their milk,
to those just taken from the breast?
10 For it is:
Do this, do that,
a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there.”
11 Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues
God will speak to this people,
12 to whom he said,
“This is the resting place, let the weary rest”;
and, “This is the place of repose”—
but they would not listen.
13 So then, the word of the Lord to them will become:
Do this, do that,
a rule for this, a rule for that;
a little here, a little there—
so that as they go they will fall backward;
they will be injured and snared and captured.

In the story, Israel was facing the threat of a foreign invasion. Isaiah spoke plainly that they must trust God’s protection by transforming their sinful society. It is like saying that for Singapore to survive the China-American trade war, we must love God and love our neighbors. In comparison to the geopolitical schemes of the leaders of Israel, there will be many who scoff at such a message from Isaiah as being overly naïve. But sometimes truth comes with great simplicity. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 14: 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

The audience of Isaiah were the priests and prophets of Israel (28:7). By right, they should have the maturity to see the value of Isaiah’s simple words. Spiritual gifts should not be judged by how spectacular they are, but by how much they convey love and truth. Sadly, the people responded to Isaiah’s message by mocking his simple-mindedness. “Just trust and obey, do you think we are children?” Like many of us, their pride and ego got in the way of mature thinking. Since they rejected Isaiah’s prophecy, God spoke to them in foreign tongues they could not understand. This is why tongues are a sign for unbelievers. In the end, they had to “trust and obey” the barking orders of their foreign oppressors instead (28:13). The lesson we can learn from this story is that tongues are no more special that the simple prophetic message of Isaiah. Maturity is appreciating the right things at the right time.

In our modern scientific world, Paul’s story from Isaiah is a timely reminder for us too. We are childish when we chase after faith healing or some other supernatural spiritual gifts like it is a new and shiny toy. Our God is the God of creation both natural and beyond. He operates through supernatural visions just as he inspires through studious bible study. The person who is healed from an incurable disease is just as miraculous as another who is healed of a broken heart. Maturity is understanding that both natural acts of service and ministry and supernatural gifts are equally worthy and to be desired as long as they are used for the benefit of others, especially in a worship context.

The reason for proper order in worship is for everybody to have their chance to serve with their gifts. And when the process is handled maturely, God’s work can be done. 24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, 25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” Isn’t that the best case scenario? To see that God is really among us? That happens not only through prophecy, but also through our hospitality, the way we serve and treat one another, and how God’s word impacts our daily lives. May our worship every Sunday bring glory to God alone.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maturity_(psychological)
[2]Tom Wright, Paul for everyone, 1 Corinthians, p 197

1 Corinthians 14:20–40 (Listen)

20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

(ESV)