“For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”
1 Cor. 4:20
Talk is cheap, unless of course that talk gets you in trouble, then it could prove very expensive. I think that proverbial saying says what St. Paul was telling the Corinthians. The great Apostle was a spiritual father to the Corinthians (Vs. 15), and as such had earned the right to talk to them straight about their spiritual lives.
As you read the letters to the Corinthian church, you will see the church struggled in about every way imaginable, and you will hear Paul’s straight talk as he tells them the truth in love. They stopped maturing in their faith and fell into many sins. Such a state was a detriment not only to their own lives but to the witness of the church to effect change in the culture around them.
Can We Change from Our Sinful Ways?
St. Paul reminded them, as he sent Timothy to minister on his behalf, that they hadn’t received the gospel just to continue in their sins, but to be changed. The gospel is the power of God to save (Rom 1:16), and not just save “in” our sin, but to save us “from” our sin (Matt. 1:21). The New Testament continually calls us to a life above sin, both in the words of Jesus, and the Apostles. Perhaps the best example is Jesus’ words to the woman at the well as he tells her, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)
Sometimes we think our Lenten journey will help us learn to avoid sin, by spending more time in prayer and fasting. While I’m sure our resolve to avoid sin is strengthened through such Lenten disciplines as prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, we must remember that that is not the object of Lent. The object of our Lenten journey is to grow closer to Christ. The answer to losing our desire for sin (which is innate in our fallen nature), is growing more in love with our Savior.
The people of the Corinth church needed to be reminded of how much Jesus loved them, and just how his death, resurrection, and gift of the Spirit was to deliver them from the dominion of sin. It wasn’t enough for then to just say they believed (Cheap Talk), and to continue living unchanged, and it’s not okay for us either. We must live in the kingdom power that not only saves, but transforms.
Lent is a part of our spiritual tool box given to us by the church to help effect our transformation into Christ’s likeness. When we pray, fast and do works of mercy we imitate the Apostles who imitated Christ. Paul knew his life was to provide a living example for the people to follow. So too, we want to imitate the lives of the saints who’ve gone before us, as we ultimately conform our lives to the imitation of Christ. The closer we grow to Jesus Christ, the more He transforms us. His transformation will indeed, raise us from the ashes.
Grace & Peace for a Holy Lent,
“Blessed are those who hunger & thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.”