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Entries in Virtue (2)

Tuesday
Sep132016

Society under Siege: Sexual Boundaries

1 Corinthians 6:9-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 11, 2016.

Since the 1960’s a sexual revolution has been going on within our society.  However, in the last decade a “breaking of the dam” has accelerated the pace that Americans are embracing sexual sin.  On one hand we do need to remind ourselves that these sexual sins are not new.  There prevalence in our society may be new, but sexual immorality has enjoyed the embrace of many a society throughout history.  In fact we have not plumbed the depths of sexual immorality.  The Christian foundation that lies beneath this country has been rejected by a steadily increasing number.  We are in the process of replacing the old foundation with a new one.

It is important for Christians to stop themselves, before they wax eloquently against homosexuality and transgenderism, and deal with the truth that we are all drawn to some form of sexual immorality.  Many who are vocal against homosexuality can be guilty of the hypocrisy of pointing out another’s sin without dealing with their own.  The Bible makes it clear that sexual fantasy is sin.  Pre-marital sex is sin.  Adultery is sin.  Divorce for selfish reasons is sin.   The Church has struggled over the last century with these issues as well.  Sometimes we have done well in holding up biblical truth.  Other times we have done poorly at forgiving people whom Christ has forgiven.

We must also remember that sexual sin is not just wrong.  It destroys a person and robs them of life.  Compassion must be the essence of our response, and not a fake compassion that embraces destructive life choices.

The Christian must leave behind the old life

In 1 Corinthians 6, Paul is dealing with the Corinthian Christian’s who were embracing all manner of sinful activities.  Though they had received the truth of the Gospel of Christ, it had become a blanket absolution for continuing to make sinful choices and live sinful lifestyles (at least for some).  In challenging these Christians, Paul gives a list of sins that they were apparently doing.  This list begins with sexual sins and then includes some non-sexual sins.  The first word is “porneia” in the Greek.  It can cover a range of sexual sin (pre-marital sex, prostitution).  The second word, idolatry, is not actually a sexual sin.  But, throughout the Old Testament idolatry is connected with sexual sin.  The reason is because idolatry is unfaithfulness to God, who is often depicted as a Husband to His people.  In fact, we should note that sexual sin can be so powerful that it often operates as an idol in our life.  We will make any sacrifice in order to please it.  Adultery and Homosexuality are pretty clear.  He goes on to list: thefts, coveting, and drunkenness, which are pretty obvious too.  Revilers are those who use harsh, abusive and caustic accusations against others.  It has the sense of a harsh attack.  Lastly we have a word that is translated as "extortioners" in the NKJV.  It is the same word Jesus used of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inside are “ravenous” wolves.    Thus extortioner probably falls a bit short.  It references ravenous con-men who are out to eat you.  The emphasis for this list is that God did not change His mind at the cross and suddenly decide to let these kinds of people into His kingdom.  Some of the Corinthians were being “deceived” in this matter.  They felt that they could have Jesus and continue living out these sins.  No.  The Christian is called to leave the old life behind.

Verse 11 points out that coming to Jesus involves a real spiritual work that has real effects upon the sin in our life.  They had been washed.  This is a reference to the reality that sin defiles us and must be removed in order for us to be acceptable to God.  It is disingenuous to say that the death of Jesus covers our sin and then continue to pursue it.  Jesus did not wash us so that we can go back out and wallow in the mud.  Next, Paul tells them that they had been sanctified.  This means that God had made a distinction in their life that they were no longer a common person.  They had been set apart as a special person for the work of the Lord.  To say that Jesus has sanctified us and then live the common life that the world is living is also disingenuous.  Lastly the Corinthians had been justified.  To be justified is to be put in a position of acceptability before God.  If these are only spiritually, unseen, things then why would Paul list them?  He is trying to help them see the contradiction between what Christ was doing in their life and what they are doing.  They are working against Christ.  I am not talking about perfectionism, but rather about the real change that happens in the life of a person who rejects their old life and embraces the new life in Christ.

The Christian must leave behind the old lies

In order to leave behind the old life we have to let go of the old way of thinking, and any deceptive lies that would “justify” continuing in what Christ is saving us from.  In verses 12 and 13 Paul takes a couple of statements that the Corinthians would use and rebuts them.  The first is “All things are lawful for me.” It seems that they were taking the truth that Christians are not under the Law of Moses and twisting it to mean that sin doesn’t matter anymore.  This one is still used today.  This idea can be answered a couple of ways.  In Romans 8, Paul reminds Christians that we are still under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.  You are either being led by the Spirit of God or by the sinful nature.  So Christians are not under the law of Moses, but neither are they called to “lawlessness.”  Our relationship with Jesus through the Spirit leads us into what is good, and away from what is bad.  Now to the Corinthians Paul approaches it differently.  In verse 12 he counters that not all things are beneficial.  For example, it is technically legal for you stick your hand in a viper’s mouth or on a hot stove.  But why would you?  It is not beneficial.  In fact it can do great harm.  Sin is destructive and those who go after it invite destruction into their lives.  In verse 13 he reiterates their argument, “All things are lawful for me,” and rebuts with the reality that sin is enslaving.  Once you give an inch in these areas, they will begin to dominate your life until you become a slave to unrighteousness and an adulterer against Christ.  This is a dangerous half-truth at best and you will have to reject it if you want to follow Christ.

In verse 13 we have a second Corinthian lie, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food.”  Basically they are saying that what we are doing is natural.  God designed us this way.  In referencing food, Paul is touching on the issue of eating meats sacrificed to idols and yet still keeping it connected to some of the sexual sins listed.  The argument works either way.  God designed us with sexual desires and abilities.  Therefore nothing is wrong with it (they would argue).  We could even go further and say something like this: In the age to come God is going to give us new bodies in a new heavens and earth.  Thus what we do with this one is irrelevant as long as our “spirit” is connected to God.  This kind of reasoning is pure sophistry.  It is a person wanting to do something so bad that they justify it over the top of the truth.  Yes, God did create sexuality and He created man’s digestive system.  In fact, having sex within the bonds of marriage is more than natural.  It is a part of God’s will for many.  But this does not mean that all boundaries are null and void.  Do we eat rocks or poison for that matter?  Why not?  We were not designed for them.  Paul states that the body and its desire for food are going to be destroyed one day (the same is true for sexual desire).  This is meant to sober their thinking.  God did not design us for sexual immorality, but to please His purposes.  Like any designer, God designed sexuality to be expressed a certain way.  Sexual immorality destroys the ability of sexuality to accomplish God’s plan in our lives.  It is also destructive to relationships between people and between us and God.  To go after sexual immorality is not to embrace your design, but rather to reject it.  God’s plan for humans involves laying down this body and the resurrecting of a new glorified body.  Though we will lay down the old body for a new one, the quality or kind of resurrection is dependent upon what we do in this body.  Do we put our trust in Jesus or in our own wisdom?

The last lie is in verses 15-17.  Apparently the Corinthians weren’t saying this, but there is an assumption that underlies their activity and Paul points it out to them.  They are acting as if these sins don’t involve or affect Jesus.  They had compartmentalized their approach to Jesus.  As long as I have a spiritual “faith” in Jesus, it doesn’t matter what I do with my body.  Paul reminds them that their bodies belong to Christ because he bought them with his own blood on the cross.  Thus we are not just the bride of Christ.  We are a bride that he purchased back from slavery and death.  We are in relationship with Him “who knew no sin.”  When we go after sin our unfaithfulness to Christ does affect our relationship with Him.  This brings us to the conclusion of the matter.

The Conclusion

In verse 18 Paul lays out the categorical rejection.  A Christian must flee sexual immorality as defined by God’s Word, not our sophisticated, twisted reasoning.  So why is so much energy spent on trying to justify it?  We do so for the same reasons that people have affairs every day.  Our lips say we love Jesus, but our hearts have quit loving Him.  If you truly love Jesus then you will flee sexual immorality.  Like Joseph fleeing Potiphar’s wife, we must be people of action.  We must set up protections and accountability so that we are not caught up by the temptations of our flesh.  We must learn to control our thought life, by first controlling the garbage that is coming in, and then focusing our thoughts upon that which is good.

Thus in verse 20 we see that it is more than just freeing our lives of vices.  We must positively do something and that is to glorify God by living the life He has given us to the full.  The vice of adultery is to be rejected.  However, then a husband and wife must learn to give themselves fully to grow in loving another person for life, and for better or worse.  Young people can control themselves and wait until they are married.  Married people can control themselves and mature into the man and woman that God has designed you to be.  To do this you must learn to love your spouse in the various situations that this life will throw at you.  We have a responsibility to glorify God in how we live out our sexuality in this life.  Christians, this world needs role models of God’s plan, a plan to make us all into the image of Jesus Christ.

Sexual Boundaries Audio

Tuesday
Nov132012

The Virtue of Submission 2

We will finish up 1 Peter chapter 2 as Peter continues talking to us about the virtue of submission.  Last week we looked at how our response to government can send the wrong picture of what Christ is.  He was not a rebel trying to take over the earthly kingdoms of this world.  But then neither was he a sycophant who was in love with human governance.  The passage today deals with the area of slavery.

The term here could be literally translated as a house servant as opposed to a lesser slave.  However, I’m not so sure that would make a difference in the instruction given.  There were many reasons why a person may end up as a slave.  Many ended up in slavery through indebtedness.  Depending on the size of that debt they could be slaves for less or longer periods of time.  Others were captured in wars and thus had little opportunity for freedom.  Others were born into that class.  Some hired themselves out as house servants with a contract for service.  Lastly some were in an apprentice relationship and thus took care of the master’s needs in return for instruction in a trade.  Notice that even in America we still have these types of relationships.  Have we truly abolished slavery?  We may have abolished a certain form of slavery, but no economic system can completely remove the principle of slavery.  Some men will always be at the economic mercy of others, whether through fault of their own or not.  Even the false hope of communism that called for all the workers to unite and cast off their oppressors, soon itself made everyone slaves to a system that was ran by the elite in the government.  Now put yourself in God’s position.  You have to give a word of instruction to people who will live under every kind of government conceivable and under every possible variation of leadership from evil to good.  What would you say that would serve your people or children well under every circumstance?  It is easy for modern people to hear this instruction to slaves and scoff like we are somehow more righteous than God.  May we approach His Word with the understanding that God is less concerned with meeting 21st century America’s approval and more with helping his people not lose their faith in this society.

Servants Should Submit To Their Masters

Peter speaks to those in the lower class of society who are being told through the Gospel that Jesus has set them free and they are children of God.  Instead of promoting a revolt against Rome and all governments that supported slavery, he tells them to take their proper place under their masters with fear.  Instead of despising their master and abandoning their post, they need to serve him and not assume that God would look kindly on any insubordination.  Because we get stuck on the word slave, we refuse to move on to the deeper point.  True slavery is never about your circumstances.  It is about your heart.  We see submission and service as slavery when in fact a free man is most able to serve.  God can set us all free in the natural, but will our hearts still be slaves to pride, arrogance, and selfishness?  If we attack God for speaking to this heart issue then we must at least own up to the fact that we are seeking temporary trinkets over the top of eternal joys.

Peter then speaks to the obvious question about a good versus bad master.  The good and gentle master is compared to the “harsh.”  The Greek word is skolios (where we get the word scoliosis).   It means twisted and perverted, curved towards self.  God is not pleased when his people use the errors and sins of others to justify their own error and sin.  We are not to deceive ourselves and cloak our sinful attitudes.

Peter reminds them that suffering because of doing good will be commended by God.  When we are aware there is a God, we are not so quick to try and take justice into our own hands.  Do you remember Jesus talking to his disciples in Matthew 5:46?  He said if you love those who love you what credit is that to you?  Don’t sinners do that too?  But if you love those who hate you, then you will be rewarded by God.  The same is true here.  If you submit to a good and gentle master that is not a credit.  But to lovingly serve a twisted, perverted master is to give him a picture of Christ.  Evil will not help a wicked master.  Only good can break through if it is possible at all.  However, our flesh is tempted to not care about God’s reputation or the wicked master’s soul.  We have a day of eternal reward coming, but he has an eternity suffering ahead.

Servants Must Remember Their Calling

Peter then reminds them of the Lord Jesus who has called them to follow him.  Our master, Jesus, suffered.  How can we be above suffering?  Even those who are not servants in the natural need to recognize that, we are called to follow Jesus in his sufferings.  He suffered injustice on our behalf because he loved us.  Am I refusing to do the same?  My flesh certainly does.  We need to learn to step in his steps and follow his lead.  Remember the passage of Isaiah 52:13 through chapter 53?  He is the suffering servant who is well acquainted with sorrow and grief.  When his disciples were asleep, his two constant companions, sorrow and grief, were wide awake.  However, we also need to follow Jesus in his response.  He didn’t use injustice as an excuse for sin or deceit.  He didn’t pay back wrong for wrong.  The word “revile” literally means to heap abuse upon someone.  He had the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and more piled upon him verbally, physically, and emotionally.  Yet, he didn’t threaten.  Can you imagine being threatened by God?  But Jesus didn’t do that.  He committed himself to God’s judgment and submitted himself to the judgment of men.  He was free to suffer injustice because he knew in his heart that he was right before God.  God would vindicate him and reward him.

Peter then reminds them that Jesus died because of our sins.  Imagine, Jesus carried your sins on himself.  He suffered your punishment.  The true believer has felt the repugnant effect of his own sin and died to it.  On the other hand he has seen the beauty of Christ’s love and come alive to his righteousness.  The suffering of Jesus (his stripes) makes us whole.  Who might be made whole through my suffering?  I can’t satisfy the punishment of other’s sins.  But Jesus has already done that.  However, we can be a vehicle for demonstrating and revealing Jesus to them.

It is clear that Peter had Isaiah 53 in mind as he wraps up this instruction by referring to them as sheep.  Isaiah said that all we like sheep have gone astray, but God has laid on him the iniquity of us all.  Peter reminds them that they were wayward sheep who have come back to the good shepherd.  Only this shepherd is not watching over your flesh to help it be well fed.  He is watching over your soul.  Many a soul is lost for the sake of the pleasure of our flesh.  Always remember that rebellion destroys the soul.

Final Thoughts

Ask yourself, is my life reflecting Jesus or am I following a Jesus of my own making?  It is important for us to often remind ourselves of our sin and what it did to Jesus and yet his love is still towards us.

Lastly, ask yourself, do you trust God to deal with the injustices done to you in this life?  When we keep our “station” whatever it may be, even under the threat of evil, God is pleased and promises to reward us in the coming judgment.  God help us in the days ahead to understand that Jesus was not a wimp and yet he submitted.  Jesus was not a slave and yet he served us.  Let’s follow him!

Submission II Audio