Sexual Immorality? – 2 Questions to 2 Rationalizations

“It’s my life I am free to do what I want!”  That’s the first common rationalization.

In verse 12 Paul gives his response to this kind of thinking. He says, “Yes–I have the right to do anything,” but not everything is beneficial.“  I have the right to do anything” but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Paul says, “Yes you are free to use your God-given rights any way you want to but there are questions you really need to answer before exercising your freedom.”

  1. If I do what I want sexually, is it beneficial?”

Before exercise our rights, we should decide whether or not it is helpful, not just for us but for others.

For instance did you know that statistics say that people who live together before they marry are twice as likely to divorce as are those who wait until marriage? And there are higher levels of abuse? So is using your “sexual freedom” to live together is beneficial?  Research says no. We say too much about STD’s so I won’t mention them, but its obvious the ways they are not beneficial. But what about unwanted pregnancies are they beneficial?

And what about the people who are on the other end of these kinds of sinful acts? I wonder if the Corinthians thought about the lives of those young ladies from the temple of Aphrodite those “sacred” prostitutes that came down into the streets of Corinth every night. Did they think of those young girls when they exercised their Christian freedom?  How many men today think of the young women on the computer screen as they watch pornography?  Is it helpful to exploit that girl who is someone’s daughter?  Don’t these kinds of actions promote the sex slave trade?

We live in a very self-centered society. In our minds we are the center of the universe. Think about it we have I-phones, I-pads and I-pods, American I-dol, I-tunes, and Facebook with it’s “I like” options.  All this reflects our cultures tendency to care about ourselves often to the expense of others. And this is seen most clearly in society’s sexual mores. When researchers at the University of Texas at Austin asked 2,000 people why they have sex, there were plenty of answers 237, to be precise.  Here are some of them. They finished the sentence, “I have sex because”:

“[I wanted] to boost my social status.”

“My partner was famous.”

“[I wanted] to get a raise or promotion.”

“Someone dared me.”

“I wanted to punish myself.”

“I lost a bet.”

“to keep warm.”

“Because my hormones were out of control.”

“[Sex] seemed like good exercise.”

“I wanted to give someone a sexually transmitted disease.”

Too many people don’t care about others they don’t consider the pain their sin brings. Sex is just another way they put themselves first.

But the fact is, sexual immorality is NEVER beneficial. In fact, it always hurts everyone involved. More about that later.

  1. The second question Paul says we must answer before using our freedom to sin is this: “Is this behavior enslaving?”

He says, “I have the right to do all things but I will not be mastered by anything.”  So the thing to ask yourself is this. “As I exercise my freedom in Christ, will I become enslaved to that very thing that I’m doing? Will it end up ruling my life? Will it become an addiction?”  This is especially important when we talk about things that pertain to the body like sex, because the body can develop dependencies on things.  And when it does, we become a slave to whatever that thing is. In an attempt to satisfy that desire people continue to chase the counterfeit and that only makes them long for the real thing. I think it’s ironic that in the name of Christian freedom we can actually become slaves of the very things we claim we can do because of our freedom!

Wendy Shalit is a feminist writer who has put out a number of provocative books calling for women to recover their sexual modesty as a protest against a world that has objectified them in the name of sexual freedom. Her writings have caused an uproar among people who labeled them as “behind the times” labeled them as sexually regressive and oppressive to other “free-er” women. But surprisingly her writings have caused a parallel stir among many women who have become disenchanted with the sexual revolution and the whole new set of oppressions that came along with it. For example, Shalit points out that in the name of freedom the sexual revolution puts down women who want to act and dress more modestly. She writes, “Today’s culture says, ‘You’d better be having many hook-ups or else!  Shyness will not be tolerated!  Ours is supposed to be a time of great freedom. Yet we have ended up letting others dictate our choices.” Shalit goes on, “A woman may be conveying to the world by her bashfulness, ‘I have my own compass, thank you. I have my own sense of what is good and what is right, and it’s not always what everyone else says.’”

Here’s something else. The sexual revolution has not only dictated to women who they have to be, but it has actually restrained them further by putting them at the mercy of men.  Have you ever wondered what happened to that old “behind the times” concept of chivalry where women were treated as queens? Have you ever wondered why these days young men don’t come to the door when they pick up their dates or why men don’t open the door for women any more “old fashioned” things like that? It’s because today’s culture says they don’t have to. So Shalit is right women are less free more enslaved today than they were in the good ole days BEFORE the feminist movement “freed” them.

Another RATIONALIZATION we see both in Corinth and in our culture. People say that they can do what they want sexually because it’s NATURAL.

Look at 13–14 where Paul says “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.  Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”  Now, Paul hasn’t changed subjects here from sex to eating. This is just another excuse that people then and now use to justify their immorality. The idea is that sex is just like eating. In the same way that we have a natural and God-given need to satisfy our stomach with food we have this natural and God-given need to satisfy our body’s sexual hunger.  When we get hungry and head for the refrigerator, so our culture says, why should it be any different with sex? Why object to something that’s perfectly natural and God-given? The following quote from M. Scott Peck reveals the flaw in those arguments: “Calling it natural does not mean it is essential or beneficial or unchangeable behavior. It is also natural to defecate in our pants and never brush our teeth. Yet we teach ourselves to do the unnatural until the unnatural itself becomes second nature. Indeed, all self-discipline might be defined as teaching ourselves to do the unnatural.”

Here’s something else I want us to note. With this rationalization that there should be no rules when it comes to sex because after all it’s just a natural function with this way of thinking we come face-to-face with a very important truth: The world, regardless of all the emphasis it places on it, has a very low view of sex. The world sees sex as another bodily function like eating.

There’s nothing special about it, nothing unique, nothing worth protecting.  But, as we’ll see shortly, the Biblical view of sex is that sex touches us and affects us at a much deeper level than eating.  It’s something that involves not just our physical body but our soul and our spirit as well.  Bible-believing Christians actually have a MUCH higher view of sex than our culture. And that’s what Paul gets at in his response. He says, “Yes, food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. I don’t disagree with that.” But then he says, “God will destroy them both.”  In other words, although it’s true what you say about the stomach and food, all that’s just temporary.  But sex involves something altogether different because it has a spiritual aspect. Sex impacts us on a soul level so it’s not at all like eating. Plus, our bodies were made to further God’s eternal purposes not to satisfy some mere sexual appetite.

And this principle is what Paul deals with in the rest of the passage. He expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves.  He points out three things the Corinthians had forgotten about their bodies the same three things many people today have forgotten.  We will look at them in the next post.

Darrell

Sources:  Mark Mitchell’s message on this text on Preaching Today has been very helpful to me along with Mark Adams and John Mac Arthur Commentary.

 

 

 

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Sexual Immorality? – 1 Corinthians 6

I don’t know about you but the older I get the more I find myself feeling “behind the times” when it comes to social media and technology.   Social media trends that will take over for 2018 are the “rise of augmented reality” and “chatbots.” I’m already behind! In fact, I have not gotten into Snapchat, Tumblr, Shazam, Periscope, or Pinterest.  Truthfully I have my hands full keeping up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Linked-in.  With technology I increasingly feel out of step with modern culture.

I thought about this as I studied this week’s versed because it deals with another area where today’s culture makes any bible believer look like we’re behind the times and I’m referring to our society’s practices when it comes to sex.  I now embrace the clear teachings in God’s Word in this area even though the world around us considers that view to be very “old school.” That doesn’t embarrass me or phase me in the least.  I personally would choose to side with the unchanging truth that is the Bible not the ever-changing “morals” of our culture.

As a survivor of sexual predator when I was younger I know the pain, despair, guilt and shame when we don’t follow our Creator’s teachings.   It’s like C. S. Lewis put it, “They are playing in a mud puddle when there is an ocean to enjoy.” So the simple fact is people like myself who believe the Bible may be thought of as behind the times but in reality we are ahead of the game.

Many of the Christians in the church of Corinth were not ahead of the game because they were going with the flow of the sexually-charged culture around them instead of obeying God’s Word and Paul writes to correct that in the next part of his letter.   Churches like the one in Corinth met in homes scattered across the city and so Paul’s letter would be read in that setting one home at a time. Many of these Christians would have been unable to read which means the only way for them to experience the letter was if someone read it out loud.  As we look at 1st Corinthians 6:12-20, imagine 15-20 adults sitting in the first century version of a living room listening as these words are read.

12 “I have the right to do anything,” you say but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” but I will not be mastered by anything.

13 You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”  The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.

14 By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also.

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!

16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

17 “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.

18 Flee from sexual immorality.  All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies.

Did anyone feel the need to fidget a bit? Anyone feel a bit uncomfortable?   I’m sure the first Christians to hear those words read aloud did. Maybe moms said to the leaders of these house churches, “We really should have had an alternative option for young children when dealing with this.  This is not something they should hear.” In any case, I’m sure Paul didn’t like to talk about the uncomfortable subject of sexual immorality but he had to because Christians were choosing to be “with the times” instead of behind them.

Of course, this part of Paul’s letter is very relevant to our situation as Christians for we live in a culture with a very distorted view of sexuality.  Here are some statistics to help us see this.

More than half of all adult single Americans have had a one-night-stand at least once in their lives – a slightly higher percentage than those who have had unprotected sex with someone whose health history and background they did not know. Regarding the number of sexual partners in a lifetime, Americans are slightly above the global average.
Most Americans have no moral objection to sex between unmarried partners. 

Even our greeting card industry reflects our society’s damaged view of sexuality. There is a new type of card found in what is called a Secret Lover Collection. The publishers of this type of card say their goal is “to provide a greeting card collection with empathy and understanding, without judgment, to lovers involved in a secret relationship.” The founder of the company is a woman and she says she launched it to help the unfaithful “express their emotions,” but of course what she really wants is to cash in on this huge market. And if you’re wondering how you market greeting cards for the unfaithful the answer is very subtly. These cards are displayed under special labels like “Love Expressions,” and “intimacy.” Card messages include statements like, “I used to look forward to the weekends, but since we met they seem like an eternity.” I’m guessing this is for an illicit work romance. And for holidays, these cards read: “As we each celebrate with our families, I’ll be thinking of you.”

Before we go any further, if you have messed up in the past in this area and asked for God’s forgiveness you received it. Your sins are forgiven; they are removed as far as the East is from the West.  God buried them in the depths of the sea and remembers them no more. I mention this because a lot of Christians walk around in a perpetual state of guilt over their past especially when it comes to sexual sins. Soif that describes your situation then I want to affirm the fact that you’ve been forgiven; you’ve been washed. The slate is clean. There is NO condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Sexual sin is sin but it is not the unforgivable sin. And if you are sinning in this area right now God’s forgiveness waits for you.  As someone put it, “One thing we continually underestimate about God is His loving longing to forgive.” God wants to give us all a new start. All you and I have to do is ask.

That’s a great segue back to our text because sadly many times when people sin instead of repenting they rationalize and that’s what the people of Corinth did. They justified their sexual sins in two ways the same ways people justify sexual sin today and Paul confronts them both.   We’ll look at the common rationalizations and the responses of Paul in the next post.

Darrell

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United or Divided? – 1 Corinthians 1

Now, dear brothers and sisters, I appeal to you by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ to stop arguing among yourselves. Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.NLT  

Time out! Like a frustrated coach watching his team bicker on the court, Paul called for a time-out. He saw the danger of divisions and arguments. The Corinthian believers’ lack of unity was obvious. They may have been playing in the same “uniform,” but they were doing as much as the opposition to bring about their own defeat. The problems weren’t so much differences of opinion as divided allegiances. They were arguing over which position on the team was most important in a way that made them ineffective as a unit. They were on the field, but out of the game.

Divisions between Christians work like brick walls and barbed-wire fences to undermine the effectiveness of the message that believers are to proclaim. Let’s focus on our coach, Jesus Christ, and the purpose he has for us. Let’s strive for harmony and keep arguments about allegiances off the team.

The word for “divisions” that Paul uses here literally means “plowed up.”  That’s what had happened to the “sweet, sweet Spirit” of the church at Corinth. It had been plowed up.

Things were so bad that Paul devoted four chapters of his letter to this one issue. In fact, Paul says, “I appeal to you” —using the same term we find in John 14 when Jesus describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit when he comes alongside of us as Comforter. Paul is saying, “I’m coming alongside of you right now. I’m coming alongside of you as a friend. I’m coming alongside as someone who cares about you and I’m appealing to you. You’ve got to understand that you’ve got a huge problem.”

And notice there are two aspects of this lack of unity he speaks of. He says that they need to be perfectly united in MIND and THOUGHT. Mind and thought. That phrase “perfectly united” comes from a word that was used to describe the mending of broken fishing net. It could also be used to describe a physician who sets a broken bone in order for it to heal. In short, it’s a healing term. It’s the idea of taking something that’s broken and healing it and restoring it.  It tells us that Paul knew there were some relationships in this church that were broken and that needed to be healed, their unity needed to be restored in mind and thought.  When Paul uses this phrase, I believe he was saying two things.  First, when he said “united in mind,” he was referring to the essentials of our faith, the non-negotiables of Christian doctrine, like salvation, issues of the identity of God, issues on sin, etc. And when he said, “united in THOUGHT,” I believe he was referring to the non-essentials, those areas where Scripture is not black and white—areas of opinion that are open to discussion. He was saying he wanted them to be able to agree to disagree; and sometimes to do it without being disagreeable—because thanks to their freedom in Christ, they didn’t have to share the same opinion.

It makes me think of a scene from the Spielberg film, Lincoln. Throughout the film Secretary of war Stanton and President Lincoln had their squabbles, their disagreements. But as they stood in that 19th century “situation room” waiting for the telegraph machines to report the outcome of a major battle—they stopped arguing and grabbed each other’s hand. They disagreed over many things, mostly unimportant, but they were united on the essential belief that the war must be won. The fact is churches don’t usually split over ESSENTIALS.  Sadly, they usually allow their unity to be plowed apart by disagreements over trivial, non-essential things.

When churches have “unity in the essentials, freedom in the non-essentials and love in all things”—when they are united in MIND and THOUGHT—they enjoy a wonderful unity that makes them a powerful tool in God’s kingdom.

We must remember:  Unity is VITAL. Without it we are impotent as a church. Unity is that important. It is a precious thing that must be protected.

The church at Corinth had its fair share of typical quarrels but its main problem was the fact that it had allowed itself to be torn into various factions little subsets or cliques or personality cults or fan clubs—each centered around a particular church leader. In essence they had stopped focusing on the message, the essentials—and had begun focusing on the messenger.

  1. One group rallied around Paul. They were saying: “I follow Paul; Paul rocks!”

And most likely the people who were saying that were the founding members of the church in Corinth, the charter members of the church in Corinth—people who saw Paul as their spiritual father. He was the FIRST pastor and they rallied around him.

  1. Another group came along and said: “I follow Apollos; Apollos is the man.”

We know from other Scripture, that Apollos was an incredibly gifted communicator who started teaching after Paul left town. Many became followers of Jesus under Apollos’ ministry.  Acts 18:24-26 says Apollos had thorough knowledge of the Scriptures—he spoke with great fervor—he spoke boldly and people were just drawn to him.  Evidently that led people to say things like: “We’d much rather listen to Apollos than Paul. Apollos just makes the Scriptures come alive. We are so moved by his warmth and his sensitivity and his charisma and his sense of humor when he teaches. Apollos, he’s the man.”

  1. Then there were those who followed Cephas or Peter.

These were probably the traditionalists in the church, those who had deep Jewish roots. They probably weren’t too comfortable with those Gentile believers who had been converted out of paganism and paid very little attention to their Jewish traditions and customs. Maybe they followed Peter because they knew he was one of the original twelve that Jesus handpicked. And Peter preached at Pentecost! He helped BIRTH the church so he was their man.

  1. The final group followed Jesus.

We may hear this and think, “Finally somebody’s finally got a little maturity and perspective here. That’s what it’s about, just follow Christ.”  But in reality in the church in Corinth, this was the most dangerous group of all because they actually claimed to be more spiritual than everybody else. They were the spiritual elitists who were saying they didn’t need to submit to human spiritual authority like Paul or Apollos or Peter; they could just listen to Jesus. And they were just as divisive as the other three cliques, probably even more because they weren’t really focusing on Jesus. They were focusing on a holier than thou self.

We still struggle like this today.  With so many churches, programs and styles of worship available today, believers can get caught up in the same game of “my preacher is better than yours!” “My church offers more than yours.” They follow personalities and even change churches based on who what program is popular.  To act this way is to divide Christ again. But Christ is not divided, and his true followers should not allow anything to divide the church.  Lets’ not let our appreciation for any teacher or writer, program or ministry lead us into thinking that one church is better. Believers’ allegiance must be to Christ and to the unity that he desires.

Paul goes on to explain that the Corinthians needed to do away with these factions—and unite around Jesus.  He asks, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” In other words—they needed to get back to keeping Jesus and His cross the main message.  If our church ever stops focusing on the message of the cross, if we orient ourselves around anything else, we are in trouble and cease to be a church.

In 1914, not long after the sinking of the Titanic, Congress convened a hearing to discern what had happened in another nautical tragedy. In January of that year, in thick fog off the Virginia coast, the steamship Monroe was rammed by the merchant vessel Nantucket and sank. Forty-one sailors lost their lives in the frigid winter waters of the Atlantic. During cross-examination it was learned, as the New York Times reported, that the Monroe’s captain, navigated with a personal compass that deviated from the standard magnetic compass. He had never adjusted it so that it steered true. This tragedy illustrates the consequences of mis-orientation.  The reminder for us is this: we need to constantly make sure our church is oriented around Jesus Christ and His message of salvation through faith.  In other words, Jesus is every church’s magnetic north.

Let’s be united in Christ!

Darrell

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Messed Up Church – 1 Corinthians Intro.

Jesus, yes! The church, no!” This slogan was popular among young people in the ’60s. They definitely could have said that in Corinth back in A.D. 56, because the local church there was a messed up church. Unfortunately, the problems did not stay within the church family; they were known by the unbelievers outside the church.

How did this happen? The members of the church permitted the sins of the city to get into the local assembly. Corinth was the original “sin city, filled with every kind of vice and worldly pleasure. The lowest cut down would be to call someone “a Corinthian.” People would know what you were talking about.

Corinth was also a proud, philosophical city, with many itinerant teachers promoting their speculations. This philosophical approach was applied to the Gospel by some members of the church, and this fostered division. The congregation was made up of different “schools of thought” instead of being united behind the Gospel message.

The Christians in Corinth were struggling with their environment. Surrounded by corruption and every conceivable sin, they felt the pressure to adapt. They knew they were free in Christ, but what did this freedom mean? How should they view idols or sexuality? What should they do about marriage, women in the church, and the gifts of the Spirit? These were more than theoretical questions—the church was being undermined by immorality and spiritual immaturity. The believers’ faith was being tried in the crucible of immoral Corinth, and some of them were failing the test.

Paul heard of their struggles and wrote this letter to address their problems, heal their divisions, and answer their questions. Paul confronted them with their sin and their need for corrective action and clear commitment to Christ.

Geographically, Corinth was at a crossroads. It was located on an isthmus that connects northern Greece—where Athens is—with southern Greece—which was called Achaia. So if you wanted to travel from the southern part of Greece to the northern part, you had to travel through Corinth. If you wanted to travel north to south, you traveled through Corinth.   Julius Caesar was right because all roads in the area led to and through Corinth. There are bodies of water on both sides of this strip of land on which Corinth sat but it was so treacherous sailing around it that often ships would stop at Corinth—and the captain would hire slaves to put the ship on a skid and move it on land the four-mile trek across from one body of water to the other.

Even though it was expensive to take your ship overland, it actually saved lives and time.  This of course benefited Corinth because sailors and merchants were in town longer. Not only was Corinth a port—ships literally rolled through its streets, it also became a very rich city with products from all over the world flooding its markets—things like: Arabian balsam wood, Phoenician dates, Libyan ivory, Babylonian carpets, and Lycaonian wool. One scholar referred to it as “the Vanity fair of the ancient world.” With all this commerce flowing through its streets it is no wonder that the leaders of the city were wealthy merchants who worshiped money.

Corinth was also home to the Isthmian Games—athletic contests that were second only to the Olympics. But Corinth was primarily known—not for its commerce or for these athletic games—but for its sin. People who came to gamble on the Isthmian games stayed and indulged their every appetite.  Like our Las Vegas, Corinth became a mecca of sexuality. In fact, the leading “religion” of that city promoted prostitution.  Corinth had a temple that was the center of worship for the goddess Aphrodite.  And in the evening, the temple would have thousands of sacred priestesses, who were actually prostitutes, flood into the streets of Corinth to sell their bodies to business travelers—to sailors, to tourists, to athletes, to residents, to just anybody who wanted a so-called “religious experience” in Corinth.

We could describe it as “temptation on steroids” because there was so much immorality there. The Greeks actually coined a term from the name of this city. To “Corinthianize” something was to make it sexually charged, to make it sexually immoral, sexually unrestrained. For a woman to be referred to as “Corinthian” was the same as being called a loose woman.

With all this in mind, picture Paul entering the city alone to start a church. What an unlikely place to do that—what a challenge that was.  The same is true today, the job we are called to do as a local church is usually not easy.  Following our Head as a local body means we seek and save the lost—and that is often a difficult thing to do because the lost can be difficult themselves and are often found in difficult places.  The fact is God calls us to the “Corinths” of the world. He calls us to join Him in seeking out the people who don’t know Him. He calls us to follow Paul’s example and enter into difficult places—difficult conversations—He calls us to love difficult people. Think about that for a moment—where or who is your “Corinth?”  Is it a family member who rejects God? Is it a workplace filled with co-workers who embrace sinful behaviors? Is it a neighbor? Where is your “Corinth?”

Like many Christians today, the Corinthian believers had great difficulty in not mimicking the unbelieving and corrupt society around them. They wanted to be in God’s kingdom while keeping one foot in the kingdom of this world. They wanted to have the blessings of the new life but hang on to the pleasures of the old. They wanted to have what they thought was the best of both worlds, but Paul plainly warned them that that was not possible.

Paul heard of their struggles and wrote this letter to address their problems, heal their divisions, and answer their questions. Paul confronted them with their sin and their need for corrective action and clear commitment to Christ.   Paul gives us a Christian approach to problem solving. He analyzed the problem thoroughly to uncover the underlying issue and then highlighted the biblical values that should guide our actions.

To me it’s comforting that our churches today face many of the same problems that the New Testament church faced.  We are still messed up, yet we have a choice.  Which will we choose? To be Divided or United, to indulge in Sexual Immorality or choose Purity, to be a Good Influence or a Bad Influence, to be Drunk or Reverent to be Selfish or Serving, to be Apathetic or Loving?

I hope that you can join us for our series, Messed Up Church from 1 Corinthians.

Darrell

Sources:  Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.   MacArthur New Testament Commentary, The – MacArthur New Testament Commentary – 1 Corinthians.,  Life Application Study Bible.
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