I love following the “trail” of the biblical teachers to see how they go from a question that is asked of them to get to the “meat” of the issue (not many liked my pun yesterday). Jesus did this often. Take the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 (vs. 16-22). He asked Jesus what good deed he could do to inherit eternal life and Jesus eventually targeted a command that wasn’t exactly listed in the Bible. Jesus knew this young guy loved his money more than Jesus and Jesus went after that. The young guy wanted eternal life but didn’t want it more than his money. We see the same issue with Paul in 1 Corinthians 8-10. The original question is “should a Christian eat meat sacrificed to an idol?” Whether that meat was sold at the meat market or served at a Temple feast. Paul answered both questions, but he used the original question to get to the real issue, which was the idolatrous immorality and sinful lifestyles of some of the Corinthian Christians.
Here’s the trail of his argument:
- Question 1: Is it right for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol?
- Answer 1: A Christian can eat meat sacrificed to an idol. But they should not force another Christian to eat that meat, if that brother/sister doesn’t believe they can eat meat sacrificed to an idol.
- Question 2: Is it right for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol at the Temple of Aphrodite?
- Answer 2: Since a Christian is in fellowship with the Lord (through the life, death, resurrection of Jesus) and they’re in fellowship with other Christians, a Christian cannot go to the local Temple to participate in their feasts. If they do, they’re participating in idolatry.
- Question 3: So, is it right for a Christian to eat meat sacrificed to an idol?
- Answer 3: If purchased at the local meat market to serve your family or for others, yes, it’s allowed. However, you may not do 2 things: serve that meat to other Christians who don’t think it’s right to eat this meat nor should you attend the local Temple gatherings.
See the issue is the sin, but the Corinthians’ question was eating meat. This is a very challenging and nuanced section of Scripture that we must handle with care. But, we can see how Paul’s use of the question to get to the real issue helps us help others. Some examples:
- A husband might ask, “is it right for my wife to snap at me or try to control what I’m doing?” But after looking into it, the heart of the matter is that the husband might be angrily dictating to his wife or he might be radically lazy. The heart of the issue is his leadership or lack thereof that’s creating a climate that she’s insecure in.
- A wife might ask, “is it right for my husband to be so demanding?” But as ‘investigation’ happens, it’s possible that the heart of this question is not a husband who is a dictator, but a wife who refuses to listen to her husband or acts disrespectful. The heart of the issue is her lack of genuine submission to her husband because she’s not trusting the Lord to lead her through him.
- A child might ask, “do I have to wear the shoes you bought me?” When most of us would have a coronary over the child’s ungratefulness, we might find that the real issue is fear of man and the child being consumed with what other people think of them.
- Someone might ask, “what are the moral limitations between unmarried people?” In other words, “how far is too far?” to only find out the issue could be sexual lust or a desire to manipulate another person with the words of a Christian leader or friend. The heart of the issue is sin already committed or desire and trying to find ‘loopholes’ in God’s moral code.
In my years in the ministry, I have found that people like to put on fronts, like to protect their reputations, and are afraid of being exposed. I’ve said often, “everyone wants accountability until they get it.” It’s true. We’ll ask off-the-wall questions, make untrue accusations, and even remember things that never happened…all for the sake of the cover-up.
Now, this is important because as John Calvin said, “The human heart is a factory of idols. Every one of us is, from his mother’s womb, expert in inventing idols.” So, if we don’t believe this about ourselves and we don’t ‘mistrust’ our sinful selves, we’ll be caught in a lie about ourselves. To help you explore the idols are of your heart, here’s a link to the best chart I know that helps reveal some of the “idols of the heart”: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/596cfcfbf14aa172e05bd936/t/5e4f53431f02d40d7ea6277b/1582256963359/List+of+Idols+-+Tim+Keller_Edited.pdf
Back into baseball
Let me add a conclusion to the example I used on Sunday about quitting baseball. In 1995 and 1996 the UVC baseball teams that I coached were 2-16 and 11-10 respectively (for non-sports’ fans the first number is wins and the second number is losses). But something was amiss. I was angry, proud, and self-serving. I did things on the field that revealed this. During the 96-97 offseason, the Lord was really convicting me to quit and get my priorities in line with His. But I delayed and waited because I couldn’t do it. Finally, on the eve of the start of the season, I relented, repented, and humbled myself before the Lord. I called a friend who I thought would be willing to coach the team and I called the AD and resigned. The following day, which was the first day of practice, I talked to the boys. It was crushing to them and it killed me. But I knew it was the right decision. I didn’t even attend a game for the next 3 seasons.
Over that time, the Lord began to help me re-align my heart. I started seeing all of life as a gift from God. I started seeing different gifts/interests being used for His glory. And I started seeing how I could do things without idolizing things. I could see beyond the music, art, movie, etc. and see the hidden hand of a great God. And then in 2000, the UVC AD called me and asked if I would be willing to assist the head coach for that season, which would be the head coach’s last year because his son was graduating. After talking with Jill and others I respect, they had all noticed a sincere heart change in me about baseball. And with their blessing, I stepped back on to the field again to coach. It was exhilarating and nerve-wracking. Gone was the “everyday” anger. Gone was “win at all costs”. Gone was seeing failure as defining. And what came over me was an ability to see through the game to young men’s hearts.
Now, while it’s not perfect (there are times I’ve repented to umpires and asked my team to forgive me), it’s been quite the wonderful journey of God redeeming something in my life for His glory and others’ good and allowing me to do something I love and enjoy.
Coming up next:
This coming Sunday, we will talk about all things being done for the glory of God as we look at 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1. It is absolutely one of my favorite things to talk about. Can’t wait until Sunday!
From the Cheap Seats:
- Spring training baseball sounds so good! The crack of the bat, the small roar of a small crowd when they see a bomb hit, is so cool. It feels ‘normal’.
- I’m so impressed by David Moyes, the manager for West Ham FC. Sometime, just look this guy up. His team plays with an aggressive style and they’re causing fits in the Premier League. They took it to City this passed Saturday, but City earned a hard fought 2-1 win. But the Hammers were pounding.
- Can we please stop the nonsense about Russell Wilson being traded? Do you really think that a 70-year-old Pete Carroll wants to start over with another QB1? No way. They’re going to upgrade their offensive line and move on. Russ is great, but I don’t think he’s going anywhere.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.
Have a great week. Looks like warmer days are ahead this week!