Sunday’s sermon was challenging on a few levels. One, the text was challenging. Two, not having people in the building to look at, to insure that the concepts were coming across clearly, was challenging. Three, there is so much more to say on this text. So, what I hope to do in this edition of ‘musings’ is to explain a little more.
- One of the challenges with this text, is not only the language and grammar, but dealing with different cultures and times. For instance, there were a few lines in this section that do not translate very well in English. The tenses of the verses, and the placement of different words comes out a tad awkward. So, it’s the preacher’s job to make sure that those complex issues, come out in a concise, simple way.
- Another challenge was trying to communicate how decadent the Corinthian culture was, without being too explicit for young ears. The Roman Empire was remarkably immoral. Corinth was a crown-jewel of their immorality. Temple prostitutes both male and female; homosexuality; and heterosexual immorality were common-place. As was a sickening ritual for young men that when they “came of age” their parents would purchase them a prostitute from the Temple and their friends would have parties with every manner of immorality happening. All of this paints a graphic picture of what the church was dealing with, in their culture.
- Now, that challenge is made difficult because it’s actually hard for us to imagine that these types of things went on and hard to imagine that as immoral as we think our culture is, Corinth was that on steroids. Gordon Fee highlights this when he wrote: “our tacit assumption, as the result of our Judeo-Christian heritage, (is) that people generally took a dim view toward sexual irregularity (immorality), even if they did not attach religious significance to it. But such was not the case for Greco-Roman Corinth.” His point here in this quote is something that’s very challenging in teaching a text like this…the Corinthian Christians did not think immorality was as big of a deal, as we do. Even our “immoral” culture, would’ve looked mild to the Corinthians.
- Then throw in Paul’s hardline stance on dealing with this immoral man, you can see why this is a very interesting case study. An immoral culture like Corinth, blushing at this man’s sin, tells you how bad this man’s sin was. And to think that the church was “arrogant” and “boasting” about it, makes it really disturbing. But there are several things in this that I think bear repeating and I believe are very important for us to hear:
- The first thing is that this was a Christian man. Paul does not take the same stance on the immoral woman involved. You have to ask why? We’re going to learn more in this coming week’s sermon, but for the sake of this post, just understand this: the church is only responsible for holding Christians accountable and the church can only discipline Christians. This is very important. When a Christian habitually, willfully, and rebelliously lives in sin of this kind that hurts the name of Christ and hurts others, we “put them out”, after we have attempted to help them change.
- But what about non-Christians attending church? Do we expect them to have the same standards in their lives? Do we treat them the same? And the answer is ‘no’. What this means is that a non-Christian homosexual could attend our church and I hope they would receive love, grace, care, and people regularly talking to them about Jesus. This means that a non-Christian adulterer could attend our church and I hope that they would receive, love, grace, care, and hear us regularly talking to them about Jesus. And then, when they trust Jesus, my hope is they would receive discipleship, counseling, training, and help on leaving not just their immorality behind, but any manner of sin.
- The step of church discipline is mainly highlighted in Matthew 18:15-20. But 1 Corinthians 5, is certainly a practical outworking of Jesus’s teaching in Matthew. What we need to see very clearly and what we need to consistently apply to our souls and our church is that this is always to be restorative. It’s literally for someone else’s good. Too often, we think of this type of step as “just doing the right thing”, or “I’ve just gotta get something off my chest”, or “the church just has to maintain her standards”, rather than seeing this step as being for the sinner’s good and for Christ’s glory. Notice…neither of those two goals (sinner’s good and Christ’s glory) have anything to do with us feeling good or just coming out of it “smelling like a rose”. As I said Sunday, if confrontation of someone’s sin or a step of church discipline cannot be done for restoration, it should not be done.
- To say that this step of discipline is hard, is an understatement. Removing someone from our church, should hurt…deeply. This is one of our own, someone we love, we’ve spent time with, a friend in Christ that we are informing that they cannot have the same level of fellowship and friendship that we’ve had before. It should hurt, sorrowfully, and a cause grief. If the church does not see it this way, then the church is misunderstanding a biblical view of discipline.
- Finally, notice throughout the text how transparent Paul was about the entire process. This is a great lesson for the church. This is not some secret, hidden, all-of-a-sudden transaction. This is done out in the open by the church and her leaders. A.C. Thiselton wrote, “Paul enjoins transparent action and the implementation of agreed procedures.” This is one reason why we cover church discipline in our new members’ materials. There should be no surprises.
- There is obviously the sin of sexual immorality in this text. One of the things that I didn’t cover yesterday is that while Paul is dealing with heinous sexual sin that the world would blush at, I think it’s important for us to realize that in Jesus, He wants us free from all manners of sexual sin. These would include: homosexuality, homosexual and heterosexual lust, pornography, heterosexual immorality, etc. Basically any sexual sin, which is outside the bounds of the marriage covenant, is sin that Jesus wants us freed from. There’s a reason why God’s instruction is to “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18) and not “resist” sexual immorality. I’ve always found it interesting that we’re told to “resist the devil” (James 4:7) but we’re told to flee from sexual immorality. It’s almost like the Bible is telling us that for the Christian, sexual sin is more dangerous than the devil. Just give that some thought. So, if you’re feeling trapped in sexual sin, please feel free to reach out to Christian friends or leaders to help you. We’d be glad to help.
- Finally, to help with your kids (or your own soul)…a few years ago Russell Moore wrote a great article about porn and video games. It’s called “Fake Love, Fake War”. He’s not tying video games with porn, as much as showing that video games give off an adrenaline rush that God gave to young men for the purpose of fighting “real” battles. I found it interesting, helpful, and (in these restricted times) challenging.
From the Cheap Seats:
- Last Sunday, one of our elders said, “isn’t it weird how normal this whole thing is feeling like?” I replied that it is weird. But it got me thinking…you know that awkward feeling of attending Junior High for the first time? Or walking into a new job? I wonder if the longer this thing goes on, the more awkward it will feel when we finally do get together?? So, to remedy that…be intentional on connecting and when the restrictions are off (Lord willing, sooner rather than later), be intentional to open your hearts and lives to one another.
- Many have asked me how our church is doing through all of this. And here’s what we’re seeing: our church seems to be thriving. Here are some highlights that I think will encourage you:
- We have heard stories about people sharing the gospel with others. There are so many stories that to just highlight one would not be fair. But there’s been a lot.
- We have heard stories of people sharing the live-stream of our services with friends who don’t attend churches and inviting those friends to church when restrictions are loosened. A lot of this is going on.
- We have seen how you have sacrificially given to the church during this time. It has been amazing. Giving to the COVID-19 funds for Middle East and Philippines has been wonderful, as has giving towards our own benevolence fund.
- Online viewers keep going up. While it’s hard to predict what all of this means, we do know this…the gospel of Jesus is going out broadly through our Sunday live-streams.
- We have heard that the groups that are using ZOOM for their meetings have experienced wonderful fellowship and an openness that has been really encouraging.
- Not too mention what we’ve seen in different parts of the community…neighbors connecting like never before; neighborhoods seeming like “Mayberry” (quote from Dave Ruble); people willing to actually talk to one another…great opportunities.
- And finally, I’ve heard that families are getting “reconnected” and some have said that they’re worried about going back to the lives they had before the restrictions because they don’t want to lose what they’re experiencing at home.
- So…as I’ve said before…God is at work.
- One question I’ve been asking myself is this: what is the status quo that God is trying to break me out of & He’s using these restrictions to do it? I’d encourage you to think about that for yourself? See, we can get irritated about what we can’t do, but what is the Lord trying to adjust in your life through this? It might be that you don’t want to have such a crazy schedule after this is done; or you see that your days off really matters to your life and family more than you thought; or that you really do have time for those home projects! Mine have been…the Lord restoring to my soul, being still and knowing Him, reading His word slowly, and not doing anything in a hurry/rush. Among other things…
About loosening restrictions:
- Let’s be in prayer that Governor Brown would determine that counties and areas of our state that are less hit by COVID-19 can begin to re-open soon. And let’s pray for our patience in the midst of all of this.
- Our elders met last Tuesday night and we went over the Governor’s phases that were leaked to the media. Some things you’ll notice in her plan is that they differ from the Federal government. For instance, in her Phase One, she does not allow for large gatherings, while the Federal government does. In Phase Two, she allows for large gatherings but no larger than 50 people. So, here’s how we’re planning:
- We’re planning on multiple services and at this time, we’re not yet certain as to the times of those.
- We’re working on how to have people/families “register” for each service.
- We’re working on how to incorporate everyone who might want to attend CLF.
- Due to social distancing requirements, we are not certain about child-care during these services. We need wisdom on this.
- We are anticipating that within the next month (more than likely next 2 weeks) for our state’s restrictions to begin to loosen. Now, I realize that our Governor needs to act and I’m praying that she will. So, we would ask of your prayers for a few things:
- God would give us wisdom on how to configure the church building and church administration for this.
- God would sustain us through this time with strength, wisdom, and endurance.
- God would give us wisdom about how to “cap” these services.
Have a great week…