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Positive Commands: The Means—A Focus on Attitudes


The positive One Another passages in Scripture express the means and the methods for living as members of the body of Christ and as brethren together in the family of God. These passages also focus on two things: attitudes and actions. Since attitudes form the soil and the root out of which actions grow, we will look at those One Another injunctions that focus on attitudes, particularly those that enable us to obey the One Another commands.

Attitudes can be like cobwebs which clutter up the mind and cause us to fail in the purposes of God. Or they can be like an interstate highway to an automobile, smoothing the way to our destination. Chuck Swindoll writes:

This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.[1]

Because attitudes are so important, Scripture has a great deal to say about our thinking processes which produce our attitudes and which in turn produce our actions. Proverbs 23:6-7 shows that a man who is thinking selfishly will invariably act in hypocrisy.

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.

Matthew 12:33-37 shows what we say is but the product of how and what we think and believe. Scripture teaches that wicked behavior is the product of a wicked and deceitful heart (Jer. 17:5; Matt. 23:26). “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” The problem is “stinking thinking,” thinking that is lacking divine viewpoint and faith in the power and purposes of God.

To grasp this concept, it is helpful to divide sin into two categories:

(1) Visible acts of transgression against the commands and principles of Scripture, and

(2) Inward acts of transgression, sins of the mind and attitude which would include subtle violations of our Lord’s command to love.

We tend to deal only with the first category or if we deal with the second, it is superficial. Larry Crabb in his book, Inside Out, gives us a good illustration:

“Are you willing to follow Christ?” The hundreds of teenagers shift uncomfortably in their seats as they hear the speaker boom out the challenge at the morning meeting.

“He invites you to come to Him, to really come, to come in total surrender. If you’re sick and tired of playing at Christianity, then take His invitation seriously and come. Get your drugs, your porno magazines, your rock tapes—get everything that defiles you—and bring it all tonight to the rally. We’ll have a great burning of all these tools of the Devil to symbolize your decision to follow Christ.”

That night, dozens of kids, with eyes moist and jaws firmly set, dump their marijuana, Penthouses and Bon Jovi tapes in a pile outside the meeting room. As the fire roars, they all join hands and sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

As a teen, I took part in similar happenings, making strong commitments as I stared into the dying campfire to never miss devotions and to witness every day. But although good spiritual directions were sometimes set in these moments, the promises I made on the mountaintop often dissolved into complacency when I returned to the valley of everyday life. Something inside me that needed to be dealt with was never touched.[2]

The focus is too often all wrong: I have no argument with exhorting people to abandon clearly sinful practices and to develop good habits … But a sharp focus on visible conformity to specific standards of right and wrong can easily lead to a disastrous neglect of subtle sins against relationship.[3]

Verses that Focus on Attitudes

Command 1: Have the Same Mind With One Another

The believer is commanded in Scripture to have a different mind, to develop a biblical viewpoint, and possess a Christlike attitude in all things.

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

William Law wrote nearly two centuries ago, “Man needs to be saved from his own wisdom as much as from his own righteousness, for they produce one and the same corruption.”[4]

(1) Having the same mind means knowing and understanding Scripture.

From the Word of God we need the infusion of God’s thoughts which are infinitely higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-11). Then, in faith we need to apply His truth as we depend on the indwelling Spirit. The need is to think with the same kind of viewpoint, to possess the same kind of attitudes toward life and one another. We need to have the mind of Christ, to think with His values, to possess His vision, and to allow that to change our attitudes which in turn will change our actions and pursuits.

1 Peter 3:8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;

The term “harmonious” is literally, “of one mind, likeminded,” (homophron, oJmovfrwn). The actions of being brotherly, kindhearted, and humble all stem from having one mind, thinking with the mind of Christ.

Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 2:46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

Acts 4:24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is Thou who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, …”

Acts 5:12 And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.

In each of the above verses “with one mind” or “one accord” is homothumadon (oJmoqumadovn), from homos, “one” and thumos, “passion.”

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

In these two passages in Romans, the verb is phroneo (fronevw), which means first, “to have understanding” and then “to think, be minded in a certain way.”

In all of the above verses we see that the positive actions of the body of Christ are tied into possessing the same mind (or mental attitude) which formed the dynamic for its ministry in the world. For your own study compare also: Philippians 1:27; 2:3-5; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; 13:11; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:1.

(2) Having the same mind means thinking with the Word.

To have the mind of Christ means to think with the Word of God, to live, not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (the Scripture), so that we bring our thoughts and actions into harmony with God’s viewpoint by applying God’s thoughts to everything we do and to everything that happens to us.

To experience God and the joys of His plan and purposes for man, man must know His Word.

Isaiah 55:8-11 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

The Devil sought to get the Lord to live independently of His Father at the beginning of His ministry. Jesus not only countered each time with Scripture, but He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to show how vital God’s whole council is to our ability to handle temptation and sin.

Matthew 4:3-4 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

(3) Having the same mind means regular renewal in the Word

It requires biblical truth for its development and maintenance, daily renewing of the mind.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 4:23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

It requires conquering thought patterns by focusing on principles and promises of the Word.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

 1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(4) Having the same mind means possessing an attitude of joy

We develop an attitude of joy through biblical vision for and submission to the calling and purposes of God (Prov. 29:18; John 13:3-4; Heb. 12:1-4; Phil. 4:4-8). In Philippians 4:8 we see again an emphasis on our mind and our attitudes. They can be kept free from bitterness, blame, self-pity, and hopeless pessimism if we cast our cares on the Lord and trust in His sovereignty. By getting rid of the stuff that chokes out God’s viewpoint, we create space for hope and joy to take its place.

(5) Having the same mind means an attitude of humility

An attitude of humility expresses itself in servant living. Humility prepares the way for sacrificial love which puts the needs of others above self (Mark 10:45; John 13:4; Phil. 2:3f; 1 Pet. 5:5; Rom. 12:10, 16b; Gal. 5:13). Humility is never self-depreciating. Rather it is the recognition of who we are by God’s grace and leads to the use of our abilities in loving service for others. Humility allows us to take the position of John 13.

Religion and religious striving are far too often egocentric and, though this can be purified and brought into the service of God and others through the Word, too often true religion is corrupted and nullified by cravings and striving for power and security—the opposite of submission, humility, and trust.

In Crabb’s book, Inside Out, he talks about the problems of self-protection and our motives: “The sin of self-protection to which I refer occurs when our legitimate thirst for receiving love creates a demand to not be hurt that overrides a commitment to lovingly involve ourself with others.”[5]

(6) Having the same mind means an attitude of loving family affection

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Christ became one with us that he might feel for us in our humanity. Likewise, as brethren in Christ, God wants us to become more and more devoted to one another so that we place the needs of others above ourselves. Romans 12:10 means we are to love one another with a family affection as brothers in Christ (cf. Heb. 2:11-18 with Rom. 12:10).

Conclusion

We cannot impart to others what we do not ourselves possess! Our relationship with one another always manifests the reality of our life with the Lord and the condition of our thinking and attitudes!

Often, the prayer that’s most in accord with God’s Word is not, Lord change my wife, or children, or church leadership,” but “Lord, change me!

The big question is not simply, is Christianity true? There is plenty of historical evidence that it is. The basic question is, what difference is it making in my life and the way I think and believe? This is what the world looks for in our lives as the evidence of reality, and that’s what the church needs in its relationships with one another.

The all important ingredient is our focus and an attitude of trust in the Lord. One of the best illustrations I know of the importance of keeping a focused and right attitude is found in the book by Chuck Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip:

“The colorful, nineteenth-century showman and gifted violinist Nicolo Paganini was standing before a packed house, playing through a difficult piece of music. A full orchestra surrounded him with magnificent support. Suddenly one string on his violin snapped and hung gloriously down from his instrument. Beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. He frowned but continued to play, improvising beautifully.

“To the conductor’s surprise, a second string broke. And shortly thereafter, a third. Now there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin as the master performer completed the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and in good Italian fashion, filled the hall with shouts and screams, “Bravo! Bravo!” As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit back down. Even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore, they quietly sank back into their seats.

“He held the violin high for everyone to see. He nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and then he turned back to the crowd, and with a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted, ‘Paganini … and one string!’ After that he placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience (and the conductor) shook their heads in silent amazement. ‘Paganini … and one string!’[6] (And, I might add, an attitude of fortitude.)

Swindoll goes on to say:

“This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-do-day basis is my choice of attitude. … Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress. … When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.

“Yet, we must admit that we spend more of our time concentrating and fretting over the strings that snap, dangle, and pop—the things that can’t be changed—than we do giving attention to the one that remains, our choice of attitude.” [7] 

For the Christian, however, we are not talking about just a positive attitude. We are talking about an attitude that comes from a heart focused on God and that trusts in Him.

——————

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1982, p. 207.

[2] Larry Crabb, Inside Out, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 1988, p. 113.

[3] Crabb, p. 115.

[4] Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Psycho Heresy, EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, 1987, p. 7.

[5] Ibid., p. 117.

[6] Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1982, pp. 205-206.

[7] Ibid., p. 207.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2018 in Sermon

 

Church leaders are called to behave better


Avoiding behaviors that diminish the influence of church leaders

Sometimes ministers go through difficult seasons.  Sometimes elders go through difficult seasons.  At times it seems that entire congregations go through difficult seasons.

Sometimes a difficult season occurs because of someone’s irresponsibility, incompetence, meanness, manipulation, or thoughtlessness.  Some ministers and some elders have been guilty of all five.

Ministers and elders will make mistakes.  Human beings make mistakes regardless of what role they might find themselves in.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be irresponsible?  When church leaders are irresponsible in what they say or in how they act, they are basically wasting the influence and the energy of the church.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be incompetent?  Church leaders do not have identical gifts or identical strengths.  Yet, if we pretend that we always know what to do, after awhile our incompetencies will become obvious to others.  When we are not learning, growing, or developing, we will never move beyond where we are right now.

Does a minister or an elder really have to be mean?  Of course not.  Yet, so often these people are not held accountable for their meanness.  For example, if an elder says something to a minister in an elder’s meeting that is rude and unkind, what do the other elders do?  In far too many churches, they simply remain silent.   (Yes, an elder close to that minister may call him later and grouse about what his fellow elder said.  However, that elder may never be confronted regarding his behavior.)

Does a minister or an elder really have to be manipulative?  No. Of course, a minister may have several friends who are also in the elder group.  However, this minister has crossed a line when he manipulates several elders behind the scenes to basically do his bidding for him in elders’ meetings.  Ministers who refuse to manipulate know how to relate and love without resorting to self-serving manipulation.

Finally, does a minister or an elder really have to be thoughtless?  No.  However, one will have to yield to the Spirit, submitting not to the flesh but to the Spirit’s desire for our lives, our relationships, and our leadership groups.  Otherwise, we will yield to the flesh, saying what is thoughtless and hurtful, and looking for a cheap laugh at someone else’s expense instead of building one another up. (Borrowed)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2018 in Sermon

 

Chronological tables of the events of Jesus


CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF  THE PARABLES OF CHRIST.

PARABLES. WHERE SPOKEN. WHERE RECORDED.
The two debtors [Capernaum] Lu 7:40-43.
The strong man armed Galilee Mt 12:29; Mr 3:27; Lu 11:21, 22.
The unclean spirit Galilee Mt 12:43-45; Lu 11:24-26.
The sower Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:3-9, 18-23; Mr 4:3-9, 14-20; Lu 8:5-8, 11-15.
The tares and wheat Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:24-30, 36-43.
The mustard seed Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:31, 32; Mr 4:30-32; Lu 13:18, 19.
The seed growing secretly Seashore of Galilee Mr 4:26-29.
The leaven Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:33; Lu 13:20, 21.
The hid treasure Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:44.
The pearl of great price Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:45, 46.
The draw net Seashore of Galilee Mt 13:47-50.
The unmerciful servant Capernaum Mt 18:21-35.
The good Samaritan Near Jerusalem Lu 10:29-37.
The friend at midnight Near Jerusalem Lu 11:5-8.
The rich fool Galilee Lu 12:16-21.
The barren fig tree Galilee Lu 13:6-9.
The great supper Perea Lu 14:15-24.
The lost sheep Perea Mt 18:12-14; Lu 15:3-7.
The lost piece of money Perea Lu 15:8-10.
The prodigal son Perea Lu 15:11-32.
The good shepherd Jerusalem Joh 10:1-18.
The unjust steward Perea Lu 16:1-8.
The rich man and Lazarus Perea Lu 16:19-31.
The profitable servants Perea Lu 17:7-10.
The importunate widow Perea Lu 18:1-8.
The Pharisees and publicans Perea Lu 18:9-14.
The laborers in the vineyard Perea Mt 20:1-16.
The pounds Jericho Lu 19:11-27.
The two sons Jerusalem Mt 21:28-32.
The wicked husbandmen Jerusalem Mt 21:33-44; Mr 12:1-12; Lu 20:9-18.
The marriage of the king’s son Jerusalem Mt 22:1-14.
The ten virgins Mount of Olives Mt 25:1-13.
The talents Mount of Olives Mt 25:14-30.

 

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF  THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST.
On the order of some of our Lord’s Miracles and Parables,
the data being scanty, considerable difference obtains.

MIRACLES. WHERE WROUGHT. WHERE RECORDED.
Water made wine Cana Joh 2:1-11.
Traders cast out of the temple Jerusalem Joh 2:13-17.
Nobleman’s son healed Cana Joh 4:46-54.
First miraculous draught of fishes Sea of Galilee Lu 5:1-11.
Leper healed Capernaum Mt 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Lu 5:12-15.
Centurion’s servant healed Capernaum Mt 8:5-13; Lu 7:1-10.
Widow’s son raised to life Nain Lu 7:11-17.
Demoniac healed Capernaum Mr 1:21-28; Lu 4:31-37.
Peter’s mother-in-law healed Capernaum Mt 8:14, 15; Mr 1:29-31; Lu 4:38, 39.
Paralytic healed Capernaum Mt 9:2-8; Mr 2:1-12; Lu 5:17-26.
Impotent man healed Jerusalem Joh 5:1-16.
Man with withered hand healed Galilee Mt 12:10-14; Mr 3:1-6; Lu 6:6-11.
Blind and dumb demoniac healed Galilee Mt 12:22-24; Lu 11:14.
Tempest stilled Sea of Galilee Mt 8:23-27; Mr 4:35-41; Lu 8:22-25.
Demoniacs dispossessed Gadara Mt 8:28-34; Mr 5:1-20.
Jairus’ daughter raised to life Capernaum Mt 9:18-26; Mr 5:22-24; Lu 8:41-56.
Issue of blood healed Near Capernaum Mt 9:18-26; Mr 5:22-24; Lu 8:41-56.
Two blind men restored to sight Capernaum Mt 9:27-31.
Dumb demoniac healed Capernaum Mt 9:32-34.
Five thousand miraculously fed Decapolis Mt 14:13-21; Mr 6:31-44; Lu 9:10-17; Joh 6:5-14.
Jesus walks on the sea Sea of Galilee Mt 14:22-33; Mr 6:45-52; Joh 6:15-21.
Syrophœnician’s daughter healed Coasts of Tyre and Sidon Mt 15:21-28; Mr 7:24-30.
Deaf and dumb man healed Decapolis Mr 7:31-37.
Four thousand fed Decapolis Mt 15:32-39; Mr 8:1-9.
Blind man restored to sight Bethsaida Mr 8:22-26.
Demoniac and lunatic boy healed Near Cæsarea Philippi Mt 17:14-21; Mr 9:14-29; Lu 9:37-43.
Miraculous provision of tribute Capernaum Mt 17:24-27.
The eyes of one born blind opened Jerusalem Joh 9:1-41.
Woman, of eighteen years’ infirmity, cured [Perea.] Lu 13:10-17.
Dropsical man healed [Perea.] Lu 14:1-6.
Ten lepers cleansed Borders of Samaria Lu 17:11-19.
Lazarus raised to life Bethany Joh 11:1-46.
Two blind beggars restored to sight Jericho Mt 20:29-34; Mr 10:46-52; Lu 18:35-43.
Barren fig tree blighted Bethany Mt 21:12, 13, 18, 19; Mr 11:12-24.
Buyers and sellers again cast out Jerusalem Lu 19:45, 46.
Malchus’ ear healed Gethsemane Mt 26:51-54; Mr 14:47-49; Lu 22:50, 51; Joh 18:10,11.
Second draught of fishes Sea of Galilee Joh 21:1-14.

 

CHRONOLOGICAL TABLE OF THE PRINCIPAL EVENTS CONNECTED WITH THE LIFE OF THE APOSTLE PAUL.

      Certainty in these dates is not to be had, the notes of time in the Acts being few and vague. It is only by connecting those events of secular history which it records, and the dates of which are otherwise tolerably known to us–such as the famine under Claudius Cæsar (Ac 11:28), the expulsion of the Jews from Rome by the same emperor (Ac 18:2), and the entrance of Porcius Festus upon his procuratorship (Ac 24:27), with the intervals specified between some occurrences in the apostle’s life and others (such as Ac 20:31; 24:27; 28:30; and Ga 1:1-2:21) –that we can thread our way through the difficulties that surround the chronology of the apostle’s life, and approximate to certainty.

Immense research has been brought to bear upon the subject, but, as might be expected, the learned are greatly divided. Every year has been fixed upon as the probable date of the apostle’s conversion from A.D. 31 [BENGEL] to A.D. 42 [EUSEBIUS]. But the weight of authority is in favor of dates ranging between 35 and 40, a difference of not more than five years; and the largest number of authorities is in favor of the year 37 or 38. Taking the former of these, to which opinion largely inclines, the following Table will be useful to the student of apostolic history:

A.D. 37 PAUL’S CONVERSION Ac 9:1.
A.D. 40 First Visit to Jerusalem Ac 9:26; Ga 1:18.
A.D. 42-44 First Residence at Antioch Ac 11:25-30.
A.D. 44 Second Visit to Jerusalem Ac 11:30; 12:25.
A.D. 45-47 FIRST MISSIONARY JOURNEY Ac 13:2; 14:26.
A.D. 47-51 Second Residence at Antioch Ac 14:28.
  Third Visit to Jerusalem Ac 15:2-30; Ga 2:1-10.
(on which see Notes)
A.D. 51,53, or 54 SECOND MISSIONARY JOURNEY Ac 15:36, 40; 18:22.
A.D. 53 or 54 Fourth Visit to Jerusalem Ac 18:21, 22.
  Third Residence at Antioch Ac 18:22, 23.
A.D. 54-58 THIRD MISSIONARY JOURNEY Ac 18:23; 21:15.
A.D. 58 Fifth Visit to Jerusalem
Arrest and Imprisonment at Cæsarea
Ac 21:15; 23:35.
A.D. 60 (Autumn)–
A.D. 61 (Spring)
Voyage to and Arrival in Rome Ac 27:1; 28:16.
A.D. 63 Release from Imprisonment
At Crete, Colosse, Macedonia, Corinth, Nicopolis, Dalmatia, Troas
Ac 28:30.
1 & 2 Tim. and Tit.
A.D. 63-65, or 66, or possibly as late as A.D. 66-68 Martyrdom at Rome  
 
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Posted by on January 8, 2018 in Evidence, Sermon

 

Satan’s use of ‘perfectionism, guilt and shame’


Guilt-vs.-Shame1 Revelation 12:10 (NIV)
10  Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.

2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)
10  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Suppose that the believer does not take advantage of his victorious position in Christ. Suppose he refuses to use the spiritual defenses provided. Suppose the believer sins. What then?

You would think that Satan, having led the person into sin, would then leave him to suffer the consequences; but this is not what happens. Satan has one more strategy that can make the disobedient Christian doubly defeated.

When you and I have disobeyed God, Satan moves in for that finishing stroke. He attacks us in our heart and conscience. “So you are a Christian! You go to church, you read your Bible, you even seek to serve the Lord. And look what you have done! If your friends at church knew what kind of a person you really were, they would throw you out!”

See how subtle and merciless Satan really is. Before we sin—while he is tempting us—he whispers, “You can get away with this!” Then after we sin, he shouts at us, “You will never get away with this!”

Have you ever heard his hateful voice in your heart and conscience? It is enough to make a Christian give up in despair!

 It is important that we learn to distinguish between Satan’s accusations and the Spirit’s conviction. A feeling of guilt and shame is a good thing if it comes from the Spirit of God. If we listen to the devil, it will only lead to regret and remorse and defeat.

When the Spirit of God convicts you, he uses the Word of God in love and seeks to bring you back into fellowship with your Father.

When Satan accuses you, he uses your own sins in a hateful way, and he seeks to make you feel helpless and hopeless.

Judas listened to the devil and went out and hanged himself. Peter looked at the face of Jesus and wept bitterly, but later came back into fellowship with Christ.

When you listen to the devil’s accusations (all of which may be true), you open yourself up to despair and spiritual paralysis. “My situation is hopeless!” I have heard more than one Christian exclaim, “I’m too far gone—the Lord could never take me back.” When you have that helpless, hopeless feeling, you can be sure Satan is accusing you.

 As long as you are feeling guilty, you are under indictment and you are moving farther and farther from the Lord. True conviction from the Spirit will move you closer to the Lord.

Satan wants you to feel guilty. Your heavenly Father wants you to know that you can be forgiven. Satan knows that if you live under a dark cloud of guilt, you will not be able to witness effectively or serve the Lord with power and blessing.

Sad to say, there are some ministers/churches that major in guilt. They seem to feel that unless a Christian goes home from service feeling like a failure, the services have not been a blessing.

Definitions and Key Thoughts

Guilt is a feeling of deep regret or remorse caused by feeling responsible for a failure or loss.

Guilt can lead to shame if the feelings of guilt are based on an act or acts that were thought to be sinful or displeasing to an authority figure.

There is a difference between feeling guilty and actually being guilty. If a moral law has been violated, a person is guilty, regardless of whether or not he feels guilty. On the other hand, just feeling guilty doesn’t mean that a moral law has been violated.

It is important to clarify whether the guilt is caused by a sinful act or from inappropriate regret.

True guilt is caused by sin and is God’s way of calling us to repentance and restitution.

False guilt is a burden of responsibility and blame we place on ourselves for failure to live up to our own or someone else’s expectations.

Paul had a situation like that in the church at Corinth. One of the members had fallen into sin and had refused to repent and make things right with God and the church.

1 Corinthians 5:1-6 (ESV)
1  It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.
2  And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
3  For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.
4  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus,
5  you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6  Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?

2 Corinthians 2:6 (ESV) 6  For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough,

At first, when this sin was detected, the Corinthian believers were very complacent and refused to act. Paul’s letter shocked them into their senses; but then they went to the other extreme and made it so hard on the offender that they would not forgive him!

So Paul had to counsel them,So that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, lest somehow such a one be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him…in order that no advantage be taken of us by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his schemes. 2 Corinthians 2:7, 8, 11

Excessive guilt and sorrow can only lead to depression, despair, and defeat. Sometimes it leads to destruction.

The first epistle of John was written against the teaching of the Gnostics of that time…and we still have some of their ‘way of thinking’ at work in our congregations. It’s the idea that we can grow as individuals to the point that we will eventually be perfect…the discussion of perfectionism.

 1 John 1:8-10 (ESV)
8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 
Jesus Christ stands at God’s right hand to intercede for us!

1 John 2:1 (ESV)
1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Dealing with True Guiltth

Guilt caused by sin requires an understanding of confession and forgiveness.

This kind of guilt is prompted by the Holy Spirit working in the conscience. The individual is motivated to confess sin and experience God’s cleansing.

Confession, request for forgiveness, and/or restitution needs to happen if possible (that is, if the person hurt is still alive, or if restitution is able to be made in any form).

Move On

Once you’ve confessed, apologized, and made restitution, don’t beat yourself up anymore, Leave it with God.

Turn off the mental tape player. Satan, not the Holy Spirit, is the accuser Rev. 12:10). Satan wants to create feelings of condemnation resulting in unnecessary guilt. Turn him off!

Keep a “guilt pot:’ Anytime you feel guilt creeping in, write that guilt feeling on a piece of paper and throw it in the pot. (The pot will remind you that God is the Potter, always at work on you, and you are merely the clay-Isaiah 64:8,)

This perfecting ministry has two aspects to it. As our High Priest, Jesus Christ intercedes for us and provides the grace that we need when we are tested and tempted. If by faith we turn to him and come to the throne of grace, he will see us through to victory.

But if we yield to temptation and sin, then he ministers as our Advocate to forgive us and restore us to fellowship once again.

LOVE FOR ALL song (136)

Love for all and can it be? Can I hope it is for me…I, who strayed so long ago, Strayed so far, and fell so low?

I, the disobedient child, Wayward, passionate and wild…I, who left my Father’s home, In forbidden ways to roam

To my Father can I go? At His feet myself I’ll throw; In His house there yet may be, Place a servant’s place for me.

See! my Father waiting stands; See! He reaches out His hands: God is love, I know, I see, Love for me, yes, even me.

Biblical Insights

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself– Genesis 3:10

Adam already knew he had sinned, He felt an inner awareness of wrongdoing called guilt, given by God as an internal corrective. The realization of guilt could have brought Adam to repentance and confession, Instead, Adam tried to cope with guilt and shame by avoidance and denial.

As long as we blame others and refuse to take responsibility for our wrong actions, we remain mired in sin, Guilt cuts us off from God’s redemptive healing. God invites us to be honest about our sin and confess it to Him, When we do, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9),

At the evening sacrifice I arose from my fasting; and having torn my garment and my robe, I fell on my knees and spread out my hands to the Lord my God. And I said: “0 my God, I am too ashamed and humiliated to lift up my face to You, my God; for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has grown up to the heavens.” -Ezra 9:5-6

Despite our mistakes and failures, God is willing to meet us at our point of need. Sometimes we can make amends by specific action. At other times we suffer the consequences of our sin, but through repentance, we can experience God’s grace and love.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. . . Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide ill the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” -John 8:31-36

No truth is more glorious to imprisoned people than to be told that they are no longer condemned but are set free! Christ brings that good news.

Often, however, believers who have been set free still keep themselves behind bars. They feel guilty about their past, or that they can’t be perfect in this life.

The feeling of guilt is healthy and productive when it helps us to know when we have done something wrong. But oppressive guilt can also keep people from being able to rejoice in their new life in Christ. That kind of guilt is a prison. We needn’t stay locked up if Christ has set us free.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. -Romans 8:1

Failure to keep the law perfectly leads to condemnation. Since no one can keep God’s law perfectly, all people are condemned. The law brings guilt because people realize they are powerless to keep it. Christ’s death for us, however, sets us free. If Christ no longer condemns us, then neither should we condemn ourselves.

 But I don’t ‘feel’ forgiven…I don’t ‘feel’ saved. This might be true because

  1. We do not believe God
  2. We do not see ourself as God sees us

 1 John 1:5-8 (ESV)
5  This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 
Do not listen to the voice of the devil! Instead, listen to the voice of God. Turn to the Word and believe what God says.

Rest assure that your Advocate in heaven is waiting to forgive you and restore you. To delay admitting and confessing sin is only to give Satan a greater opportunity to damage your life and ministry.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2017 in Encouragement, Sermon

 

1 Corinthians #8 – The Single Adult Christian and Sexuality


Up to this point, Paul had been dealing with the sins reported to be known in the Corinthian congregation. Now he takes up the questions about which they had written to him.

Some liberal critics have accused Paul of being against both marriage and women. These accusations are not true, of course.

Nor is it true that in 1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12, and 25 Paul is disclaiming divine inspiration for what he wrote. Rather, he is referring to what Jesus taught when He was on earth (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:1-12; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18).

Paul had to answer some questions that Jesus never discussed; but when a question arose that the Lord had dealt with, Paul referred to His words. Instead of disclaiming inspiration, Paul claimed that what he wrote was equal in authority to what Christ taught.

Christians Married to Christians (1 Cor. 7:1-11)

Apparently one of the questions the church asked was, “Is celibacy [remaining unmarried] more spiritual than marriage?” Paul replied that it is good for a man or a woman to have the gift of celibacy, but the celibate state is not better than marriage, nor is it the best state for everybody. Dr. Kenneth Wuest translates Paul’s reply, “It is perfectly proper, honorable, morally befitting for a man to live in strict celibacy.”

1 First Corinthians 7:6 makes it clear that celibacy is permitted, but it is not commanded; and 1 Corinthians 7:7 informs us that not everybody has the gift of remaining celibate. This ties in with our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:10-12, where “eunuchs” refers to those who abstain from marriage. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen. 2:18) is generally true for most people; but some have been called to a life of singleness for one reason or another.

One purpose for marriage is “to avoid fornication.” First Corinthians 7:2 makes it clear that God does not approve either of polygamy or homosexual “marriages.” One man married to one woman has been God’s pattern from the first. However, the husband and wife must not abuse the privilege of sexual love that is a normal part of marriage.

The wife’s body belongs to the husband, and the husband’s body to the wife; and each must be considerate of the other. Sexual love is a beautiful tool to build with, not a weapon to fight with. To refuse each other is to commit robbery (see 1 Thes. 4:6) and to invite Satan to tempt the partners to seek their satisfaction elsewhere.

As in all things, the spiritual must govern the physical; for our bodies are God’s temples. The husband and wife may abstain in order to devote their full interest to prayer and fasting (1 Cor. 7:5); but they must not use this as an excuse for prolonged separation. Paul is encouraging Christian partners to be “in tune” with each other in matters both spiritual and physical.

In 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, Paul applied the principle stated in 1 Corinthians 7:1 to single believers and widows: If you cannot control yourself, then marry.

The Responsibilities of Marriage Partners (7:2-6)

Because of fornication it is better for every man to have a wife.”

Sexual drive is God given; but must be fulfilled within the bounds of marriage. Love is something which is expressed by seeking the best for another even when the emotional enthusiasm has diminished.

Paul’s inspired judgment is that man has the right of choice in the question of marriage.

Obligations in marriage.

Sexual intercourse in marriage is not just permitted; it is commanded. The husband and wife belong to each other. Deprive not one another except by mutual consent. Could relate to temporary separation during a time of religious involvement. Without the consent, separation should not take place. Agreement based on a time of prayer. Such prayer was not commanded.

Generally thought of during specific needs and times.

The necessity is there to come back together to avoid Satan’s temptation which is ever present. The idea of separation between husband and wife is a concession, not a command.

 Paul’s Personal Example (7:7-8)

Paul possessed self control with regard to sexual desires. He credited his self control in sexual desire to a gift from God. Paul wished everyone possessed that gift as he did 1 Corinthians 7:9. 

Better to marry than to burn.”

“Burn” – Has to do with present sexual feelings or desire. Does not mean burn in torment. Paul stresses the need for marriage as the means of controlling sexual desires. Marriage should be exercised before sex; not as a result of having sexual encounters. Sexual desire is God given and therefore, not impure if placed in the context of marriage (Hebrews 13:4). In spite of the distress, marriage is better than being overtaken by temptation.

All covenants with God have a visible sign.

Sex is the Marriage Covenant’s Visible Sign

And sex is a sign of the marriage covenant between a man and a woman and God. Sex is a visible sign that makes visible the invisible reality of the union of the two people. The sign of the marriage covenant is sex.

According to the Bible, every other woman in the world a man relates to as a sister or a mother, but only one does he relate to as a wife. The sign between you and that only other person who you relate to as your spouse is sex.

It is designed to be a sign of permanence, safety, security, faithfulness.

Implicit in having sex is the promise of faithfulness. Sex communicates to the other person’s heart and to God the father: “I am touching you because I promise never to leave you nor forsake you. The exchange of our most intimate gifts communicates permanence. That is why sex belongs in marriage.

In this context, we are able to see why sex as a single adult is so damaging. When you have sex with someone as a single adult you are doing two things:

1) you are making permanent promises to the other person’s soul while you have temporary intentions. This creates confusion, anxiety, and insecurity.

2) Sex as a single adult makes a mockery out of the covenant between a man and a woman before the Lord and brings you into a state of spiritual disconnection. It doesn’t matter how brief the hookup or how strictly physical it is, sex outside of marriage leaves devastation emotional and spiritual devastation in its wake.

1 Corinthians 6:18: Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

The way we typically see things is as commitment increases so does physical intimacy. We basically earn the right to be more intimate as we stay with the person longer. If you haven’t been allowed to have a kiss after three dates then you might get a little upset because you have the right to have a kiss. That’s what dating people do. “We are dating, come on. I’m going to go find someone else.”

However, what the Bible indicates is that if there are only two types of relationships, those you relate to as brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers or husbands/wives, then there are only two levels of sexual intimacy. No sexual intimacy or total sexual intimacy. Please don’t tune this out because it’s some preacher guy who is out of touch. There is no middle ground. No “friends with benefits”. No “hook-up buddies”. No dating and doing everything but intercourse. Because sex includes more than the act of intercourse.

I am not trying to draw a new set of rules for you. I am trying to get you to think about your sexuality in a new way. The way you relate to the opposite sex. Relating sexually as if you were married to that person you are dating brings incredible relational, emotional, physical, and spiritual confusion.

And you are setting yourself up for failure.

Sex as not a birthright or a mile-marker needed after so many days in a relationship. The damage from sex as a single adult comes not because you don’t have the right person, but because it is in the wrong context. The truth

is that the only place where sex is going to be satisfying to your soul is when it is the visible sign of the invisible covenant you have made with that one person of the opposite sex. It is the way we demonstrate our commitment to the covenant to that one person for the rest of our lives.

Managing your Sexuality as a Single Adult

So how does a single person resist the temptation? Sometimes the sex drive seems almost overwhelming especially for those single adults who are single again after being in a marriage relationship where they enjoyed sex in its rightful context.

Here are some practical steps to managing your sexuality as a single adult:

Do not seek sexual satisfaction through touching or being touched by another person, even if you stop short of sexual intercourse.

A lot of single adults will draw a line at not having intercourse but will do everything else. They call it messing around. For married people, “messing around” is the onramp onto the freeway.

Single adults consistently operate in this realm of “messing around” doing everything but the final act and then they wonder why they cannot manage their sexuality.

Do not seek sexual gratification through self stimulation.

Self stimulation does not solve sexual pressure. Many Christians believe that it is a healthy way to deal with their sexual desires. But it is not. Not only can self gratification become habitual, but it produces guilt, is accompanied by lust, and, most importantly, contradicts the God-given design of sexuality.

The sexual act is not designed to be done alone for selfish gratification. Sex is created for relationship with the opposite sex in a marriage covenant. When you gratify yourself, you are training yourself to not need another person physically, emotionally, and mentally, to satisfy yourself. It is pseudo sex.

The more you train yourself to satisfy yourself physically before marriage, the more likely you are to satisfy yourself physically after you are married. Because it’s not really about sex. It is about our lazy, self-centered desire, to satisfy ourselves rather than give ourselves to and for another person. The answer to your pent up  sexual desires is not gratifying yourself, but resisting temptationResist and avoid sexual stimulation.

James 4:6a-7 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil  desires…7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

It is a no-brainer that pornography is destructive and works against you in your quest to be sexually pure. But the real test is what you do with the more common sources of sexual stimulation. R-rated movies, Men’s Health magazine, the newspaper, television, music videos.

In our society you cannot escape sexual stimulation, but you can refuse to seek it. And you can avoid it often when you see it coming. This will tell you whether you are enslaved or free. Can we say no to our bodies that want us to keep looking?

This becomes easier the more we focus on Christ and pure things. There is no better way to overcome a bad desire than to push it out with a new one. It is in prayer that we summon the divine help to produce in us that new desire for God. Fill your mind in God’s Word.

There is nothing that renews the mind like regular meditation on the Scriptures.

Embrace Christian Community

Hebrews 10:24: Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.

The struggle to resist temptation and manage your sexuality must be done in with the help of others seeking the same goals. For some of you the odds are not in your favor of having a lot of success with this because you are surrounded by people who do not believe the same things as you. Every conversation and outing is focused on sex and hooking up. Christian community gives you strength and support. Others will join to help you get to where you want to go instead of trying to rip you off course. You can pray for each other and hold each other accountable.

Make Spiritual Compatibly the Highest Requirement for Romantic Relationships

2 Corinthians 6:14 (Holman Christian Standard Bible): Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and  awlessness? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness?

The Bible clearly teaches that it is not appropriate for Christians to be in a relationship where an unbeliever has control over their life. This is especially true for dating relationships. It is hard enough to stay sexually pure as a dating couple when you are both spiritually aligned  with Christ as the center of the relationship. But when the  people is not in agreement and one is trying to remain sexually pure and the other does not have the same goal, guess which one will eventually win? You must make spiritual compatibility your highest priority.

Don’t get Desperate.

Desperate people make poor choices. Desperation begins when faith in God’s future and the enjoyment of the present disappears. When you believe that it will never happen unless you begin to take steps to make it happen yourself because you are just sick and tired of waiting.

When you get desperate you make mistakes. You will make compromises you never intended, date people you should never have dated, marry someone that is not a good fit.

As a single adult, the Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 7 that it is a special time in life where you can pour yourself into ministry and serving others more than at any other time in life. It is a time to live for God boldly, to grow close to him and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Do not become desperate. Desperate people make desperate decisions and pay drastic consequences.

Conclusion

Many want that sexual experience because we believe that that is the pinnacle of feeling loved by someone as a human. But we can learn to replace that with the love that can only be found in the total abandonment to Jesus then we can begin to be loved completely by him and him  alone.

There is going to come a day that even though you are  in a great marriage that there are areas that your spouse can never satisfy.

Inside the covenant of marriage sex is like a great meal, satisfying and nourishing. Outside of marriage it is more like candy. It might give you a short rush, but is full of empty calories with no nourishment. And a steady diet of it will make you sick. It will make you sick in your relationships with the opposite sex and it will make you sick in your relationship with God. Jesus has given us a choice. Now what are you going to do with it?

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2017 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon

 

How a fish story may help your marriage


16472951_1534275359935562_6600254523845811070_nDid it ever occur to you that we can learn a lot about having a better marriage by thinking about fish? You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my rocker. But bear with me for a moment.

It’s been said fish don’t know that they live in water. How could it be otherwise? Water is their universe and the only environment they’ll ever live in. Their world view is dictated by the limits of their perceptions.

And except for that rare and insightful fish that may occasionally stick his head above the surface of the water and wonder about the world above, the vast majority of fish naively swim around their entire lives, blindly accepting the water as the only reality there is.

We humans also tend to blindly accept our perceptions as the only reality there is. This is important to understand if you’re concerned about having a harmonious marriage. Why, you ask? Because “control issues” often drive a couple apart and toward divorce.

In these cases, one partner may be passionately opinionated that his (or her) perceptions constitute the only reality there is. This person may believe so strongly his viewpoint equals “The Truth” or “Reality,” he can’t imagine that anyone having a different opinion can be right.

Furthermore, this dominant spouse is uncomfortable with any differing opinion, often due to a subconscious insecurity and fear that a challenge will diminish his worth in some way. And when the dominant spouse refuses to look at the partner’s point of view, it’s a source of conflict—whether acknowledged or not by either spouse.

When the more assertive mate imposes his will over and over, and the submissive partner gives in repeatedly, the sad result is an unhealthy dynamic in which both partners share responsibility for the marriage going downhill due to these control issues in the relationship.

A little-known fact is that both spouses behave the way they do basically out of fear of facing change and growth.

For the controlling spouse, the mode of command and control is viewed as a path to security. He may feel this way because confronting differences in opinion may seem frightening to him and he feels more secure if the spouse is in agreement. If confronted, he may use anger to cover up his fear of change.

For the submissive partner, giving in is seen as the path of least resistance because it avoids the frightening discomfort of facing the spouse’s anger. This is especially true when the submissive partner never learned to appropriately deal with anger growing up. Being submissive is often habit learned as a child and is carried into the marriage.

Both of these viewpoints don’t see the bigger picture. The truth is, both spouses have set up the control situation—one by dominating, the other by agreeing to be dominated. And in the short term, the marriage may seem stable and relatively happy. But long term, the control issues can be a recipe for marital disaster.

Instead, what can help is when one or both spouses have a revelation—an “ah ha” moment of realization in which they realize:

  1. The status quo is leading to an unsatisfactory partnership. The likelihood of divorce is increased if nothing changes the trajectory of the marriage.
  2. There is a much better way for two people to coexist within a marriage. True love, passion, mutual respect, and fun are not only possible, but they are readily attainable, as difficult as that seems, to many distressed spouses.
  3. That positive change is possible even if only one spouse is willing to take small steps. This can be true because changing one partner almost always forces the other mate to adapt in some way. And if the change is positive, then the adaptation is likely to also be positive.

So how can one or both proactive partners initiate positive change in a marriage? A few of the things you can do are:

  1. Be willing to grow, to change, to learn. This requires courage, because it means looking at yourself and being honest with what you see. And it requires getting out of your comfort zone to proactively try new behavior.
  2. Maintain respect for each other. This includes adherence to fair fighting rules—no name calling or put downs. This becomes easier if you actively and intentionally focus on the qualities in your mate worthy of respect.
  3. Be willing to embrace authenticity. This means sharing your real feelings. It implies being honest with yourself and with your spouse. It requires getting past facades and exposing the real you to your partner.
  4. Admit when you are wrong. Have the humility to accept that to err is human and to admit that we all make mistakes. This implies being open minded to other points of view or opinions.

For the most part we define our individual world view based on the way we’ve been programmed by our past—the unique and personal history that each of us take into a relationship.

And as you work on opening up your perceptions and awareness, you will open the portal of your heart to improving your marriage. You now hold in your grasp the boundless possibility of starting today. (Borrowed from Lee Hefner)

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Marriage, Sermon

 

1 Corinthians #9 – The Limits of Christian Liberty 1 Cor. 8:1-13


After answering their questions about marriage, Paul turned to one of the most controversial subjects in the letter he received from the Corinthian church: “Can Christians eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols?”

Many behaviors are not commanded, commended, or forbidden in Scripture. They are neither black nor white, but gray. Such issues in one age or area may not be the same as those in other times or places; but every age and every place has had to deal with the gray areas of Christian living.

The first major council of the church, reported in Acts 15, was called primarily to deal with such issues. Some Jewish believers were insisting that all male Gentile converts be circumcised (v. 1) and others were afraid to socialize with believing Gentiles, especially over a meal, for fear they would break Jewish dietary laws. These issues were ‘real’ for that time when Christianity for both Jewish and Gentile believers was involved.

The apostles were represented and the council decided that Gentiles need not be circumcised (v. 19) but that believers “abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood” (v. 20). By following those policies they would “do well” (v. 29).

The practices mentioned were not in themselves sinful, but the council advised the churches to abstain from them in order not to needlessly offend Jewish brothers who had strong convictions about them.

Two common extremes are often followed in regard to doubtful things. One is legalism; the other is license.

Legalism believes that every act, every habit, every type of behavior is either black or white. Legalists live by rules rather than by the Spirit. They classify everything as either good or bad, whether the Bible mentions it or not. They develop exhaustive lists of do’s and don’ts. Doing the things on the good list and avoiding the things on the bad list is their idea of spirituality, no matter what the inner person is like.

Their lives are law controlled, not Spirit controlled. But refraining from doing things is not spirituality; walking in the Spirit is spirituality. Legalism stifles liberty, stifles conscience, stifles the Word, and stifles the Holy Spirit.

License is the opposite extreme. It is like legalism in that it too has no gray areas—but neither does it have much black. Almost everything is white; everything is acceptable as long as it is not strictly forbidden in Scripture. Such advocates believe that Christian freedom is virtually absolute and unqualified.

As long as your own conscience is free you can do as you please. That seems to have been the philosophy of the group Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 8. They probably agreed with him that believers should “maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men” (Acts 24:16). Beyond that, however, they wanted no restrictions.

But Paul teaches that it can also be wrong to offend the consciences of fellow believers when they are less mature (“weak”) and when what we are doing is not necessary in our service to the Lord.

In preparation for giving the principle, Paul responds to three reasons some of the Corinthians gave for feeling completely free to act as they pleased in regard to practices not specifically forbidden by God.

The reasons were: (1) We know we all have knowledge; (2) We know that an idol is nothing; and (3) We know that food is not an issue with God.

The apostle agrees that each reason is basically valid, but then goes on to show how none of those reasons should be applied to practices that might cause someone else to stumble spiritually.

There were two sources of meat in this ancient world: the regular market (where the prices were higher) and the local temples (where meat from the sacrifices was always available).

Idol offerings were divided into three parts. One part was burned on an altar as the sacrifice proper. The second part was given as payment to the priests who served at the temple, and the remaining part was kept by the offerer. Because of the large number of offerings, the priests were not able to eat all of their portion, and they sold in the marketplace what they did not need. That meat was highly valued because it was cleansed of evil spirits, and was thus the meat served at feasts and to guests.

The eating of meat offered to idols therefore had the same two associations for Christians, especially for those who had grown up in that religious atmosphere. The meat was associated with pagan gods and goddesses, having been part of an offering to them, and it was associated with the superstition that it had once been contaminated by evil spirits.

Some sensitive Gentile believers refused to buy such meat because it brought back memories of their previous pagan lives or because those who saw them buy it might think they had reverted to paganism. Also many believers, both Gentile and Jewish, were reluctant to eat at the homes of pagan Gentiles—and even of some Christian Gentiles—because they were afraid of being served that meat. Such food could only be doubly unclean according to Jewish dietary law—from which many Jewish Christians found it hard to separate themselves.

On the other hand, some Christians were not bothered. To them, meat was meat. They knew pagan deities did not really exist and that evil spirits did not contaminate food. They were mature, well-grounded in God’s truth, and their consciences were clear in the matter. That group gave Paul the three reasons for freely exercising their liberty.

The strong members of the church realized that idols could not contaminate food, so they saved money by purchasing the cheaper meat available from the temples. Furthermore, if unconverted friends invited them to a feast at which sacrificial meat was served, the strong Christians attended it whether at the temple or in the home.

All of this offended the weaker Christians. Many of them had been saved out of pagan idolatry and they could not understand why their fellow believers would want to have anything to do with meat sacrificed to idols. (In Rom. 14-15, the weak Christians had problems over diets and holy days, but it was the same basic issue.)

In the present passage he uses a simple argument. He says that in Corinth there were men who all their lives, up until now, had believed in the heathen gods; and these men could not quite rid themselves of a lingering belief that an idol really was something, although it was a false something. Whenever they ate meat offered to idols, they had qualms of conscience. They could not help it; instinctively they felt that it was wrong.

So Paul argues that if you say that there is absolutely no harm in eating meat offered to idols you are really hurting and bewildering the conscience of these souls. His final argument is that, even if a thing is harmless for you, when it hurts someone else, it must be a consideration and given up, for a Christian must never do anything which causes his brother to stumble.

Nothing ought to be judged solely from the point of view of knowledge; everything ought to be judged from the point of view of love. The argument of the advanced Corinthians was that they knew better than to regard an idol as anything; their knowledge had taken them far past that.

There is always a certain danger in knowledge. It tends to make a man arrogant and feel superior and look down unsympathetically on the man who is not as far advanced as himself. Knowledge which does that is not true knowledge. But the consciousness of intellectual superiority is a dangerous thing. Our conduct should always be guided not by the thought of our own superior knowledge, but by sympathetic and considerate love for our fellow man. And it may well be that for his sake we must refrain from doing and saying certain otherwise legitimate things.

This leads to the greatest truth of all. No man has any right to indulge in a pleasure or to demand a liberty which may be the ruination of someone else. He may have the strength of mind and will to keep that pleasure in its proper place; that course of action may be safe enough for him; but he has not only himself to think about, he must think of the weaker brother. An indulgence which may be the ruin of someone else is not a pleasure but a sin.

So far, it is the strong Christians who are ahead. Why, then, are the weak Christians upset with them when their position is so logical? Because you don’t always solve every problem with logic.

The little child who is afraid of the dark will not be assured by arguments, especially if the adult (or older brother) adopts a superior attitude. Knowledge can be a weapon to fight with or a tool to build with, depending on how it is used. If it “puffs up” then it cannot “build up [edify].”

Paul’s responses to the reasons were directed to that group of more mature believers. But his responses centered on the other group. He told the mature believers not to focus on their liberty but on the spiritual welfare of those who were less mature. He was saying, “Don’t look at your freedom; look at their need. Your own freedom should be limited by your love for fellow believers. If you love them as God calls you to love, you will not use your liberty in any way that will offend, confuse, or weaken their faith.”

Among the many spiritual problems of the Corinthian Christians was arrogance, a word Paul uses six times in relation to them. They were proud and self-satisfied. They had knowledge without love. As they are reminded several chapters later, a person who has all sorts of abilities and virtues but has no love is “nothing,” and “love does not brag and is not arrogant”(1 Cor. 13:1-4).

Division in the church may be caused by problems of behavior as well as problems of doctrine. When some believers insist on exercising their liberty without regard for the feelings and standards of fellow believers, the church is weakened and frequently divided.

Love is the key to behavior. Knowing what is not forbidden is not enough. When we “do not merely look out for [our] own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4), we are on the road to mature, loving Christian behavior.

Love sets the limits of Christian liberty.

You cannot force-feed immature believers and transform them into giants. Knowledge must be mixed with love; otherwise, the saints will end up with “big heads” instead of enlarged hearts. A famous preacher used to say, “Some Christians grow; others just swell.”

Conscience (vv. 7-13). The word conscience simply means “to know with,” and it is used thirty-two times in the New Testament. Conscience is that internal court where our actions are judged and are either approved or condemned (Rom. 2:14-15). Conscience is not the law;, it bears witness, to God’s moral law. But the important thing is this: conscience depends on knowledge. The more spiritual knowledge we know and act on, the stronger the conscience will become.

Some Christians have weak consciences because they have been saved only a short time and have not had opportunity to grow. Like little babes in the home, they must be guarded carefully.

Other saints have weak consciences because they will not grow. They ignore their Bibles and Christian fellowship and remain in a state of infancy.

Some believers remain weak because they are afraid of freedom They are like a child old enough to go to school, who is afraid to leave home and must be taken to school each day.

The conscience of a weak Christian is easily defiled (1 Cor. 8:7), wounded (1 Cor. 8:12), and offended (1 Cor. 8:13). For this reason, the stronger saints must defer to the weaker saints and do nothing that would harm them.

It is important to note that the stronger believer defers to the weaker believer in love only that he might help him to mature. He does not “pamper” him; he seeks to edify him, to help him grow. Otherwise, both will become weak.

It is also true that some fall into the category of being “willfully weak.” What does that mean? It is that person(s) who has had plenty of teaching and time to know God’s will in a matter…and they choose to use the “weak argument” to get their way or hold back a congregation. This person also keeps the congregation “weak” when they refuse to grow up!

The voice of a Christian’s conscience is the instrument of the Holy Spirit. If a believer’s conscience is weak it is because he is spiritually weak and immature, not because the leading of his conscience is weak. Conscience is God’s doorkeeper to keep us out of places where we could be harmed. As we mature, conscience allows us to go more places and to do more things because we will have more spiritual strength and better spiritual judgment.

A small child is not allowed to play with sharp tools, to go into the street, or to go where there are dangerous machines or electrical appliances. The restrictions are gradually removed as he grows older and learns for himself what is dangerous and what is not.

In deciding about whether or not to participate in any behavior that is doubtful, the following principles make a good checklist to follow.

Excess. Is the activity or habit necessary, or is it merely an extra that is not really important? Is it only an encumbrance that we should willingly give up (Heb. 12:1)?

Expediency. “All things are lawful for me,” Paul says, “but not all things are profitable,” or expedient (1 Cor. 6:12). Is what I want to do helpful and useful, or only desirable?

Emulation. “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6). If we are doing what Christ would do, our action should not only be permissible but also good and right.

Example. Are we setting the right example for others, especially for weaker brothers and sisters? If we emulate Christ, others will be able to emulate us, to follow our example.

Evangelism. Is my testimony going to be helped or hindered? Will unbelievers be drawn to Christ or turned away from Him by what I am doing?

Edification. Will I be built up and matured in Christ; will I become spiritually stronger? “All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor. 10:23).

Exaltation. Will the Lord be lifted up and glorified in what I do? God’s glory and exaltation should be the supreme purpose behind everything we do.

“Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

 

 
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Posted by on March 12, 2017 in 1 Corinthians, Sermon

 
 
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