Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Honoring God - January 18, 2015 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Paul’s words in our text for this morning might not go over so well in much of our world today. Today we live in a world which preaches and teaches tolerance. We are to be tolerant of other’s beliefs and practices. We are to be tolerant with the way other people express themself, even boarding on this, that we are to encourage others in their diversity, even if and especially if it is something with which we do not agree. So it is, in much of our world today. In our text for today, Paul advocates something which we hardly ever hear advocated by too much of the media today. In our world and in the media of today we encouraged to think only of ourselves, what is good for us, what makes us feel good, what gives us pleasure and the like. Paul tells us we are to think, not of ourselves, but of others and especially to think in terms of how we might please God, even if this means giving up our own pleasure, rights and privileges.
Our text for this morning boarders on, if not entirely passes over, intolerance, which we all know is a “no, no” in our world. Some of you may have been reading the newspaper over the past few months and years and may be reminded that such sermons, sermons suggesting that Jesus is intolerant, may be labeled as “hate sermons” in our world today. It is so unfortunate that to care for another person by putting up protective boundaries is seen as being hateful. So be it. I talk to people about the sins of this world, and especially about their own sin and it does not surprise me when they get offended. Of course we know how it is, even on Sunday morning. When I preach about sin in general, that is okay, but when I start preaching about your sin, then I am meddling. I like to think of our tolerant society as being a good parent or a bad parent. As a parent would you tolerate (allow) your child to run unsupervised out into a busy street? Certainly you would discipline your child for running out into a busy street, and your child would not like it, because you are putting a damper on his or her freedom. And as a parent it might be tough to handle your child’s disappointment and maybe even hatred for your actions, yet as a good parent you know and understand the need for boundaries and to enforce those boundaries. And so you love your child anyway and enforce their not being allowed to run out into the busy street. Being a pastor of a church, being a Christian, and speaking the truth in love to others concerning sin, is very similar. Is it more loving to let your friend go on sinning and doing what is spiritually harmful, or to call them to repentance? Is it more loving to allow an alcoholic to go on abusing alcohol, maybe even encouraging them, or to call them to account for their abuse?
In our text for this morning Paul reminds us that Christian liberty and license of the flesh are incompatible. We begin at verse twelve, “12“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything” (v. 12). Paul begins by reminding us of the freedom we do have. He says that everything is permissible, that is the freedom of the Gospel. He goes on to give two examples of freedom. One is that we have the freedom to eat what we want. God declared that all foods were clean. We may eat what we want, yet we must not leave off Paul’s last words, “but not all things are helpful.” Sometimes we think about sin, but we too often forget about one of our favorite sins, gluttony. I do not know about you, but I like “all you can eat” buffets, and I like to get my moneys worth at them, yet I must remind myself that eating too much is a sin just like any other “little” sins or “big” sins. Concerning the issue of food, Paul sums it up very well when he says, “13‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’—and God will destroy both one and the other” (v. 13a). Yes, we have the freedom to enjoy the bounty of this world, but we must not let the bounty of this earth rule us. Freedom brings responsibility.
The second illustration Paul gives is the illustration of the flesh, the one which, I believe, is still at the top of our list of sins today. We continue beginning with the last part of verse thirteen, “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (v. 13b-17). And this is where God’s care and love, which brings His intolerance, is seen as hate. God wants only the best for us and so He gives us boundaries in order to help keep us on the straight and narrow, in order to protect us from - ourselves. Our world says, “experiment with your sexuality,” God says, “do not be promiscuous.” Our world says, “if it feels good do it,” God says, “restrain yourself.” Our world says, “sexual orientation and lifestyle is a choice and maybe is hereditary and thus should be openly expressed,” God says, “the body is not meant for sexual immorality.” Our world says, “you’re going to do it anyway, so protect yourself,” God says, “Do you not know that your bodes are members of Christ himself?” Our world says, “do not try to restrain yourself, that it is unnatural,” God says, “flee from sexual immorality.” Our world says, “it is a choice,” God says, “it is a child and it is killing.” Our world would have us believe that tolerance is the higher way and the way of freedom and happiness, God tells us what is right and what is best for us because He cares for us and He alone knows what is right and what is truly best for us. And, just like the parent who is seen as being mean and hateful by their child because they try to stifle their freedom, so our world sees God and Christians as hateful for trying to stifle their perceived freedom.
We do have freedom in the Lord. But, our freedom brings responsibility. We continue at verse eighteen, “ 18Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price” (v.18-20a). Paul reminds us, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” Our world of choice says, “It is my body and I can do with it as I wish.” Unfortunately, Paul’s words would remind us that it is not our body, but that we belong, body, soul, mind, spirit, and all, to the Lord. Our body is the temple of the Lord. Would we come into the Lord’s house and do with our bodies as we would do with them outside the Lord’s house? Would we come into the Lord’s house and do drugs? Would we come into the Lord’s house and get drunk, over eat, commit adultery and fornication? Would we come into the Lord’s house and do many or any of the things we do with our bodies outside the His house? We are not our own, we belong to the Lord and we are His not without a price. The price Christ paid for us was the price of His life, even eternal spiritual death for us in our place, so that we might have life, not so that we might abuse life, but so that we might have life and have it more abundantly.
Freedom is not cheap grace. Cheap grace is, “can I sin and then ask for forgiveness?” That is premeditated sin. I have asked this question to many groups and I will ask you here this morning. If you knew that God was watching you, would you do some of the things you do? Unfortunately, we often forget, or at least conveniently do not remember, that God is always watching. And yes, I include myself in this, I sin too. It is our nature to sin, but that still does not give us an excuse to sin.
Fortunately for us, we do have a God who is a God of love and He will and does forgiven us. As a matter of fact, He has already forgiven us all us sins. The person who over eats is forgiven. The person who commits sins of immorality is forgiven. The person who commits any sin, who sins against any of the commandments, who sins sins of omission or commission, that person is forgiven. We must never forget that all sins have been paid for by Jesus on the cross. Yes, we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. And yes, there is forgiveness. With the Law we must never forget the Gospel, not as an excuse, not as a cheap way out, but with confession comes absolution. And to that we say, “Thanks be to God.”
With forgiveness, then comes the joy of “glorifying God.” We read the last part of verse twenty, “So glorify God in your body” (v. 20b). We always remember that we were saved for a purpose, to do the good works which God prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). Paul tells us, “So glorify God in your body.” And we remember that we do these things not in and of ourselves, but only as the Holy Spirit helps us. We glorify God with what we eat. We glorify God by not being gluttons, but by eating sensibly. We glorify God by not being a stumbling block for others who might struggle with our own eating habits. We glorify God in how we live in this world and in how we enjoy the bounty of this world.
We glorify God when we live within the boundaries that He gives us. We glorify God when we live lives which show that we are not our own, but that we were bought with a price. We glorify God when we stand up for Him and His Word. Apathy really is a low level of acceptance. If I do not speak out against something then I am seen as being in favor. Talk about a dilemma - are we to stand up and appear intolerant, or are we to sit quietly by and appear in favor of what society says, even against what God says? Personally I know what that is like. How often I have heard the remark, “you only say that because you are a pastor, you do not understand what it is like in the real world, you are just to closed minded, and so on.” And all I am doing is speaking the Word of God, take it up with Him. When I stand up for the Lord, which I do only with His help, then I am glorifying Him.
We glorify God as we worship Him and as we are given His gifts of faith, forgiveness, strengthening of faith, life and salvation through the means of grace. We glorify God when we honor His most precious gift, the gift of life, life in this world and life in the world to come, even eternal life. We glorify life when we raise life to the highest standard - meaning, living life in the way the Lord would have us to live, living life in such a way that our life does say, to God be the glory. And then giving Him thanks for stirring in us and helping us to live in such a way. Again, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.