Search This Blog


Monday, September 30, 2013

Sex and Suing - Part 1

This is the fourth lesson in a series on 1 Corinthians. Please read all about it in the Introduction. This Sunday, we only made it through half of what I'd prepared, so I've decided to separate the original lesson into 2 parts; one this week and one next. This week will have 3 journal prompts instead of the usual 5. I’ve still linked the Scripture references to; click the blue font references. And as always, I’d love to hear what you’re learning!

Week 4: Sex and Suing - Part 1 (1 Corinthians 5-6)

This week we talk about sex.

In the class of young unmarried college women I teach; statistics say that almost half of them have already had sex. Even as I’m getting some great feedback from those of you studying these blog lessons with me, I KNOW that this is the place where I can lose you. The beauty of this lesson will be completely lost on some of you because you can’t get past this one point.

You’ve messed up with sex. Regret and shame even now are threatening to grab you by the throat. Your memories may be decades old or so fresh you still feel numb by the shock of what you’ve done.

Please don’t go yet.

This week we are going to start at the end to learn what God says about sex, and more importantly what He says about you. And can I just give you a sneak peek so that you won’t walk away? He says you are loved and that He likes you even now and that this sin that wounds is not the end of you. He washes you, sets you up on new feet, and declares you Not Guilty.

Don’t give up. There is freedom even from sexual sin.

A few years ago I studied the book of Hosea. It’s all about sexual sin and idolatry {um, pretty similar themes to 1 Corinthians}. I want to share this verse from God’s own Voice along with what I wrote about it.

“Read Hosea 6:6 - For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” ESV

Consider the word “desire” in Hosea 6:6. This word means “to like very much, to bend toward.” Think about what/who you really like, those people and things that inspire you to bend toward them. Are you grinning? That’s how God feels about sincere repentance, about steady love. If you are hesitant to believe that God really wants to forgive you when you mess up, see this picture. As you try to work up the courage to offer an apology He is already leaning toward you grinning – He is delighted. Read the following verses in several translations and note in your journal what they teach. 1 John 1:8-9, Romans 10:9-10” (Fisher, 67)

Journal Prompt: Do you love God? He delights in your love for Him MORE than sacrifices to Him. What are the ways you’ve been trying to earn love through sacrifice?

Read 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, read it over and over in different translations.
The Truth about Sex

What’s the big deal? That’s what the Corinthians would’ve been asking. We are going to cover their sordid story later, first I want you to hear Paul’s question right back into YOUR story; Don’t you know (15)? Your body is precious and important because it is joined to Jesus. The word joined in verses 16 and 17 mean “glued together” (Prior,101). You’re glued to Jesus – one with Him!

A few weeks ago my daughter was trying to fix a headband with super glue. I can never get a second use out of a super glue tube because the lid always glues itself on after I’ve used it once. Finding that exact scenario in our junk drawer, my daughter tried to pry the glued on super glue lid off with her teeth….and it worked! {And got super glue on her tongue}. She came into the kitchen saying something like, “Mahm! ah gah supah glah ahn mah tahnnnn!!”
Super glue is super sticky.

When you choose Jesus for salvation, you are gluing yourself to Him {Jesus}.
When you choose to have sex with someone, you are gluing yourself to him {not Jesus}.

As a believer, when you move and live and think and eat and rest and talk and share and….{get the picture?}, you take Jesus with you. The image that Paul paints for them in verse 15 is shocking. When you visit a prostitute thinking your spirit is separate from what your body is doing, you take Jesus with you.

The glued together imagery started in Genesis 2:24 (the reference Paul quotes in 1 Corinthians 6:16). This is foundational teaching on marriage and sex. Marriage is two people becoming one flesh, glued together. In Ephesians 5:26-27 we see that marriage illustrates God’s great love for His Church. Sex is a physical act that reflects the spiritual connection {oneness} of God and the Church.

Think back to the Hosea verse at the beginning of our study. God’s desire, delight is relationship; to be loved and known. The most intimate way for two people to relate is sex. So sexual sin has a spiritual component that attacks the core of your spiritual identity; which is a pure relationship with God. I think this is what Paul means in verse 18 when he says that sexual sin is against our own body.

Imagine the vulnerability and naked (literally) trust it takes to offer another person your body and emotions in sex. In marriage you are entrusting this most vulnerable part of you to someone who has promised to love and accept you just as you are. In a God-led marriage, sex can banish the insecurity as you are wrapped up in love and acceptance and…..well, oneness.

Now try to make the application spiritually; you have the choice to offer the most secret and vulnerable part of your soul and spirit to God who has promised to love and accept you just as you are. His acceptance banishes insecurity in the oneness of eternal relationship with God, your Creator. He knows and loves you and desires (delights) in being known and loved back.

Don’t you know? Your body is His temple. (6:19)
Remember last week’s teaching on the temple? Click on last week’s lesson and then scroll down to the picture of the Temple to review that section. The words here are the same. In Jesus’ day hundreds would’ve entered the temple. At each progressive level of entrance into the temple, fewer people would’ve been acceptable to pass through to the next level….fewer and fewer until only one – the High Priest on one day a year was acceptable to enter the Holy of Holies where God dwelt. And now you are acceptable, not only to enter but to be the dwelling place of God. No words.

God dwells in US as a body of believers (3:16), now this week we see that He dwells in YOU, in me. How miraculous and beautiful is it that YOU individually AND with a body of believers are the most holy and precious dwelling place of God? You belong to Jesus, He dwells in you. You are glued to Him. When it comes to sexual sin, it’s less that sexual immorality is wrong {although it is}, and more that it’s simply absurd when you know who you are.

Journal Prompt: How does this change your view of your body and your sexuality?

No Excuses

The quotes around all things are lawful for me and food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food indicate that the Corinthians were adopting secular slogans from their culture to defend their sinful actions. “The Corinthians have adopted from the culture around them the idea that the body is permitted to have everything that it craves.” (ESV, 2198) I believe this part to be one of the most applicable points we've seen so far. Our culture is without a doubt about the satisfaction of cravings. It creeps into everything. Because of a rainy Saturday this weekend, our entire family got to stay home for much of the day. We sent our son out twice; once for Sonic and once for frosties from Wendy's. We like to satisfy cravings.

We will visit the subject of resurrection in much depth later when we tackle chapter 15. For now it’s clear in verses 13-14 that Christian bodies aren’t worthless! They are meant for the Lord and will in a resurrected form live forever (14).

BE Not Guilty!
Ok, y’all.
This is one of my favorite passages of all time.
Seriously. {I get teased about saying this all the time, but it’s true}.

I love a book called Classic Christianity. There are a few books that truly deeply shaped what I believe, this is one. Author Bob George tells the story of a man named Lee who came to seek counseling. He’d been a homosexual for many years and had recently been introduced to Jesus and trusted Him for salvation. But as he faced the same old temptations, he felt discouraged and unchanged. Bob George points him to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Just verses 9-10 {see what he did there?}.

Then he tells us the story of what happened next:
“Why start there [with verses 9-10 only]? Because I’m committed to truth [about homosexuality]…[however]…Too often, we stop reading the Bible in the wrong place. Lee really didn’t need convincing – he knew his sins. What he needed was good news that would set him free! And it’s right there in the next verse: “And that is what some of you were“ (1 Corinthians 6:11). Do you see that, Lee? I asked. “You came in here and told me that you are a homosexual. But the Bible Says that that’s what you were. That’s not your identity today! Let me finish reading the verses: “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:1)….Lee responded this way, “Bob, if these things are really who I am, then that old activity just doesn’t make any sense, does it?” That’s exactly the point.” (George, 108)

It is exactly the point.

“and such were some of you” (ESV)
“And such some of you were [once]” (AMP)
“Some of you were once like that.” (NLT)
“A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then…” (The Message)

“You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

Washed is salvation; the beginning of it all.
Sanctified is Inside Out Holiness; the process of growing up spiritually.
Both of these are such miracles and are enough for this life. But what happens if we trust Jesus for salvation and grow up in Him only to still be found guilty by the sin that we will struggle against until our dying breath?
Meet Justified, “here Paul uses justified not in its ethical sense (be seen righteous), but in its judicial sense (declare righteous).” (ESV, 2198)

Justified means that you are declared righteous, declared not guilty. How tender of God to see us through the entire process. 

Washed. Sanctified. Justified.

He’s not about changing your image, He’s about changing your identity.
The Corinthians were still stuck on image and missing this point.

Journal Prompt: What does 1 Corinthians 6:11 teach about your identity? What are some old names you’ve been calling yourself? Read Romans 5:1 and Romans 8:1, 33 and journal what you learn.

So....there is half of the lesson on Sex and Suing. 

Next week will include 1 Corinthians 5 and the sordid story behind Paul's warnings about sex and church discipline. We will also address the issue of Christians suing each other in chapter 6. 

What a joy and a challenge studying 1 Corinthians has been so far.....looking forward to the rest of the journey with you!


PS. I found this blog post that illustrates the "Glued Together" part of our lesson. It would be a good follow up to what we've studied this week. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Steward and The Church

This is the third lesson in a series on 1 Corinthians. Please read all about it in the Introduction. I’ve broken the post into 5 sections with journal prompts at the end of each part. These would be great daily stopping points. I’ve also linked the Scripture references to; click the blue font references. I’d love to hear what you’re learning!

Week 3: The Steward and the Church (1 Corinthians 3-4)

Servant Leadership.
It’s a concept that I’ve heard tossed around for years in churchy things.
It’s a reality that I’ve seen modeled….well, rarely.
The Corinthian believers weren’t seeing a lot of it either.

After the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians we should be convinced of a few things. Inside Out Holiness (sanctification) is our starting point. From there we love church as family and seek to heal division each and every time we have the opportunity. We always acknowledge the cross and the Upside Down wisdom of God, trusting Him to make sense of the foolishness around us as we walk hand in hand with the Holy Spirit.

Sound about right so far?
On to Chapters 3 and 4.

I see lots of life in lists. I love lists and have been known to add something to my To-Do List after I’ve finished it, just so I can mark it off. As I began studying chapters 3 and 4 I saw a list emerging describing Servant Leadership. Both the leaders (Paul, Apollos, Cephas) and the followers (the church in Corinth) have a part to play. My list has 7 characteristics of the Steward (leader) and 3 characteristics of the church. I’d love to hear what you would add.

Before we even start I want you to get out your journal….
I’ll even switch to “journal font” to get you in the mood. Think and pray about this question before you start.

Who is your Paul?

We’ve studied his life and heard his encouragement and correction for the last two weeks. Who is your leader, your parent in the faith? Write their name in your journal at the very beginning of this week’s entries.

The Steward SERVES (3:5,9, 4:1).
In 3:5 and 4:1 there are three different words used for servant. My ESV uses servant in 3:5 and 4:1, and steward in 4:1. I learned that servant in 3:5 is the same root as our word for deacon and emphasizes the service rendered. Servant in 4:1 literally means an “under rower” with the emphasis being on the labor done for a lord. Steward in 4:1 means an overseer of a home or estate (Zodhiates,902). Maybe it’s too much Downton Abbey for me, but I saw Mr. Carson the butler when I read the definition for steward.

I must admit that I got a little bit frustrated with so many words that weren’t very deep. Three words that all mean…..(wait for it)… serve. No hidden or fancy meanings. Deacons originally were the table waiters so that the apostles could have time to teach and counsel. I can’t imagine that a rower in the belly of a big ship would be a great job. And although Mr. Carson makes it look grand, being a butler really is all about managing someone else’s stuff.

Are you getting a picture yet?
Only servants (NIV)
Ministering servants (AMP)
Mere servants (NLT)
“We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them.”  1 Corinthians 4:1, MSG

Here’s how Jesus described it; “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”
Luke 22:24-27 NIV

The end of this passage in the Amplified says, “But I am in your midst as One Who serves.” Leadership as God defines it is life as a steward; a steward of His Truth and of His household. We will spend the rest of the week learning this.

Journal Prompt: Evaluate the places where you are in charge, have authority. How does this first characteristic of God’s Steward challenge you?

The Steward contributes, but knows the Growth comes from God (3:6,9).
The emphasis on being a servant is not meant to turn our service into lifeless menial drudgework. The emphasis is meant to keep our perspective on the One who has chosen to use our unique passions and personalities and redeemed identities in HIS OWN work. Do you think He has to? What kind of ministry plan is it to use faulty arrogant humans when you could speak everything perfectly finished with a word? God’s plans are not for easy perfection, they are for experienced redemption and so He uses us. People. There is no Plan B, it’s the Church {people} spreading the gospel. Period.

Do you see what we are called in 3:9? Go read it; you might’ve missed it the first time. God’s fellow workers. Read Mark 16:20 - “Working together with Him.” and 2 Corinthians 6:1 -  “While the Lord worked with them.”

Being a servant leader means working alongside Jesus. We are servants because HE was a servant.
“…without God we cannot. Without us He will not.” (Morris, 64)

So we contribute, we work and we SERVE without entitlement, realizing all along that the only growth comes from God. He chooses us to plant and to water, but only He can actually empower the growth. Let’s simply settle down and serve! This is not meant to marginalize any struggle or pain, but that big huge burden that keeps you up at night is not up to you to change. Why do we act as if the supernatural is our responsibility? Have you ever compared the energy and resources that it takes to water the flowers in your front yard to the energy and resources that it takes to make them grow?

No, because that’s crazy.

Yet we spend countless hours worrying over things we cannot do (cause the growth) while refusing to serve where we are (watering and planting).

The Steward leaves room for the work of other Stewards.
We have already talked much about division based on favorite preachers and petty issues so we will only touch this briefly. Paul gets very touchy about what other preachers are teaching sometimes. Why is it ok to “share the stage” with some preachers and not with others? There is one foundation (3:10-11), and it’s Jesus. Paul is very willing to share “foundation-laying” preaching time with others as long as they are laying down the same Truth about Jesus (Ephesians 2:20).

Once the foundation is established, the building starts going up. This is Christian life. Faith in Jesus for salvation is the foundation and then up comes the structure of Inside Out Holiness. In verse 12 the materials are listed in order of value. This list echoes one given in 1 Chronicles 29:2 where King David lists the items he has saved to be used to build God’s temple. In our context in 1 Corinthians God’s temple is the church (3:16). Do you see the only items that don’t make the list in 1 Chronicles 29:2? Hay and straw.

As a servant leader, when you are building up the spiritual framework of a fellow believer, do you use your most precious? {Get ready, this is gonna hurt.} How many times do we have the opportunity to invest in God’s stuff, in our spiritual family, and we just toss a handful of straw over our shoulder as we walk on to do our own thing? It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s handy and familiar and it lets us off the hook, or so we think (3:15). Please hear that I am not saying you need to do every single thing you see to do. We are going to get into some very clarifying teaching later in 1 Corinthians that helps us on that point. The challenge here is that you do your part with actions following a heart and mind completely devoted to Inside Out Holiness, actions that are motivated by the Upside Down wisdom of God. Actions that are invested where He leads in a way that costs because it shows you trust Him both to provide the means and empower the growth. We spend a lot of time investing the gold, silver, and precious stones (resources we haven’t even earned) into homes, clothes, school, fun, and rest while our relationships, refining time in the Word, and opportunities for service get only a handful of hay and straw. With one glance from Jesus, the miracle of all He is and has done, our service will be tested. How will it stand?

I am not trustworthy with His precious gems on my own. The time and gifts He has given would be wasted without His Wisdom to show me where to carefully place them, where to build in a way that matters and won’t burn up someday.

{See why He didn’t start us at chapter 3? We woulda croaked.}

Journal Prompt: How do the last two characteristics work together? {1 - faithfully serving while trusting God to do the growth, 2 - serving with your very best.}

The Steward is trustworthy (4:2).
This is simple and means exactly what it says. Servant leaders are trustworthy. They mean what they say because they follow the Spirit.

The Steward defers to God’s judgment (4:3-5).
I struggle with people pleasing. It is a part of my fleshy-flesh that hits hard on some occasions {sure wish I could say rare occasion, but…well…no}. I have to say; the first thing I saw in these verses is that Paul does not say their judgment of him is “nothing”, but that it’s a “very small thing.”

Compared to what God thinks about me, what people think should be a very small thing. But not nothing. We live in community by God’s design. How we get along, interact, and serve together as church family is partly how God has chosen to show Himself off to the lost people around us. So, for some who play the “it doesn’t matter what people think” card as an excuse to ignore some good old-fashioned accountability, those two words “very small” are actually quite big. Being pleasant, winsome, gentle and strong in community and conflict are all part of servant leadership. When you compare what people think about you to what God thinks about you it’s a small thing, but if you are hearing lots of the same things from lots of people who you KNOW love and serve God, listen. Listen, filter it through the gift and discipline of Inside Out Holiness you are continually holding close and let God change you as He sees fit. Amen.

For some, we are holding a person’s judgment of us as more important than God’s. Stop, break free from that chain today. “It is the Lord…” (4:4) How much energy do we waste defending ourselves and our ministry and our position and our theology? Building credibility is part of being a good steward, but a very small part. Trust God to judge you. How foolish would it be for Him to do all the work to redeem you and then leave you alone to do the rest? His opinion matters most. HE is the One who knows, He is the One who judges. We serve, He judges.

The Steward is willing to be a fool (4:9-13).
This next section is a comparison and contrast. The picture in verse 9 is of death row. The “spectacle last of all” would’ve been those sentenced to death, heading to whatever execution was the sport for the day. “Paul is probably thinking of the Roman triumphal procession in which captured enemies were paraded through the street before being publicly executed. Or he may be thinking of gladiators condemned to die in an arena." (ESV Study Bible). Unlike our Macy’s parade, where the most important guest is last, the important victorious dignitaries and soldiers would’ve been first in a Roman parade and the poor fools destined for death would’ve been last. According to Paul he and the other stewards are fools, weak, disreputable, hungry and thirsty, poorly dressed, buffeted, homeless, hard working, reviled, persecuted, slandered, scum of the world. The Corinthians by contrast are rich, like kings, strong, held in honor. Before we go forward begging God to give us big beautiful ministries, maybe we should read this list with new eyes.

Journal Prompt: Do you have man’s judgment and God’s judgment in their proper places? What is God saying to you about your willingness to appear foolish for Him?

The Steward is worthy of being mimicked (4:14-17).
After multiple discussions of the futility of choosing one preacher over another Paul throws us this Star Wars doozy. I’m your Father, follow me not the other guys. At least that’s how it comes across at first glance. If you’ve made it this far with me, surely you’ve not missed the message of the previous 67 verses. Paul is interested only in building on the foundation of Jesus. He cares very little if anyone is impressed with his words or actions or even if they make sense to everyone. He is uninterested in building his own ministry kingdom. He implores them to watch him and Timothy who knows him well because new believers need an example. They don’t have podcasts and 3 weekly services plus a plethora of websites, magazines, books, and church programs to teach them Jesus’ ways. They don’t even have the books of the New Testament yet. They have a few stewards, a few men and fewer women to watch. This isn’t about competing with each other it is about representing Jesus in all things real life. Paul only can offer up himself and only himself. He strives to represent Jesus with such clear steps that if you watch him you are watching Jesus. Here are some additional places where Paul says we can follow his example or that WE can be the example - (1 Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17, 2 Thessalonians 3:7, Titus 2:7, 1 Peter 5:3).

“If we are to commend our gospel it must be because our lives reveal its power.” (Morris, 81).

So that’s the list for the Steward. Back to the name you wrote at the beginning of the week. Do you have a new appreciation for the burden they bear? The weight of leading people to follow Jesus is heavy. Pray that he or she would be a servant leader. For the ways they already are, write them a note of encouragement.

Now back to the beginning, this time let’s look at the people.

The Church Grows Up (3:1-4)
Stop being fleshy! “Although the Corinthians are Christians indwelt by the Spirit, their divisive behavior shows that they are acting like the unbelieving world around them.” (ESV Study Bible, 2195). Read again the last phrase from last week - 1 Corinthians 2:16; “we have the mind of Christ.”  Then 3:1, “But….” You aren’t living like it. This reminds me of when one of my kids has some kind of meltdown forgetting I can meet her needs and I’m sitting right next to her. To be fleshy means we are short-sighted, we have forgotten the precious cross-bought wisdom and freedom that are ours and have started thrashing around in our own efforts and wisdom. It never ends well. The church needs to be growing UP, not just OUT.

Journal Prompt: How does the last characteristic of the Steward and the first characteristic of the church match up? Do you see yourself as a Steward or as one of the People Following?

The Church Knows they are Precious (3:16, 21-23)
Read 1 Corinthians 3:16. You all {all of us together – the church} are the temple of God. The word for temple is “naos”. It comes from a word meaning “…to dwell. The temple itself is the heart and center of the whole sacred enclosure called hieron. The naos was the Holy of Holies” (Zodhiates, 938). This completely slays me. I can’t even figure out one word to accurately describe. You might’ve been taught that your body is the temple of God – usually as a way for someone to convince you not to put drugs in it, have sex with it, or put tattoos on it. But this verse means so much more. 

Replica of the Temple in Jerusalem

In the days of Jesus and then Paul, the temple stood tall and beautiful in Jerusalem. It was the pride and joy and center of Jewish life. Both men would’ve attended there often. Neither would ever have stepped foot into the Holy of Holies (naos), where only the High Priest was allowed. Jesus’ human fingers never pulled back the heavy curtain that covered the entrance to the Holy of Holies (naos) and His human feet never crossed the threshold. Yet His sacrifice on the cross tore that curtain from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). And now God Himself says I belong there. You belong there. We belong there together. Why would He choose this? Why would He dwell in us? Why would He put the perfection that He is in the middle of our messy church? Why does He say that church is the naos instead of the hieron when we can’t even speak to one another as we pass in the hallway? It’s absurd for the church to be full of division and fights when we realize how precious we are to Him. We are where He chooses to dwell; to live. 
I am in your midst as One Who serves. Luke 22:27

Journal Prompt: In what ways have you believed the truth that you are precious to God but neglected the truth that the entire body, your church family is precious to Him?

The Church Leaves Judging to God (4:5-6)
“Church people are too judgmental!” It’s something I hear often and am accused of sometimes, simply because of my close association with church. It’s a problem. We will be studying this in more depth later in 1 Corinthians (and since this lesson is getting lllloooonnnnggg, I am going to give you some verses for extra study if you’d like to follow up on your own).

To study on your own.
Look up these passages (Matthew 7:1-5, Galatians 6:1-5, Matthew 10:16), along with what you’ve learned from 1 Corinthians so far and journal your answer to this question: Is it ever ok to judge?

So we have made it through 4 chapters. What have you learned? How would you connect the chapters so far? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.