Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Eyes Wide Shut

Good morning,

We need to keep in mind that in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul was dealing with and addressing specific sins that he had learned were being practiced/permitted in the Corinthian church.  It was a highly personal letter.  It should not be interpreted as an "all-inclusive sin list".  Elsewhere in the Bible, there are also lists of sins, again, pertinent to each situation.  But, the bottom line is....sin is sin, and all of it separates us from God.  If a person is an unbeliever, he or she is spiritually dead, because of his or her sins.  If a person has become a Christian, he or she has (positionally) had all his or her sins washed away; he or she is justified (positionally forever made right with God), and is in the process of being sanctified ("set apart", consecrated for Christ's kingdom work).

Even with that very verbose last statement, Christians sin, and are in need of regular confession, repentance and restoration through the Holy Spirit.  Positionally, Christ's finished work on our behalf makes us right with God forever; in this present reality, however, our flesh continually wars with our new nature.  This titanic struggle often results in the flesh's triumph.  With that in mind, let's consider
1 Corinthians 6:9-20.  As I did yesterday, I'm using the New English Translation (NET) here.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. 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.
12 “All things are lawful for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “All things are lawful for me”—but I will not be controlled by anything. 13 “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both.” The body is not for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that anyone who is united with a prostitute is one body with her? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. 18 Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”—but the immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.

So, in the Corinthian society, there was a very permissive attitude toward sexual sin, much as it is in American society today.  In addition, sexual acts were often linked with acts of "religious worship". The pagan Gentiles combined prostitution of various kinds with their pagan worship.  This was, of course, diametrically opposed to the will of God and to the Way that the new Corinthian Christians had been taught by Paul and other Christian leaders.  Still, the pull, the allure of that pagan society's accepted practice was great, even as it is today.  As a result, sadly, some in the Corinthian church were practicing not only yesterday's blog post "sin-of-the-day" (suing each other, that is GREED) but also various forms of sexual immorality.  In today's scripture passage, Paul addresses both.  Since I exhausted the former in yesterday's post, today I'm honing in on the latter.

The bottom line here, if you'll excuse the, pun, is that ALL sexual immorality is wrong.  We must not be deceived by cultural sensations, such as "the Caitlyn Jenner phenomenon". We must not allow ourselves to be deceived (vs. 9) into thinking that such practices are "ok" or even righteous. These are powerful deceptions of the Evil One.  Instead of considering or (worse) embracing such behavior, we should run from it (vs. 18).  Paul mentions two types of sexual immorality here in (vs. 10): adultery and homosexual practices.  Again, however, this is not an inclusive list, merely what was troubling the Corinthians at that moment.  Paul goes on to emphasize that God's ordained and sanctioned use of our bodies for sexual enjoyment is one: and that is between one man and one woman (vs. 16).  Any and all sexual practices outside of God's clearly prescribed way are sin.  And, when we fall prey to them, we are sinning against not only Jesus Christ, but against our own bodies.

This is not a popular teaching in today's American society.  It was not a popular teaching in the day Paul wrote this letter either.  In fact, today, those who take a scriptural stand against sexual sin are vilified, called "haters", intolerant, etc.  I need to emphasize that love and truth cannot be separated. The former is built upon the latter.  Jesus Christ was the very essence of God's love, and because of His being God-With-Skin-On, He was also utter and complete Truth.  He was thoroughly "intolerant" of people's sins, while at the same time loving them completely.  The most unloving thing we, His Truth-bearers, can do is to cower under the criticism of the unbelieving world and refuse to take a stand for Truth.

Now, I want to highlight for just a moment verses 12, 13 and 20.  These verses sum up our overall and entire treatment of our bodies.  Paul uses the topic of nutrition to illustrate that even the food we eat should be consumed for God's glory.  Just because as Christians we are positionally right with God forever, through our acceptance of Jesus as Savior, we still must be on our guard against sins that defile our bodies, whether it is sexual sin or other mistreatments of our bodies.  Our bodies are to glorify God. Period.  If we are doing something to or with our bodies that does not bring Him glory, but instead brings ourselves glory, it is a misuse of a substance, practice, our bodies, etc.

Let's be honest here, my beloved friends.  You know when something is controlling you, when a substance or practice is "out of control", whether that be alcohol, vaping, piercing, overeating, immodesty, smoking..... I'm not trying to pick on a particular practice here, because that is not the point.  WE KNOW when we are doing something with our bodies that is wrong.  The Holy Spirit, who continually lives within us Believers gives testimony to it in our hearts.  He tells us.  You know this.  So, let's not dishonestly continue to deny that there is a problem, if this is a besetting sin area for you.  Let's not allow ourselves to be deceived.  We must be honest before God in these areas.

Y'all, this is hard to write about.  It's convicting to me personally.  The resplendent walk....sometimes, it isn't so very resplendent!  But, remember, God's very Spirit lives inside each and every believer. He is there to walk beside you, comfort you, and give you peace.  He knows every struggle we face and has compassion on us.  He prays to God the Father on our behalf, when we don't even know what to pray.  We are SO loved by God!  He knows our hearts. Don't feel as if your particular sin struggle is a "hopeless case", because it is not.  Don't give up.  God has not and will never give up on you.

Dear Father, open the eyes of our hearts so that we can more fully know the fathomless depths of Your love for us. We have been "bought with a price" (vs. 20), a price we could not even begin to pay, that being Your precious blood, Your very human life.  Help us, Holy Spirit.  Plead for us. Show us how to tap into Your everlasting strength, Your bottomless grace, that is ever-present to help us in our times of greatest temptation. There is no beauty like Your beauty... such that we can only begin to see.  What an eternal "smack-down" we will experience when we are face-to-face with You in all your beauty and holiness, on that glad day.  We will be flat on our faces in worship so fast....we won't even know what hit us, because Your amazing love will overwhelm us.  Thank you, Jesus, for eternally rescuing us, that we have no need to fear the future, because our eternal security is in You. In Your Name I pray, amen.  

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