2008-06-15pm What’s Permissible

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2008-06-15pm 1 Corinthians 6.12-20 What’s Permissible

            Did you know that every person on the planet, every person who has ever lived and will ever live, every person has a relationship with God?  Therefore the question is not whether a person has a relationship with God, the question rather is, how is your relationship with God?  Is it a relationship of wrath or a relationship of love?

          How we move from a relationship of wrath to a relationship of love is through faith in Jesus Christ.  Through faith, faith which isn’t even from ourselves, through faith we believe that Jesus Christ paid the penalty of our sin, transferred His righteousness to us, and changed our relationship with God the Father from a relationship of wrath to a relationship of love.

          The catechism reminds us that an incredible expense went into achieving a right relationship with God.

          God the Father sent God the Son who by God the Holy Spirit took on human flesh.  The incarnate Son of God, named Jesus by his earthly parents, his biological mother Mary and his adoptive father Joseph, lived a perfect human life.  He was without sin.  He was a lamb without blemish.

          This Jesus, whom we know was anointed by God to be prophet, priest and king, humbled himself and placed himself, willingly, in harm’s way.  He allowed the leadership of the day to bring false charges against him he suffered, beyond our imagination and died on the cross.

          We call Jesus Lord because, “not with gold or silver, but with his precious blood, he sets us free.”  This is truly amazing.  No, really, money has become so, well, common.  Remember when a million dollars was a lot of money?  Remember the T.V. show, the Six Million Dollar Man?  With inflation, he’d be what, the Six Billion Dollar Man?  The Japanese Kibo Lab for the International Space Station cost 1 Billion Dollars.  House prices in Edson range from $80,000 to $625,000.  From inflation, money keeps on losing value.  Look how much  has to be spent now.

          But the shed blood of Jesus Christ, never loses value.  It will always be priceless.  I don’t know if we can fully comprehend the reality that God the Son, by whom all things were made, God the Son shed his blood, not for innocent, deserving people, but for guilty, undeserving people like you and me.

          It is almost unthinkable.  God on the cross, dying, suffering, in excruciating pain, for you.  For me.

          And what do we do in response to this incredible sacrifice?

          We, like the Corinthian church, sit around and argue and debate about our freedoms.

          Well, how free are we?  What can we do?  What is permissible?  Oh, look the Bible says, “Everything is permissible.”  Then another person pipes up, “But not everything is beneficial.”  Still another says, “I don’t care, I’m just going to figure it out along the way, whatever feels good.”  And yet another, “We have freedom!  We can do whatever we want!  We can live it up!  Christ said he came so that we could live life to the fullest!”

          But did Christ suffer and die so that we could live any old way we want?

          Aren’t we commanded to obey Christ’s commandments?  Didn’t Jesus quote from the Ten Commandments?

          But really, what we need to focus on this evening is the concept of Lord and our relationship to Christ, as ones who belong to him.

          Those of us who have memorised Lord’s Day 1 will recall that it says ‘we are not our own, we were bought at a price.”  We belong to Christ.  He is our Lord.  He owns us.

          But is Christ’s lordship reflected in our lives?

          Do you remember those bumper stickers, bracelets, key chains, necklaces, bookmarks, all kinds of things you could buy with the letters, WWJD on them?  What would Jesus do?

          These things were supposed to remind us to ask ourselves the question, what would Jesus do, if Jesus were in our situation. 

          I totally understand the motivation for such a question, but wow, it seems like that would be open for all kinds of interpretation.  Well, I think Jesus would do this.  Or I think Jesus would do that.

          Instead, it would be more helpful to ask, “What does God’s Word say?”  Or “What is God’s instruction in this situation?”

          Still better than that, would be to know God’s Word so thoroughly, that we wouldn’t have to ask the question at all!  We’d know what is right and what is wrong!  God promised that we would have such a knowledge!  In Jeremiah 34:31-34, we read, “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.  “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.  No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

          When by faith we place our trust in Christ and His righteousness, we place ourselves under Him.  He becomes our Lord.  His law is written on our hearts, and we really know Him.  We devote our lives to him, for he gave his life up for us.

          Do we live as though Christ is our Lord, our master?

          Or, like the Corinthian church, do we try to come up with so many justifications for everything we do?

          It is not easy.  Let’s take finances as an example.  Yes, it’s a touchy subject.  Most people are more comfortable talking about procreation than they are about money.

          But let’s tackle this fun topic.  Is Jesus Lord of our money?  Or do we use the passage from 1 Cor. 6 as a justification for all kinds of things? 

          Or how ‘bout this?  We’ve raised what, over $25,000 for new pews, but we still need some $6000 for the Growing Project.  Is it selfish to want new pews?  Is it possible to raise the funds for the growing project as well?  What about personal finances?  Should I buy a new truck?  Sure, it’s permissible.  Oh, it may not be beneficial in the long run, but well, I really want it now. 

          How do you make these sorts of decisions?  How do we decide what gets a priority?  How do we feel about donating money toward something that benefits us, and our visitors?  Is it selfish to give to the church knowing that we’ll be getting something out of it?  Does true giving have to selfless?

          Or is, it like we looked at recently, a matter of the heart.  For it says, “by faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain” (Heb. 11:4).  Does the amount we give matter?  Didn’t the old woman give more than all the riches that the rich people put in?  Didn’t her gift demonstrate that her faith was in God, not in her money?

          Let us examine our hearts!  What is motivating our actions?  Is it faith in God?  Is it trust that God will provide for us in every circumstance?

          Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible, but I will not be mastered by anything.  Are we choosing to do things that are permissible, but that which is not beneficial?  Are we doing cost-analysis? 

          Jesus talks about this, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? 29 For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, 30 saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30).

          Have we sat down, and considered what it costs us to follow Christ?  Are we willing to give up everything?

          Paul puts things into perspective for us, to help us.  “ ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’—But God will destroy them both” (1 Cor. 6:13a).  Do not be overly tempted by earthly things, for both food and stomach will be destroyed before the final judgement.  We must be careful that we’re not wasting our efforts on stuff that is temporary, fleeting.

          The apostle Paul elsewhere encourages us, implores us to run so as to claim the prize that will never tarnish or disappear.  He says, I beat my body to make it my slave?

          Does that sound familiar?  Do we walk around as though we’re in strict training?  Do we make our bodies our slaves, or are we slaves to our bodies?  What really has lordship over our lives?  Is it God?  Or is it something or many somethings?

          The body, our bodies belong to the Lord.  Sexual immorality, apart from violating the singular bond of husband and wife, also violates the bond between us and Christ, our head.  We belong to Christ, and this union is as close and mystical as husband and wife.  Every time we turn to something else, or try to put something alongside Christ, it is like committing adultery against Christ.

          When we, by faith, confess Christ as Lord, we become united with God in spirit.  So, we need to be very careful in how we live.  Are we prostituting ourselves to another?

          There is a reason why sexual immorality is given special attention and focus.  It is not to say that other sins are less deadly, it is to say that the violation that happens from sexual immorality drastically affects the sinner.  In sexual immorality, we sin against ourselves, not just against others.

          But because we’re united to Christ, because we’re his body, when we commit sexual immorality, we sin against our own bodies as well as the body of Christ.

          Therefore, Paul instructs us to flee from sexual immorality.  Now, we know that the Corinthian church struggled with this issue.  There was even a guy who bragged that he’d slept with his dad’s wife.  The Corinthian church, for whatever reason, was tolerating all kinds of sinful behaviour, excusing it under the banner of religious freedom.

          And, if we examine the church in North America, this tolerant attitude is everywhere.  Look at the United Church, the Anglican Church, and even our own denomination.  First Toronto CRC wasn’t the first church to consider admitting practising homosexual people into the church, into council.  And it won’t be the last.

          We are the body of Christ, and we’re prostituting ourselves to the latest bandwagons out of a desire to be tolerant.  Paul tells us, the church, to flee from sexual immorality.  As the church, the church has to flee from anything that draws us away from worshipping God. 

          The author of the Baker New Testament Commentary on 1 Corinthians says, “Striking indeed is the contrast between the person who clings to a prostitute and the one who adheres to Christ. For instance, the relationship between a man and a prostitute is momentary, without love, devoid of responsibility, mutually destructive, decidedly egocentric, and shamefully immoral. Conversely, the believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ is characterized by permanence, love, trust, edification, obedience, and purity.

Prostitution makes one prone to disease and is degrading, sinful, and damaging to one’s soul. However, Christ exalts a person, encourages wholesome living, instructs him or her in the law of love for God and one’s fellow human being, and refreshes the believer’s spirit.

An immoral person fails to enjoy matrimonial bliss, experiences failure in personal intimacy, substitutes sex for service to God, and indulges in vulgarity, obscenity, and sensuality. But a Christian builds loving and lasting companionship with his spouse, seeks fulfillment in serving others, loves his Lord, joyfully worships God, cultivates wholesome speech, promotes decency, and exemplifies virtue. “Thus we can understand why the Ephesian letter [Eph. 5:21–33] emphasizes that Christ and his church, as the bridegroom and the bride, constitute the union that is normative for marriage.”[1]

          So, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What is the Chief end of man?  To glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  Amen.



[1]Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953-2001). Vol. 18: New Testament commentary : Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Accompanying biblical text is author's translation. New Testament Commentary (199). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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