Sex – Restraint = Spiritual Death

sex

With Donald Trump, the Kardashians, Caitlin Jenner, and Pornography saturating the daily lives of everyone it is time to stop dancing around the subject and just put it out there plainly that sexual immorality from the perspective of Christ and God is evil and destructive. Paul addressing the church in Corinth reminds the church that even though they once were sexually immoral they are now free to run from that death because of Christ.

18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 1 Corinthians 6:18 ESV

Sex is an awesome and powerful experience but society encourages the youngest among us to explore the pleasure without guilt or shame regardless of consequence. Contemporary society has embraced sexualization of the public square and in the process lives are being twisted and destroyed. Pleasure at the expense of others, those we abused to gain our pleasure or those that needed to be killed in the womb so the pleasure can continue without responsibility, is not who God designed us to be. Restraint and work to earn pleasure and satisfaction are His created order. Sex according to His plan is also uplifting and producing of love which is more valuable to our soul and body. As I said before it is time to stop dancing around the topic and explore the rules and boundaries of sex that are the most beneficial to the body and for our souls.

Sex is wonderful however it is an easily abused act impacting both the abuser and the abused. If you dear reader have been abused then known that Christ is for you and you can put your trust in him. Know that he can restore what was taken and he can heal what was wounded. In Christ the future is bright. Trust Him.

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13b ESV

Sex that is moral as designed and desired by God for His Creation is inside of marriage between a single man and a single woman. I have written in the past in detail on this topic including why the Bible seems to support men with multiple wives and why this is not the order that God wants.

Christian Marriage is defined by God exclusively. The nation may change the rules of marriage but the church cannot follow and still remain Christian. God has clearly spoken on this issue. Homosexuality, transgender issues, adultery, rape, prostitution, and lust (porn) are not new explorations for humans. Additionally the Bible is not silent on any of these topics in regard to God’s standards regarding these lifestyles.

God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? Numbers 23:19 ESV

Recently the Intervarsity organization that has chapters on hundreds of college campuses has announced that in order to hold positions in the organization the employee must align with and teach traditional biblical standards in regard to sex. Mainly that sexual relations outside of the covenant of Marriage are outside of God’s will. This is not a question of restrictions and backward thinking this is a question of restraint and freeing oneself of the slavery of worldly passions. Here are few examples of restraint that are applauded as noble and right by God even if it cost the person in the here and now.

King David had an affair with another man’s wife. When he found out this woman was pregnant he sent for this soldier to return home so that the sin might be covered up. However the soldier having restraint and being noble refused to go home.

10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 2 Samuel 11:10-11 ESV

Here is the servant Joseph who is approached by the wife of his Boss. He fled the situation and did not stay to even consider the offer. Would we be so willing to flee sexual immorality?

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. Genesis 39:11-12 ESV

Finally the words and action of Job regarding lust. It this even possible in the culture of today?

I made a solemn pact with myself never to undress a girl with my eyes. Job 31:1 MSG

When Trump’s “locker room talk” was made public we must all recognize that he is a slave to his sexual passions and they will be his undoing. And despite the media and Christian community moralizing how that is not normal conversation I think most of us know it is normal conversation because we hear it and see it regularly. I have been walking away from conversations just like that inside and outside of the church my entire teen and adult life. One cannot serve both God and sexual immorality so when we do not live in Christ then we live in the world and the world pushes for no standards in regard to sex. When you are around others who talk about lust and sex, refrain and walk away. Do not participate.

For those reading this that have same sex attractions or struggle with body image in regard to male and female I would challenge you to think deeply about priorities. There is more to life and eternity than sexual identity. For those having premarital sex, are in adultery, or using porn know that lust of this flesh is but a moment and that moment could destroy your life. The love and sacrificial death on our behalf of Christ is for eternity. There is a choice to be made on what is more important. Not everyone deals with the same struggles (but we all have struggles) giving in to them, rationalizing, or normalizing them is not going to change God’s perfect standards.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. 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 6:9-11 ESV

1 Corinthians 5:13 | Excommunication is that a Real Thing?

evil

Excommunication sounds painful and is always portrayed in a negative way. To be sure the very idea and the process could in no way be fun for anyone involved. In fact I imagine it would be recieved with tears and grief if practiced in real life.

“Excommunication is the exclusion of an irrevocably rebellious sinner from the communion of the faithful. Excommunication has been understood primarily as a medicinal measure, to recall to repentance and obedience. A secondary purpose is to safeguard the community’s purity. (Elwell, 422)”

Kicking someone out of the church based on this definition is done for two reasons. First as an act of discipline for an unrepentant member who is violating the standards of the church community. Second as an act of protection against an unrepentant member of the Church that could pull others away from the obedient life of service to God. So what is the real expectations and process of judging and condemning someone in such a way? Should it ever be done? How should the church approach the quickly shifting cultural standards of America and western society that require unending support for nontraditional lifestyles?

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians addressed just this issue in a Church that lived in a wealthy and sexually progressive society. Corinth being a hub for a major trade route would not have been an easy place to start one of the early Christian Churches.

9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 1 Corinthians 5:9 ESV

Such a request would be impossible when the society itself has sexually immoral people in every stratus. Much like contemporary life where marriage is becoming an exception and who one has sex with can float between same or opposite sex at a whim. Where living together is more common because society champions selfishness by postponing family and children to much later in life if at all. Sexually immoral lifestyles are not only accepted but expected. Such a request from Paul would create a church so inwardly turned and cut off from the world that it would be almost impossible to share the gospel. Thankfully Paul clears up any confusion in the following verse.

11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 1 Corinthians 5:11 ESV

Anyone who bears the name of brother is the target of Paul’s call to not associate. When Paul says to not even eat with such a person he is in effect calling for excommunication of someone in the church. Before diving into that it would be appropriate to spend just a moment recognizing that this clarification also means that the Church must continue fellowship with the sinners who are not part of the church.

12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 ESV

The church has a completely reasonable and appropriate authority to discipline those who submit to Christ’s authority but those outside the church are the concern of God himself. This is why the Church can be out in the community serving those who do not know Christ in love and acceptance without judgment or condemnation. If you as a Christian like the idea of standing on a street corner with a sign condemning in unflattering terms certain groups of people then Paul is in effect telling you to stop it. That is not your job. Your job is to build relationships and interact with that community to share the gospel.

Paul’s intent in this letter however is really focused on the discipline within the church and why the Corinthians were accepting of a man who was living openly with his Father’s mother. Paul in no uncertain term makes it clear that this man should be removed from the fellowship in the church. “Let him who has done this be removed from among you”, “Cleanse out the old leaven” and ”Purge the evil person”. While this sounds harsh this person was openly living a life contrary the standards expected of someone born again who should be living for Christ. This man was championing himself not Christ. While the church is full of sinners the church cannot be full of unrepentant sinners. I know my shortcomings and I would in no way want to champion and justify those inside the community of believers. The Christian life assumes a few things namely that all the selfish ambitions of this world and the self-gratifications that are outside of God’s perfect standards be laid down.

15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2:15 ESV

There are two domains. The “World” where Satan and sin rule and the “Church” where Christ and obedience to his standards rule. Bringing the world into the church is not acceptable any more than Christians bringing light into the world is wanted or desired by those who are hiding from their Creator. While is seems harsh that Paul would want them to remove this person from fellowship in the church it was not done in anger or spite. His goal was in hope that such discipline would change the man’s heart (notice the woman is not spoken of in the same way because most likely she is not part of the church) and he might leave this godless lifestyle and return in repentance to Christ.

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. 1 Corinthians 5:5 ESV

Paul by turning the man back out into the world where Satan has domain it hopeful that he will be saved because otherwise continuing in unrepentance the alternative is Hell. Is excommunication a real discipline that the church should be practicing? Yes but mostly this happens already in a kind of self-selection because an unrepentant individual is not going to be comfortable in the light that is natural within a church living through obedience to Christ. However there are times that someone who has intent to infiltrate and challenge the standards of God’s word from within the church must be removed publically in the manner that Paul asked of the Corinthians. The Church must be and remain a place of truth, trust, and togetherness in Christ Jesus.

2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2 ESV

 

1 Corinthians 4:1-2 | Jesus will not Tolerate Mutiny

faithful

What makes a Christian? Western Government and non-Government institutions are busy purging Christianity from the public square and from the history books. Mainline denominations are trying to modify Christianity to align with the new moral standards that are acceptable to western society. And then there are some religious organizations that want to claim the mantel of Christianity but have not historically been associated as Christian. So what makes a Christian Christian? Can an individual define Christian to be anything or can Christianity be modified to be acceptable in polite society?

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV

Paul identifies who a Christian should be in addressing conflicts within the Corinthian church. The church was dividing into political camps with one group following one leader and another group following another. Paul tells the church that this is how they should approach being Christians. Christians should be “servants” and “stewards of the mysteries” moreover they must be found faithful to that role and that stewardship.

First we can take a look at “servant” and the obvious question is servant to whom? The government? Media approval? Who should a Christian, identified by a name that by definition should be a follower of Christ, be servant to? The simple answer from Paul is Jesus Christ. Paul is a servant to Christ but this is more than a simple servant cleaning toilets. Paul is an officer of Christ commissioned to serve not unlike a commander in military or law enforcement. Paul as a follower of Christ is not just watching from the sideline listening to the wonderful speaker on Sunday morning. Paul is actively involved organizing, training, executing orders on behalf of Jesus. Here this same word translated servant in Paul’s letter is translated officer in the Gospel of John to identify the law enforcement servants that report to the High Priest.

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. John 18:12 ESV

Who did the officers serve? The High Priest of the Jews. They were bound to carry out those orders and they were bound to serve in an official capacity. The officers are not the decision makers on the need to arrest Jesus but they did know how to arrest him and what was necessary to carry out their orders when the time came. What if the officers serving the High Priest rejected the plain training and expectations of their role? Could they rightly be called officers of the Jews? Not for very long.

The second identifier that Paul used is “stewards of the mysteries” of God. Now this is an intriguing description. Much has been read into this and because Paul in his letters frequently speaks of “mysteries”. Some scholars have called Paul a “mystic” because of this. A mystic is someone who turns inwardly or receives inwardly some mystical revelation that could not have been divined in any other way. For example when someone says God told them to do it that could be viewed as a mystical revelation.

Christianity is not a mystical religion because Jesus the defacto leader had His words and teaching recorded. Any revelation an individual receives must be consistent and aligned with the entire recorded teaching of God and that is found in the Bible. Paul however as an apostle in that first generation did receive additional information from the resurrected Christ. For example Paul says that Christ revealed through the Holy Spirit the new order that all men not just the Jews are “partakers of the promise” which is the gospel of Jesus Christ

For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— 2 assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. 4 When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. 6 This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Ephesians 3:1-6 ESV

Because of this some scholars have dismissed Paul as creating his own version of Christianity separate from the Disciples of Christ. However Peter a leader of those disciples accepted Paul as a peer and acknowledged His ministry to the Gentiles. Paul and Peter would have received consistent instructions and were in agreement that those instructions came from Christ.

15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him 2 Peter 3:15 ESV

Paul then revealing the gospel of Jesus Christ and being a steward of those mysteries is much more than a servant or even an officer. Paul and Christians who are called by Jesus Christ are managers and caretakers of the ministry while the owner is away. Paul is not the leader that is to be followed any more than Peter or insert your version of the Pope in the modern world. Those servants and stewards to be rightly called Christian must be working directly for Jesus who is present by way of the Holy Spirit.

I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another. 1 Corinthians 4:6 ESV

To conclude a Christian then by definition is a commissioned officer and a steward of the gospel message. That gospel is unchanging and contains the facts that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, born of a virgin, lived a sinless in life, was crucified on my behalf, and was raised to life on the third day thus robbing death of its victory. If this is not who you serve then when that King returns in an unknown hour how will you answer. That you were a faithful steward of the gospel message or that you were not faithful to the gospel because you choose to serve men, governments, and money?

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:7 ESV

Jesus Gardener at Heart

garden

The Bible holds a large amount of agriculture imagery and that is because God is a gardener at heart. He is always interacting on the complex Creation that He made and set in motion.

I am terrible at farming. If I had to live off the food grown by me I would have starved a long time ago. Over the years I have found my niche in a few ways and there are some other areas I would like to explore if I had the land and time. When I think of farming the image of rows of high yield low value corn might come to mind but that is not exactly what one would call gardening. God would be in the garden category. In my garden is mix of herbs and other interesting vegetables. My own garden is not large or elaborate but it was pretty to look at this year. I also had a nice harvest of garlic and have enjoyed the process of working with it.

Life is much the same way. We have seasons of growth and bloom and seasons of being dormant and hidden away. Paul highlights this aspect and nature in his letter to the Corinthians.

9 For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 1 Corinthians 3:9 ESV

First we are co laborers with God in this garden and second we are part of the garden itself. I will highlight an example of this but first I would like to establish the centrality of the garden to God’s design. God loves gardens in fact the very first place he created for Adam and Eve was a garden.

5 When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, 6 and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:5-9 ESV

This garden was pleasant to look at and be in. This garden produced the fruit for people to eat. God created this wonderful place for Men and Women to take care of and enjoy. Most importantly this garden was a place for people fellowship with God. That history sadly is on hold until Christ returns to reestablish a new perfect garden.

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8 ESV

Jesus is the farmer tending this garden. He is working his field and he will take the fruit of that field and use it for the foundation of a newly created Eden one day in the future when the season is right. If you are called by him and established as part of his garden then know that you will see this perfect garden one day in the future. If however you are rebellious and unbending to his plans and his ways you will be uprooted and tossed in the fire. Forever cast away and not part of the future. God is at work and this time now the season we are in now is the season of grace and mercy. Accept the nurture of Christ and the hand of this gardener to be who he wants and created you to be. He is an amazingly skilled owner who will allow you to grow and flourish as you were intended from the beginning.

While we are part of the garden itself we are also co laborers with Christ. So how does that work? Part of the garden and also working the garden with him?

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:36—37 ESV

We who are part of Christ who are yielding to him to live through us must go out and serve the community and to be compassion to others like Christ has been to us. In this way we are the garden and we work for the gardener. I have another hobby a little more involved than the herb and flower boxes. I also keep honey bees. They are part of the garden and they support the overall productivity of the garden. I keep them for the honey they produce but these workers also pollenate the flowers. Almond growers for example rely on truckloads of bee hives at the right opportunity to pollinate the flowers that will yield fruit later in the season. Without the bees the quantity of fruit produced would be significantly smaller.

God in his wisdom has chosen to use mankind to grow and care for the garden but we are not the gardener. It is humbling  to recognize Christ as the Creator and Gardener and that we have his attention.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV

Giving up on You

power

Who am I as a Christian? Am I a Conservative Christian? Blessed (materially) Christian? American Christian? Bible Believing Christian? Family first Christian?

Paul in his Letter to the church at Corinth provides some insight into the approach he took when preaching to this wealthy, hedonistic, and idolatrous merchant city.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV

Paul could have come as an orator with lofty speech. Certainly he was trained to be that. In fact that is how Paul approached the people of Athens and their stoic philosophers (Acts 17). Paul is the intellectual elite of his day. He has all the privilege of the ruling class and the discipline to be successful at it.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 ESV

What confidence do I as a Christian today have in the flesh? I am wealthy (relatively speaking). I never hunger because food is not available or too expensive. Income is possible for me through several avenues even though the economy is not that great. I have the right to defend myself and my home, but I live in a low crime area where the government has provided reasonable law and order (relatively speaking). Basically I can live without fear of those around me. It is no effort or sacrifice to be Christian daily in my community (however I notice some isolated individuals who have lost their job or business because of Christ). I have much to be confident in the flesh. I am highly educated and believe myself to be above average intelligence. Is there anything I can’t do if I put my mind and labor to it? Can I set aside all of that to be a Christian who knows only Christ?

Paul comes not with self-help and categories of Christian. He does not come and divide the people into groups based on the color of their skin, how blessed they have been, or if they work harder than everyone else. He sets all that aside and says he has come to know nothing before them but Christ crucified. Did you follow all of God’s rules? Great. Did live a life of selfish pleasure? Fine, but now come together and see that we are all are dying not living because this world will end. Christ and Christ Crucified alone brings life to these petty identifiers and the short life on Earth.

Maybe you know someone who talks about Jesus too much? Are they annoying and unbearable? Maybe they are or maybe you are seeking the approval and pleasure of this world a little too much? Maybe someone calling you Christian with no other identifier is just unbearable? If God tells you that being black is of no consequence and to leave that heritage behind could you do it? If he tells you to walk away from the gay life style because Christ first is more important would you pause to even consider? What if God called you to walk away from the grievance of “white genocide” and not be concerned with maintaining the “white race”? Could you know nothing but Christ Crucified? Is it possible to walk away from being a Republican or a Democrat and be simply Christian? If Christ called could Tiger Woods walk away from golf? The answer is yes because Paul did just that. If you are saved by Christ then life is where he calls and draws us. What Hillary calls irredeemable and Romney calls the 47% can become children of the King before Christ. Paul walked away from the Jewish and Roman privilege he had enjoyed all his life. God changed his name from Saul to Paul and he became a suffering servant called by God to speak the gospel of Christ. Why did Paul give up all of his strength and approach the Corinthians so humbly?

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV

Paul the intellectual elite with wealth and power could have written books and done all the talk shows extoling his strategies for being perfect at anything in this life. But he did not do this in the city of Corinth. He wanted the Corinthians to be persuaded that faith, power, and wisdom comes only from who they are in Christ. Power comes from God and God alone. Power of the flesh no matter how privileged or educated is weakness in service to God.

When I was saved a miracle happened. The Creator God of the universe intervened in my march to eternal death and gave me new life in Christ. I was nothing and had no ambitions. Raised in a single parent home I had the freedom to be a deviant in all kinds of criminal ways. I had the freedom to fail out of school. I had the desire and the ability to be selfishly depraved and would have been content to be hidden away with nothing. Christ has called me into the public. He has acted in me to lead others. He pulls me out of my selfishness to serve him in ways that are beyond my natural ability or desire. It is supernatural and it is a faith that rests not in me, my heritage, my country, or my politics but in the power of God.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to place Christ and his priorities first. Paul wanted them to humbly submit to God and like Christ who has gone before choose the plans of God. Father I pray “not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV)

Then once we have humbly submitted to God and forsaken the identifiers and the wisdom of this temporary age Christ is able to live through us in the power of God. Paul becomes one of the most influential figures in all of history because Christ lives through him. Countless others throughout history have impacted world in a positive way that points to Christ because they gave up their own ambitions and their own identifiers and recognized them for what they are. Tools and things of this world to be used in service to Christ.