Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Tag

Advice Well Received   2 comments

What Advice Has Stuck With You For A Long Time? And Who Gave You That Advice?
Did someone give you some great advice at a certain time in your life? Think back to that time and write down the advice as you remember it.

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So last week, I alluded to a period in my marriage that was not easy. I didn’t go into detail because I wanted to use it for this week’s blog hop article.

Image result for image of christian adviceBrad doesn’t make a secret that he’s a recovering alcoholic. We have a rule where we try not to bring up things from decades ago to shove in each other’s faces today, but I have to sort of do that to make this blog post make sense. I’m doing this with his permission.

Relapse happens with alcoholics, but recovery is not guaranteed. About 22 years ago, Brad went off the rails and I decided that for the sake of our daughter and myself, but also for Brad’s sake, he couldn’t be with us for a while. This coincided with the younger adults of our church choosing to dis-fellowship Brad until he straightened up. As a friend of ours put it, “If you show up at our door asking me to drive you to an AA meeting, I’m all in, but if it’s for anything else … don’t bother.” That might sound cruel, but Brad now credits those people as some of his best friends.

My choice to make an ultimatum (get help or lose us) came from advice I received at Alanon, but how I did it was entirely based on advice from my friend Theresa.

Theresa had been a missionary’s wife who discovered that her husband was sexually abusing their sons. By the time of my crisis, she’d been divorced from her husband for 25 years. She’d never remarried, which I had always assumed was because she had so many kids, but when my decision became public knowledge in the church, she came to me to give me some time-honored advice from a modern perspective.

I HATED that we were moving toward divorce (and at that time, it didn’t look like there would be another outcome). I knew that divorce outside of the exemption for desertion of a Christian spouse by a non-Christian spouse or adultery was not Biblically allowed. It bothered me that I was deliberately sinning. But Theresa explained things to me in a different way.

 7:10 To the married I give this command – not Ibut the Lord 8  – a wife should not divorce a husband 7:11 (but if she does, let her remain unmarriedor be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.  1 Corinthians 7:10-11

Take a really good look at that clause in verse 11. Theresa chose to remove herself and her children from a damaging situation. She divorced her creeper husband. More power to her. We should never seek divorce lightly. “Irreconcilable differences” is a trivial excuse to end a covenant relationship sealed before God, but some marriages are not salvageable for deeper reasons than he leaves the toilet seat up or he watches football all weekend. There are husbands who beat their wives (and women who abuse their husbands). There are spouses who gamble away every dime and others who drink it away. Alcohol shuts down important centers of the brain having to do with reliability, self-control and judgment. Brad was doing things that needed to stop and he just couldn’t see that through the amber haze he was shrouding his mind in. I needed to keep a roof over our daughter’s head and I couldn’t afford his habits any longer. I provided him with a way back to us before I closed the door on him. But it looked like he wasn’t going to take that lifeline and I felt guilty that I was disobeying God by divorcing my husband.

Image result for image of christian adviceAnd then Theresa showed me this one little clause and my perspective changed.

“If you leave (for a good reason), remain unmarried or be reconciled.”

When Theresa left her husband, she did so to protect her children. He remarried (and there’s tales to tell about that one), but Theresa never did. She understood that she was still bound by the covenant they had both made before God. She was certain that (we’ll call him) John was a Christian, so his remarriage didn’t absolve her of her covenantal responsibility. She remained unmarried as an act of honoring God’s standards.

God blessed her by the way. Jobs fell out of the sky for this woman and her younger children, who had escaped their father’s predations by her choices, turned out to be wonderfully committed Christians who married wonderfully committed Christians. Some of her older children worked through their issues and are adults to be proud of. She was a respected elder in our church and among Christians throughout the state. And, she was happy, surrounded by grandchildren, financially secure, knowing she had obeyed her God to the very best of her ability.

Of course, I was at the other end of that decision. Divorcing without committing a sin wasn’t my only object in view. I had made that choice in hopes of driving Brad to a healthy choice. Would I still be there if he made it? How long was I willing to wait?

If I was going to remain “unmarried”, I could wait until God gave me other instructions. I could still have friends and a life. I didn’t have to grieve or fret about being alone because my relationship with Jesus would fill the voids. I could accept God’s will for my life and live that life.

I didn’t have to adjust to long-term singleness. Brad entered sobriety several months later, although he chose for us to remain physically separated for several more months because he didn’t want to put our daughter through a roller coaster ride while he got his head screwed on straight again. It also gave us time to enact the other part of Theresa’s advice.

Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. It sucks when someone hurts you. It sucks more when you hold a grudge. It sucks for you more than it sucks for the person you’re angry at. Theresa never reconciled with John … more power to her … but she forgave him. She prayed for him. She wished him well. In the 1970s, there were no laws against what he’d done to their sons, but she did what she could to protect people from him. She managed to prevent at least one woman from marrying him by telling her about his past. Then he moved out of state and back in those days, it was impossible to intervene long distance. When she heard he remarried, she prayed for that woman and the children she was bringing into that marriage. She prayed every day for them, I suspect until her death just a few years ago. She never forgot, but she did forgive. She wasn’t bitter. Her daughters are friends of mine and they say that she taught them a great deal about what it takes to sustain a marriage that doesn’t have a sexual predator as a partner.

When Brad and I were working out how to reconcile, we discussed that forgiveness thing a lot. It’s not something either one of us grew up seeing modeled. His parents have been married five times between them. My mother would bring up decades-old hurts whenever she was mad. When two people get married, they have to deal with each other’s baggage. We rely on an old Amish tradition. When a person repents of sin in the Amish community, they have to do it in front of the whole community, but once they do it, there is a prohibition from ever bringing it up again. The Amish will actually discipline the person who breaks that rule. Brad and I try to practice that at all times … which still means occasionally having to bite our tongues. Every now and then one of us will say “You’re not being very Amish”, which serves to remind us that the past is dead and we need to leave it buried. That’s usually enough to make us laugh and knock it off.

Not only do we do this for those unfortunate months way back when, but we try to practice it as an ongoing discipline.

To boil Theresa’s advice down:

  • Remember, you two Christians made an unbreakable contract with God for your marriage. You can walk away legally, but God won’t. (This applies only to Christians married to Christians, btw.)
  • You can divorce, if you have a good reason, and provided you’re prepared to reconcile or remain single.
  • Regardless of the outcome, forgive. Don’t leave that anger hanging in your past so that it ruins your future. Forgiveness is not necessarily for the person who did wrong. It’s for you, so you don’t have to live with all that pain.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation. Because God created us to have free will, there are times when He can’t fix something that really needs fixing. Trust that He’ll be with you even when things don’t turn out the way that you want, and … because He’s there with you … you can be happy even when other people think you shouldn’t be.

Paul Was a BiVocational Preacher   Leave a comment

Have you noticed how Hollywood can spend millions producing what they are certain will be a blockbuster, only to watch the movie bomb in the box office? Then along comes a small-time producer, who spends peanuts producing a flick that becomes the latest rage. Think the original Star Wars movie.

Image result for image of bi vocational pastorIt’s all too common to see an athlete sign a ridiculously lucrative contract only to be injured or have a sub-par season. Then a rookie can sign the league minimum and have an explosive year. You can’t always judge a movie by its budget or an athlete by his salary. Furthermore, you can’t judge a servant of Christ by his pay or lack thereof.

I know may be hard to believe as people genuflect before some televangelists in their limousines and million-dollar mansions, but the apostle Paul chose not to receive payment from the church at Corinth. Instead, he established a church in this sin-hardened city at his own expense. He served them freely so that the gospel would have an open door to travel through. It would be hard to argue that Paul’s personal sacrifices didn’t bring about great results for God’s kingdom.

Modern Christians have also been called to have a godly work ethic as ministers of the gospel. Some of us will be paid, others will serve as volunteers, yet, we are all called to represent Christ … to serve Jesus with our lives.

Paul started by building a lengthy argument for ministers being paid or at least supported by the church they serve in. In 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul began by reminding the Corinthians of his apostolic identity.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?  1 Corinthians 9:1

Paul’s four rhetorical questions all expect a positive answer, and they become increasingly specific. Certainly he enjoyed the liberty that every other believer had. Moreover, he possessed the rights and privileges of an apostle. The proof of his apostleship was twofold. He had seen the risen Christ (Acts 1:21-22) on the Damascus road (Acts 22:14-15; 26:15-18), and he had founded the church in Corinth, which was apostolic work (see Romans 15:15-21).

If I am not an apostle to othersat least I am to youfor you are the confirming sign of my apostleship in the Lord.  1 Corinthians 9:2

There were some who doubted Paul’s apostleship (Galatians), but the Corinthians shouldn’t have because they themselves were the proof that he was an apostle. If the Corinthians denied Paul’s apostleship they denied their own validity as a church. Paul, therefore, took the opportunity to work that issue into his discussion seeking to nip it in the bud. He explained that the Corinthians were the “seal” of his apostleship. A seal in the ancient world was a warm blob of wax into which a signet ring was pressed to seal a letter or package. It was an assurance that the contents had not been opened; it showed who owned the contents; and it showed the genuineness of the contents, that it was sent by the right person. The Corinthians were Paul’s work in the Lord, proof that he was obeying God’s guidance.

As a Christian, you should have your own “seal” of people you have impacted and influenced for eternity. Like Paul, our goal must be to see lost people trust in Jesus Christ and then grow to maturity in Him. In light of eternity, nothing else will matter.

This is my defense to those who examine me. Do we not have the right to financial support? Do we not have the right to the company of a believing wifelike the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers and Cephas? Or do only Barnabas and I lack the right not to work? 1 Corinthians 9:3-6

Paul started by sharing his apostolic rights to make his living from the gospel. His argument was based on a barrage of rhetorical questions that persuasively presented a rationale for his financial support, then he concluded it was best for him to forgo those rights in Corinth (9:12b). Paul lived what he preached and he firmly believed that proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

So have you ever noticed that when people work for free, they and their services are worthless. Since Paul was serving for free, some questioned his credentials. In Corinth, orators, teachers, and philosophers were well paid. It was unthinkable that someone like Paul would not receive a paycheck. So Paul built an air-tight case for remuneration and then insisted he would not make use of his rights. For Paul, proclaiming Christ demanded paying a price.

In the context, “the right to eat and drink” is a figurative reference to financial support. It means to “eat and drink” at the expense of others. Six different times the word “right” is used in this chapter. It’s a very central issue. Paul was saying that he had a legitimate claim to receive financial support from the people to whom he ministered.

All of these questions expect a positive answer. Paul stated that apostles have the right to be married and to cease to work outside of ministry.

Whoever serves in the army at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat its fruit? Who tends a flock and does not consume its milk? Am I saying these things only on the basis of common sense, 3  or does the law not say this as well? 1 Corinthians 9:7-8

Paul gave five reasons why he had the right to be supported by the churches to whom he ministered, why he shouldn’t have to work at a trade to earn a living, so he could devote his energy to study, prayer, preaching, and teaching. He began with an appeal to common sense with three illustrations from everyday experience in the workplace. 

  • Soldiers don’t work at their own expense.
  • Farmers eat from the proceeds of their fields.
  • Those who tend the flock get to use the milk.

Just like soldiers, farmers and herders, a Christian worker has a right to expect benefits from his labor.

For it is written in the law of Moses, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” God is not concerned here about oxenis he? Or is he not surely speaking for our benefit? It was written for usbecause the one plowing and threshing ought to work in hope of enjoying the harvest.  1 Corinthians 9:9-10

Paul used Scripture to back up his reasoning, quoting the Old Testament law regarding the treatment of oxen. Deuteronomy 25:4 commanded God’s people not to muzzle the ox while it was in the process of threshing, to allow it to eat the grain. If God cares so much about the animals who served His people, how much more must He care for the people who serve them?

If something is true on a lower scale, it is certainly true on a more important, higher scale. If mere animals are given the right to eat as they are working in the fields, certainly human beings made in the image of God have that same right. God is more concerned about getting across a principle for human beings in this text than He is about getting across a principle of animal husbandry.

Several times Paul asserted that the Old Testament was written as an example for New Testament believers (see 1 Corinthians. 10:6, 11; Romans 4:23-24; 15:4). This is an important reminder that the Old Testament is of great benefit to each and every one of us. We should read it frequently and look for opportunities to study it. Perhaps the price that you need to pay in proclaiming Christ is to spend some time studying the Old Testament. After all, it makes up ¾ of your Bible. To effectively proclaim Christ, we must be familiar with the Bible as he and the apostle Paul knew it.

If we sowed spiritual blessings among youis it too much to reap material things from you? If others receive this right from youare we not more deserving? 1 Corinthians 9:11-12

In 9:11-12, Paul appealed to the inherent fairness of paying ministers. Spiritual things are intrinsically more important than physical things. The former will last forever whereas the latter are only temporary. Consequently, those who benefit from spiritual ministry should physically support those who minister to them (see Galatians 6:6). In spite of this spiritual principle, Paul surrendered his rights because proclaiming Christ demands paying a price.

But we have not made use of this rightInstead we endure everything so that we maynot be a hindrance to the gospel of Christ9:13 Don’t you know that those who serve in the temple 5  eat food from the templeand those who serve at the altar receive a part of the offerings? 1 Corinthians 9:12b-13

Paul referenced the Old Testament Jewish custom pertaining to the temple and the priests and Levites. The concept of paying God’s servants is not a New Testament notion; it dates back to the Old Testament. Paul saw his gospel ministry as priestly service (see Romans 15:16).

In the same way the Lord commanded those who proclaim the gospel to receive their living by the gospel. 1 Corinthians 9:14

Paul closed his argument in powerful fashion, explaining that Jesus taught the same right for servants to be paid (Matthew 10:10Luke 10:7). Case closed: full-time vocational servants have the freedom to be paid.

My church pays our pastor, but a lot of churches don’t. Some are too small or new starts, so cannot afford to pay a large salary. I know quite a few pastors who serve in a voluntary fashion while supporting themselves bi-vocationally. There’s nothing wrong with that if those pastors feel called to service in that fashion and the church can’t afford to pay a salary. But I know some big churches that don’t pay their ministry staff because, they claim, there’s no Biblical mandate to do so. They apparently skip 1 Corinthians 9. If the church can afford a huge new building, but isn’t paying the pastor … there is something wrong in that church.

But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing these things so that something will be done for me. In fact, it would be better for me to die than – no one will deprive me of my reason for boasting! For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boastingbecause I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this voluntarilyI have a rewardBut if I do it unwillinglyI am entrusted with a responsibility. 1 Corinthians 9:15-17

Having argued vigorously for his right to the Corinthians’ support, Paul then proceeded to argue just as strongly for his right to give up this right. This section gives the reader a window into the apostle’s soul.

Paul explained that his passion for lost people and preaching the gospel consumed him. Consequently, he would go to any and every length to share Christ. Paul actually felt it was better to die than to receive any financial support from Corinth and lose out on freely boasting in the free offer of the gospel. This idea of boasting is used in Paul’s Bible—the Old Testament, of glorying in God. So when Paul used the word “boast” in his writings, he wasn’t talking about personal accomplishments. He was talking about what the Lord has done through him in spite of his weakness.

Why was Paul so adamant that he should not be paid for preaching the gospel? If he had the right, why not capitalize on it? Paul said that he could not legitimately boast in his ministry of preaching, because God ordered him to do it. He stated that he was “under compulsion” (9:16) and had been entrusted with a “stewardship” (9:17). There was an irresistible call of God on his life, and he couldn’t take any personal credit for doing it. He was a man on fire for God! “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The word “woe” occurs frequently in the Old Testament prophets to denote coming disaster and even divine judgment. Paul felt the weight of severe consequences if he chose to forego preaching for another profession. Since God dramatically called Paul to preach, he had to proclaim the gospel. There was no reward in simply doing what God had called him to do (see Luke 17:10).

What then is my reward? That when I preach the gospel I may offer the gospel free of chargeand so not make full use of my rights in the gospel. 1 Corinthians  1 Corinthians 9:18

Paul’s “reward” was demonstrating love to people by freely preaching the gospel. His highest pay was the privilege of preaching without pay. Of course, Paul also believed that his loving service would be recognized in the future by his Lord (see 3:12-14). However, Paul recognized that we do not get rewarded for our calling in and of itself, only for the manner in which we fulfill it. Thus, Paul sacrificed much and served well so that he might one day be rewarded for his service.

For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to allin order to gain even more people.To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the JewsTo those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from God’s law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weakI have become all things to all peopleso that by all means I may save some.1 Corinthians 9:19-22

Paul described his passion to do whatever it takes to win lost people to Christ. Six times in this paragraph Paul stated his desire to reach the lost. He reached the lost by adapting his methods according to the group he tried to reach. Paul pursued anyone and everyone:

  • Jews;
  • “those who are under the law” probably includes Gentile God-fearers and proselytes to Judaism as well as ethnic Jews;
  • “those who are without law” refers to Gentiles apart from any Jewish influence; and
  • “the weak” most likely refer to Christians with weak consciences. Paul must therefore be using “win” in the broader sense of winning to a more mature form of Christian faith.

Paul’s missionary principle had practical applications and still does. For missionaries it means learning the local language and customs to make the gospel understandable in the local environment. For those in campus ministries it means bringing to college students a message that challenges them on an academic level and shows that Christianity is not anti-intellectual. The applications of “being all things to all people” are endless. I have friends share Christ in bars, homeless camps, AA socials, homosexual clubs, and Mormon churches. If Christianity is to make a mark in the 21st century, fresh and radical methods will need to be pursued.

I do all these things because of the gospelso that I can be a participant in it. 1 Corinthians 9:23

Why does Paul go to such great lengths to win lost people? The work of the gospel was the hub of Paul’s life. Everything revolved around it. Paul lived in the way he did to become a “fellow partaker” of the gospel. He did not “share” the financial blessings of the Corinthians, but he expected to get a “share” in the rewards of the gospel eventually. He turned down rewards from particular congregations, but he expected that God would compensate him for that which he had lost. To become “a partaker of the gospel” means to receive its ultimate reward: to gain “the prize” that Jesus gives.

Brad suggested I should say something about how this correlates with our voluntarist principles. It comports very well because we are completely allowed to CHOOSE to give of our time and money as we see fit. We object to GOVERNMENT taking money from us involuntarily to give it to “charities” that often make the situation they purport to address worse. Most Christians in American churches give very generously of their NET income. Imagine if we had access to our GROSS incomes? How much more would we give to programs that are designed to help people out of difficult circumstances and give them the skills to overcome current and future difficulties? By and large, churches do a much better job of getting people out of poverty than do government programs because the aid is not offered in perpetuity. It’s time-limited and goal-focused because funding is finite. Churches can’t extort money from people, so they have to live within a budget and address needs in effective ways. There is no incentive to continue serving the same people forever because the vast majority of Christian ministers are lay people working on a strictly voluntary basis, raising their own funding. That is what existed in the 1st century and it is still the standard today for God’s people. And, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But, yes, pastors and other ministers who work on a full-time basis for churches that have healthy budgets should be paid.

Turtle God   Leave a comment

Image result for image of climate change debunkedOkay, I found this meme and I had to post it because it was on one of those sites that pokes fun at “expert” skeptics. Some of us just refuse to accept the “expert” opinion as THE TRUTH because we have become aware that “experts” are affected by their own presuppositions and their opinions can also be bought by the highest bidder or the group offering the most prestige. Forty years ago, scientists were convinced we were hurtling toward the next ice age because of pollution. What happened to that theory? It didn’t pan out, so they changed their rap to global warming. Now that isn’t panning out so they want us to panic over “global climate change.” But the climate has been changing since the Fall. Why do we think it’s going to stop if we sacrifice our economy to it?

Related imageBut the main reason I posted this meme is that the turtle is the totem animal of the Wendat people, called variously Wyndake and Wyandot. My husband found a jade turtle at an antique shop and he brought it home. The Wendat peoples believed that the world was built on the back of a turtle. It explained earthquakes and other issues. It wasn’t correct and I don’t believe in the sacred turtle. That would be idol worship … just like putting my faith in science or the State.

 

Bernie Sanders’ Religious Test   2 comments

I am currently in the throes of polishing a short story for submission and trying to finish the draft for A Threatening Fragility while also enjoying the midnight sun, so the blog is mostly advanced-written stuff, but Bernie Sanders threatened me this past week and I just have to vent about that.

Russell Vought, President Trump’s nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, is standing for confirmation hearings in the Senate. Vought is an alumnus of Wheaton College, a Christian evangelical institution. In 2016, when Wheaton faced opposition for firing a Muslim faculty member for asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same god (little “g” intentional), Vought wrote an article defending his alma mater in which he said that Muslims hold a deficient faith … “they do not know God because they reject Jesus Christ as Savior.” In the article, Vought discussed a range of doctrinal issues, including the theological status of non-Christians.

Image result for image of bernie sandersUnderstand that Christianity is an exclusive religion. That’s not my choice. That’s God’s rules. “You shall have no other gods before Me” and “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me” are directly from the Bible. Christians cannot say that Allah is the same god as Yahweh because the Bible draws a sharp distinction between the One True God and all other gods. To obfuscate and use double-speak to get around that distinction for political correctness is blaspheme for the Christian. Our spiritual forefathers walked into coliseums to be torn apart by lions because they wouldn’t compromise that principle. Must have been pretty important to them. Can I as a 21st century do less? The Atlantic has a surprisingly balanced discussion of this topic.

So, now, during a Senate confirmation hearing for a position having to do with the country’s finances, Senator Bernie Sanders tried to shame Vought for his religious convictions and asserted that Vought is unfit for public office because he is a Christian.

Image result for image russell voughtLet’s set aside my growing doubts that Christians ought to be involved in politics … the US Constitution explicitly says there shall be no religious test administered for public office. Yet, the man who many believe should have been the Democratic nominee for President used the article and the hearing as a way of publicly inquiring into Vought’s religious beliefs and claiming that those beliefs make him unfit for office.

Sanders’s public questioning of the religious beliefs of a candidate for office remind me of some of the worst aspects of 17th-century religious politics. The early modern era experienced marked violence among religious groups. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and Muslims were all exiled, tortured, imprisoned, and killed at various times and in various countries, by each other, depending on who was on the throne. Much of the bloodshed ceased after the English Civil War, religious conflicts did not disappear. For example, the English Parliament issued a series of Acts requiring oaths of religious orthodoxy and attendance at and performance of orthodox (Anglican) religious rights for those who wanted to hold public office or graduate from Oxford or Cambridge. The last of these acts was passed in 1829, really not that long ago.

 

We should all be familiar with Locke’s Letter Concerning Toleration, which argues against these Acts and similar laws constraining religious belief. Many of these Acts were specifically written in order to keep Catholics from holding public office because Anglicans feared potential “divided loyalties” of those who served both the English King and the Pope. These Acts also effectively excluded members of non-orthodox Protestant sects (Baptists, Quakers, etc) from public office, but they also kept Jews from holding the same offices. Bernie Sanders is Jewish and it deeply disturbs me that he would suggest that someone’s religious beliefs could and should render him unfit for office.

Vought’s beliefs about whether Muslims are saved or not have no bearing on his ability to serve in the office of Management and Budget. There is no interface with religion in that government agency. A Jewish Senator creating a 21st century “religious test” that requires inquiry into such beliefs is no less a lousy idea than Vought, Vice President Pence or any other believing Christian to suggest that a Jewish nominee should be kept from office because he believes that Christians are wrong and that the Messiah has not yet arrived.

Pretty much all religions hold doctrines that exclude or set apart those who do not accept those doctrines and beliefs. Those of us who are familiar wit the complex religious environment of modern America work every day with people who believe we are outside of the will of their god and some who may believe we are condemned for eternity. As a Baptist, I believe certain things that others may disagree with and those others may hold certain beliefs that I think are patently wrong. And this does not affect how we do our jobs.

I’ll repeat that: Our differing religious beliefs don’t affect how we do our jobs.

How do we manage that? We self-compartmentalize. Our work community need not be a carbon copy of our faith community. At the office, I am focused on getting our mutual mission accomplished. While attending church, I focus on our mutual mission there, which is not the same as my employer’s mission. So long as my employer does not ask me to violate my faith, the two need not interact.

And that, by the way, is what happened at Wheaton College. A Christian university with a statement of faith that faculty are required, at least in public, to adhere to. Dr. Larycia Hawkins violated that statement of faith and Wheaton’s board acted upon their theological underpinings because it is the mission of Wheaton College to provide a Christian education.

Bernie Sanders asked Mr. Vought was a theological question., basically asking “Do you think that non-Christians are saved?” He had no authority to ask such a question. He should have instead asked “Do your religious beliefs require that you treat non-Christians as lesser people, with fewer rights than Christians?”

Most Christians I know would not be able to answer that non-Christians can be saved because the Bible is clear they must obey God and accept Jesus Christ as Savior. But how does that affect being a deputy director of OMB?

Most Christians I know would answer the second question with an emphatic negative. Biblicly-based Christianity requires that we treat all people as made in the image of God. And it is that principle that functions in our interactions with civil society, which is what would positively affect Vought’s ability to be deputy director of OMB.

Bernie Sanders’ insertion of a religious test into the Senate confirmation process for Vought concerns me because if his attitude takes hold, it could lead to increased persecution of Christians and any other religious groups who don’t measure up to political correctness standards.

 

Contentment is Better than Happiness   1 comment

One of the biggest challenges in life is to be content in our lives as they are now. The sage advice is, “Happiness is not having what you want. It is wanting what you have.” This is on-the-head accurate when it comes to singleness and marriage. God’s desire and expectation is that we would be content in Christ, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

Image result for image of contentment in marriageThe apostle Paul modeled godly contentment. In Philippians 4:11, he wrote that he had “learned to be content in any circumstance” Amazingly, he penned these words from a Roman prison. Paul could say he was content in Christ even while he was suffering great hardship. Paul allowed Jesus Christ to transform his heart and mind and give him a supernatural perspective.

So how many of us share Paul’s perspective? The person this Bible study was designed for does not. So, what about my readers? Are you content in your singleness or marriage? If not, why aren’t you content? Could it be that you are seeking your own happiness? When it comes to issues pertaining to singleness, marriage, and divorce and remarriage, the question is not, “What will make me happiest?” but “What will make God happiest?”

In 1 Corinthians 7:6-24, Paul told us that God is happy when we are content. Therefore, if you want to bring a smile to the face of God, cultivate contentment. As you do, you will find that contentment is one of the keys to Christianity. In this passage, Paul laid out three directives that will help us to live a life of contentment.

I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.

To the unmarried and widows I say that it is best for them to remain as I am. But if they do not have self-control, let them get married. For it is better to marry than to burn with sexual desire.

To the married I give this command – not I, but the Lorda wife should not divorce a husband (but if she does, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband), and a husband should not divorce his wife.

To the rest I say – I, not the Lordif a brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is happy to live with him, he should not divorce herAnd if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is happy to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified because of the wife, and the unbelieving wife because of her husbandOtherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever wants a divorce, let it take place. In these circumstances the brother or sister is not boundGod has called you in peace. For how do you know, wife, whether you will bring your husband to salvation? Or how do you know, husband, whether you will bring your wife to salvation? (1 Corinthians 7:6-24

Please note that Paul distinguishes between his personal belief based on his experience and God’s commands all throughout this passage. A lot of bad theology has been perpetrated by failure to notice this.

Paul expressed his preference that all Christians be single as he was. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that both marriage and singleness are viable options for the Christian. In 7:6, Paul wrote, “But this I say by way of concession, not of command.” Paul wanted to make it clear that what he was about to say in 7:7-9 is a “concession” and not a “command.”5 The word “concession” means “permission to do something.” In 7:7-9 Paul explains his concession: “Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows that it is good for them if they remain even as I. But if they do not have self-control, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.”

Paul wished that all Christians would remain single. He explained later in this chapter that a single man or woman is able to be more devoted to Christ (7:32-34). He also made it clear that his concession is based upon the present circumstances. Some historians believe there was a famine in Corinth or the surrounding areas at the time of writing. In light of these factors, Paul believed that during that specific time, it was better not to marry. Yet, even during a time of crisis Paul was a realist and said, “…it is better to marry than to burn” with unfulfilled sexual passion (7:9).

Two principles come to mind:

Celibacy is a spiritual gift and should be treated accordinglyIn 7:7, Paul wrote, “each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.” Those men and women who are able to be single have been gifted by the Lord to do so. It is unlikely that marriage is a gift, since it is a normal expression for humans. Nevertheless, it should be treated as a gift. Thus, if you are single you should value your gift of singleness, and if you are married you ought to celebrate your marriage. This is God’s express desire.

Often single people want to be married and married people want to be single. Our problem is a lack of contentment. We don’t value God’s gifts and timing. Consequently, we are always restless and dissatisfied. It is worth recognizing that at some point in our lives each of us will be single. It may be before marriage or after marriage. Since 90% of all Americans will eventually marry, it is also likely that many people who are single will marry. God’s call is for us to be content in Christ, whatever our circumstances. Remember, God is happy when we are content.

I think Christians reject the legitimacy of singleness. I am convinced that is the reason for so much hurt in the church regarding this issue. Directly or indirectly, subtly or not so subtly, we have ascribed to the conviction that singles are unfinished business. We say in groups and in private conversations, “Aren’t you married yet?” “What’s a nice girl like you doing unmarried?” “What you need is a good wife.” “Found anybody to date yet?” “I’m praying the Lord will lead you to a good guy.” “It’s too bad he’s not married.” Parents and relatives say that. Family reunions apparently are notorious for these and similar comments. Books and articles are written from a Christian viewpoint that say, “If you will only commit your life to Christ, God will give you a marriage partner.” Christ never said that. He said He will lead you to a life of meaning, purpose and fulfillment. He never said He would give you marriage. He’s more concerned about other things. We need to accept the legitimacy of singleness. Simple mathematics says there are more women than men in this world, and there always will be. We need to accept singleness because there are some people whose circumstances involve singleness, and they have no opportunity to change. Others prefer not to change. We need to accept the legitimacy of singleness primarily because the Bible does.

Marriage is to be encouraged not discouraged. In 7:9, Paul encouraged singles to get married if they lack control and are burning. This desire is from God and is not meant to be inappropriately squelched. It’s hard for us to understand this in our day of age with its extended adolescence, but at the time of the New Testament writings (and for hundreds of years afterward), marriage occurred closer to the age of puberty. Marriage permitted the blossoming sex drive to be fulfilled and not frustrated. Today, marriage is usually postponed until later in life due to modern educational, vocational, and financial pressures. The longer one postpones marriage past puberty, the more sexual temptations he or she will naturally have to face. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 96 percent of Americans over the age of 20 have had sex. Premarital sex is an epidemic in the world and in the church. We must seek to protect our young people. Does this mean that young people should get married at 13 years old? No! That’s way too young. I recommend young people avoid sexual temptation and not postpone marriage until all their proverbial “ducks are in a row.” If you are spiritually ready and are in a godly relationship that you are willing to commit to for the rest of your earthly life, you have the Biblical freedom to marry.

Yeah, that probably terrifies a lot of parents, but consider this. Apart from your child’s relationship with Jesus Christ, the most important passion you can develop in your son or daughter is to be a godly husband or wife. We typically don’t give this as much thought as we should. We are more concerned about ensuring that our children get good grades, get into the right college, and learn the right profession. If you really want to set your child up for success, prepare your child to be a godly spouse. Teach your child responsibility and commitment. Encourage your child to look forward to marriage. Let your child know that nothing matters more than being a godly husband or wife.

So, I doubt that a lot of teenagers read my blog, but I hope they won’t use my words against their parents’ wishes. Most teenagers feel lots of passion. They’re basically hormones with feet. But most of them are not ready for marriage. A Christian marriage is a covenant before God that is filled with blood, sweat, and tears. It is not something to be entered into lightly. So if you want to get married soon or in the near future, I would suggest that you work feverishly on your relationship with Christ, prioritize your purity, and find a good job or finish college as quickly as you can. That said, if you are having trouble keeping your hands off your intended, better to marry than to misuse one another.

Know that until God brings the right person into your life, He will provide the strength to resist temptation. Two of the best means through which His strength is realized are spiritual service and physical exercise. Additionally, He expects you to avoid listening to, looking at, or being around anything that strengthens the temptation, and to focus your minds on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence and worthy of praise (see Philippians 4:8).

Paul was clear. You need to consider marriage carefully, but if you choose to get married you must Remain married permanently (7:10-16).

Modern Americans find this passage difficult. We are so steeped in the false ideology that God wants us to be happy at every moment of our lives, so we struggle with the concept that God wants us to remain in a relationship that doesn’t rock the fireworks or bring us candy every night. But that is exactly what He wants from us. Paul urged Christian spouses to remain married. In 7:10-11, Paul wrote to Christian spouses in a Christian marriage: “But to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave [divorce] her husband (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.”

Paul gave instructions that are from Jesus Who spoke about the permanence of marriage (Matthew 5:32; 19:6; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:8). Divorce is not an option. The husband does not have God’s permission to divorce his wife and the wife does not have God’s permission to divorce her husband.

It is worth noting that there is a parenthetical statement in 7:11. “but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband”. It is possible that Paul may have been making a compassionate provision for an abused woman. This seems to indicate that God Himself is acknowledging that some marriages, even between Christians, are so difficult, unwholesome and degrading that divorce is the lesser of two evils. It is as though God is regrettably tolerating a violation of one of His own principles. Regardless, for the believer who divorces his believing spouse there are two options: singleness or reconciliation. Remarriage to a different spouse is not Biblically permissible.

We must recognize that “divorce” is an expletive. Many of us who would never drop an expletive or use Jesus’ name in vain, frequently bring up divorce. This is a sin. If you are married, God’s intent and expectation is that your marriage goes the distance. This means when (not if) there are problems in your marriage, it is imperative that you go to the leadership of the church before it’s too late. Too often, couples run to the pastors and elders when their marriage is on life support and nothing can be done to salvage it. Yes, God can and will work miracles, but it is wise to include Him in our marriage trauma before it’s too late.

Paul continued his argument for the permanence of marriage in 7:12-16. But in these verses Paul wrote to a believer who is married to an unbeliever: “But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?”

Four times in 7:10-13, Paul prohibited divorce. To write it once would be sufficient. Twice would be unmistakably clear. Three times would be more than enough. But four times? The man meant business!

In 7:12, Paul distinguished between his own apostolic instruction and Jesus’ teaching during His earthly ministry. Paul dealt with a situation about which Jesus gave no instruction in His earthly teaching.

It’s very important to recognize that the mixed marriages Paul addressed here are the by-products of the conversion of one of the partners. When these two individuals got married they were both unbelievers; now one of them has become a Christian. This section does not apply to a believer who violates God’s law by knowingly marrying an unbeliever. For such a person to appeal to this passage would be like a teenager killing his parents and then appealing to the judge for leniency on the grounds that he’s an orphan.

In 7:12-16, the discussion is not about a believing spouse initiating a divorce. Instead, the unbelieving spouse initiates the divorce. The general principle in 7:12-16 is that those who are married are to stay married (i.e., the believer should remain married to the unbeliever). Although the believer should not initiate the divorce, if the unbeliever should do so, the believer is no longer bound to the marriage (7:15). Paul granted permission for divorce in the case of a believer being deserted by an unbeliever.

This is stated in 7:15, where Paul wrote that the believer is “not bound in regard to marriage” (i.e., free to remain single or to remarry). In 7:39-40, there is a conceptual parallel where a wife is said to be “bound” (a different word in Greek, but the same concept) as long as her husband lives. But if the husband dies, she is “free” to marry as she wishes, only in the Lord. If the parallel holds, then “not bound” in 7:15 also means “free to marry another.”

Two motivations that Paul brought out for remaining in an unequally yoked marriage are:

  • the spiritual benefits that accrue to your family (7:14)
  • the hope that you may win your spouse to Christ (7:16).

Paul said that the unbeliever is “sanctified” (i.e., set apart for God’s blessings) on account of the believer. Salvation does not change the marriage state. If the wife’s becoming a Christian annulled the marriage, then the children in the home would become illegitimate. Instead, these children may one day be saved if the Christian mate is faithful to the Lord. Paul also holds out hope that the believing spouse may influence the unbelieving spouse to believe the gospel.

A Christian whose unsaved spouse has divorced him or her should remain unmarried as long as there is a possibility that the unsaved person may return. However, if the unsaved spouse who has departed remarries, I believe Christian would be free to remarry since, by remarrying, the unsaved partner has closed the door on reconciliation. Remaining faithful to your marriage blesses your spouse and children.

Nevertheless, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches. Was anyone called after he had been circumcised? He should not try to undo his circumcisionWas anyone called who is uncircumcised? He should not get circumcised. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Instead, keeping God’s commandments is what countsLet each one remain in that situation in life in which he was called. Were you called as a slave? Do not worry about it. But if indeed you are able to be free, make the most of the opportunityFor the one who was called in the Lord as a slave is the Lord’s freedman. In the same way, the one who was called as a free person is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price. Do not become slaves of men. In whatever situation someone was called, brothers and sisters, let him remain in it with God. (1 Cointhians 7:17-24)

Stay put indefinitely (7:17-24). Paul now departed from commenting about marriage to offer more general considerations about one’s overall situation in life. But since he continued with issues concerning sexuality in 7:25-40, we cannot interpret the present section as unrelated to the marriage issues just discussed. In order to explain the general principle he had been trying to communicate in the previous verses about marriage, Paul used two other less urgent issues (circumcision and slavery) as examples. His main point is that after experiencing the call of God, each person should remain in the situation he or she was in at the time of that call. Becoming a Christian does not mean totally revamping one’s social status. Do not seek marriage; do not seek singleness; do not seek divorce. In fact, do not actively seek any change in social status!

Three times Paul insists that a believer is to remain in the situation he or she was in at the point of faith in Christ (7:17, 20, and 24). This means that a Christian does not have to seek “the right situation” in order to enjoy Christian freedom or to serve God’s call effectively. We should serve God where we are until He calls us elsewhere.

Again, Paul’s overarching point in this passage was God is happy when we are content. If you are single—be content, if you are married—be content. Whatever your stage in life, be content.

I read a story some time ago called The Stonecutter:

Once upon a time, a stonecutter lived all alone. Though he had acquired great skills, he was very poor. He lived in a tiny bamboo hut and wore tattered clothing. One day as the stonecutter worked with his hammer and chisel upon a huge stone, he heard a crowd gathering along the streets. By their shouts he could tell that the king was coming to visit his humble village. Joining in the procession, the stonecutter gazed on as the king, dressed in marvelous silk, was greeted by his subjects. Oh, how I wish I had the power and glory of the king, he thought. He has soldiers at his command. There is no one more powerful. His cry was heard in the heavens, and immediately the humble stonecutter was transformed into a powerful king. He found himself riding on a great horse, waving at the crowds of people who had flocked to see him. This is power, he thought.

As the summer progressed, however, the new king watched the effects of the heat upon his people. Men and animals became weary, and plants withered under the powerful rays of the sun. As he looked at the sky, the new king realized that the sun was more powerful than any earthly ruler. How I wish I were as powerful as that, he thought. I wish I were the sun. Immediately, his wish was granted. The stonecutter relished his new role as the sun. He gloried in the power he felt as he surveyed the kingdoms below. As he sent his bright rays to earth, he watched kings and princes hide under their parasols; he watched as powerful warriors became weak under his gaze. Even the crops in the field were under his command.

Then one day a tiny cloud moved over the land, shielding the earth from the sun’s bright rays. Seeing that here was something more powerful, he thought, I want very much to be a cloud. Again, his wish was granted. Now he blocked the sun’s rays and felt important. He gathered all his strength, becoming a gigantic cloud, and began to pour down rain on the earth. Rivers formed where previously there were none, and water flooded the streets of the cities and the farmland. Everything—trees, animals, people—seemed to be awed by his power. Only the massive rocks were unswayed. There is nothing, he thought, as powerful as a rock. How I wish I were a huge stone. His wish was granted.

As a stone he remained motionless and powerful, unmoved by sun, wind, or rain. He felt exempt from all the forces that shaped the existence of those around him. Then one day a man approached, carrying a bag. When he stopped, he pulled out a chisel and a hammer and began to chip away at the rock. Realizing that the man with the tools was more powerful than any rock, he cried out, “Oh, I want to be a stonecutter.”

Once again the heavens heard his cry, and he became a stonecutter. Once again he lived in a bamboo hut and made his living with hammer and chisel. And he was content.

God is happy when we are content.

Sex Is Good   Leave a comment

In our sex-obsessed society, it is perhaps a shock that sex is a touchy subject. Equally shocking for some people is that the Bible talks about sex A LOT. Though the Bible handles this subject matter much differently than the secular world, it does have much to say on the subject. I can only think of one reason for matters pertaining to sex to be so frequently discussed in the Bible—sexuality must be very closely related to spirituality.

Now with regard to the issues you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But because of immoralities, each man should have relations with his own wife and each woman with her own husband. A husband should give to his wife her sexual rightsand likewise a wife to her husband. It is not the wife who has the rights to her own body, but the husband. In the same way, it is not the husband who has the rights to his own body, but the wife. Do not deprive each other, except by mutual agreement for a specified time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayerThen resume your relationship, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-controlI say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that everyone was as I am. But each has his own gift from God, one this way, another that.  1 Corinthians 7:1-5

The beliefs and practices of the Corinthian saints seem to vary greatly when it comes to matters of sexual values and conduct. Paul rebuked the liberal extreme for failing to exercise church discipline on a man living in an incestuous relationship with his father’s wife. In chapter 6, Paul confronted those who felt that having sex with a prostitute is not contrary or detrimental to one’s spiritual life. There are those in Corinth whose sexual values are shocking, even to the pagan Corinthians (see 5:1).

Image result for image of christian marital sexOur current text indicates there were some believers who used spirituality as a pretext for sexual immorality, while for others spirituality meant abstaining from sex altogether. By the way, this is where the water hits the wheel with our friend who caused us to start this series. He believes he’s found support in the Bible for his sexual immorality. So far, he has yet to show us convincing evidence of his belief.

In chapter 7, Paul turned his attention to those who seem to regard all sex as dirty, and who therefore advocated celibacy. For those who are single, it means staying single and, unlike today, celibate as well. For those who are married, it seems to mean that these couples should also refrain from sexual relations. I see a touch of gnosticism in this — the idea that the flesh is evil and must never be indulged.

In the matter of sexual conduct, the Corinthians lived in a very troubled world, not unlike our own era. The ancient world of Paul’s day had a very distorted view of women, sex, and marriage. Prostitution was an essential part of Greek life. Demosthenes had laid it down as the common and accepted rule of life: “We have courtesans for the sake of pleasure; we have concubines for the sake of daily cohabitation; we have wives for the purpose of having children legitimately, and having a faithful guardian for all our household affairs.”

The Roman sexual ethic was no better. By Paul’s era, Roman family life was wrecked. Seneca wrote that women were married to be divorced and divorced to be married. In Rome the Romans did not commonly date their years by numbers. Women called them by the names of their husbands. Martial the Roman poet tells of a woman who had ten husbands; Juvenal tells us of one who had had eight husbands in five years; Jerome declares it to be true that in Rome there was a woman who was married to her 23rd husband and she herself was his 21st wife.

One would hope the Jews would be exemplary in matters of sex and marriage, but it wasn’t the case. In Paul’s day Judaism reverenced neither women nor marriage. Josephus wrote, ‘The woman is worse than the man in everything’ (Josephus, Contra Apionem, 2, 201).

In the age of the coming of Christianity, even with Judaism the marriage bond was in peril so great that the institution of marriage was threatened. Jewish girls were refusing to marry at all because the position of the wife was so uncertain. The ancient ritual of “female circumcision” was practiced then too. This (cough) surgical procedure doesn’t benefit the woman at all, but prevents her enjoyment of sex. It seems that in the minds of those men who impose this on women, it is the woman’s place to give pleasure to the man, but never the woman’s place to receive pleasure from the man. While we may not mutilate our women in the United States, many American men expect their wives to give them sexual pleasure at any time, but feel little or no obligation toward fulfilling their wives’ sexual pleasure.

Paul’s words concerning sex and marriage were desperately needed in his day and no less needed in our own day.

From the Book of Proverbs, we know that God designed marriage and sex not only as a means for bringing children into this world, but also as God’s appointed means for a man to find pleasure in his wife:

Drink water from your own cistern, And fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. Proverbs 5:15-19.

In the New Testament, Jesus attended a wedding and then miraculously provided wine when their supplies were exhausted (John 2:1-11). The Apostle Paul assumed that elders and deacons would be married with children (1 Timothy 3:2, 12). Paul also encouraged younger widows to marry (1 Timothy 5:14). He claimed the right as an apostle to “lead about a wife” (1 Corinthians 9:5). The writer to the Hebrews also held marriage in high esteem, and the proper realm for sexual enjoyment between husband and wife. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

In the Bible, marriage is viewed as the norm, and the single life as the exception. Marriage is viewed as holy, righteous, and good. Those who seek to prohibit marriage as something evil are identified as false teachers by Paul (1 Timothy 4:1-5). Marriage is a good gift from God that many Christians gratefully receive and enjoy.

We know that there was a previous letter from Paul to the Corinthians and it is reasonable to assume that the Corinthians wrote a letter to Paul asking his advice on certain matters. Beginning with the statement, “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” suggests Paul was answering their questions. In studying for this lesson, I ran across a textual critic who notes that Paul doesn’t say he’s answering a question. He says he is responding to what they wrote. There’s a difference there.

Some people ask questions which are not meant to be enlightening. Many questions are asked in a way which cleverly “teaches” the one who is asked or others who are listening. Some seek to undermine the teaching or authority of the one asked. Remembering the Corinthian factions, it is entirely possible that the Corinthians were asking gotcha questions or it could also be that they wrote him what they thought was true and expected him to agree with them.

Were they, in their enlightened wisdom, attempting to teach Paul? It’s possible. Could they be writing to Paul as their spiritual father and mentor, wanting to hear his wisdom and heed it? I’m inclined to view their communication with Paul with suspicion.

We know from Paul’s words in chapter 5 that when a Corinthian church member was living with his father’s wife and that the church had not exercised church discipline, but instead were proud of their accepting attitude (5:2). Some Corinthians were proud as a result of sin and their response to it. When Paul raised the issue of sex and marriage in chapter 7, he was dealing with the opposite extreme in the church … those who have overreacted to fleshly lusts, seeking to overcome them by asceticism. These folks were just as proud of their asceticism as the others named in chapter 5 were of their fleshly indulgence. Perhaps these ascetics had become so smug they assumed Paul would applaud them. After all, when it came to sexual abstinence and remaining single, Paul stood out among the apostles, and among those in the churches (see 1 Corinthians 9:4-5). They may not have agreed with Paul on many matters, but these ascetics might well have wanted Paul’s endorsement here. Paul’s words in response to their communication probably shocked them.

Before attempting to interpret Paul’s words in verse 1, we must pause to point out that the translation of the NIV is inaccurate. The expression, “not to touch a woman,” is a reference to sexual intercourse, not marriage, and thus the NIV is in error when it translates as it does.

The idiom ‘to touch a woman’ occurs nine times in Greek antiquity, ranging across six centuries and a variety of writers, and in every other instance, without ambiguity it refers to having sexual intercourse. There is no evidence of any kind that it can be extended or watered down to mean, ‘It is good for a man not to marry.’71

The Corinthian ascetics didn’t sanction sexual immorality. Instead, they didn’t sanction sex. They felt sex is dirty, whether within marriage or without. This tells us more about the ascetics than it does about biblical morality: “To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15). Having concluded that all sex is evil, these folks followed out the implications of their false doctrine. If all sex is evil, then it is evil to enjoy sex in marriage. Husbands and wives should abstain from sex, unless for the bearing of children … if that. And those who are single should avoid the “temptation to have sex” by avoiding and abstaining from marriage. Paul refused to endorse such a view.

It would have been really easy for Paul to come on strong with these Corinthians, but he was gentle in his rebuke, clearly distinguishing between his personal convictions, his counsel (advice), and his authoritative apostolic commands (see 7:6-7, 40). His approach was to introduce the issue at hand and then gently correct the errors. In later chapters (e.g. 8-10), Paul’s initial gentleness leads to a very clear and forceful conclusion.

The ascetics of the Corinthian church had overreacted to the immorality of their day and city, concluding that all sex is dirty and should be avoided, even within marriage. When Paul says, “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,” I think he is repeating the position held by the Corinthian ascetics. It was another of those slogans introduced in Chapter 6. Paul repeated the statement, not because he agreed with it in its entirety, but because he agreed with it in part. Celibacy has its benefits, but not inside of marriage.

Run!!!   Leave a comment

We live in a sex-obsessed society. If people aren’t thinking about having sex, they’re thinking about how to be attractive enough to attract people who want to have sex with them. Our movies are filled with beautiful, sexy people. Magazine ads sell everything from cars to deodorant based on sexual attraction.

It’s not a new problem. The society in Corinth in the 1st century was also sexually obsessed. Paul’s admonition in the coming passage was not the standard response for the era. In fact, he was quite out of step with the times.

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. 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. Now God indeed raised the Lord and he will raise us by his power. 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! 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.”  But the one united with the Lord is one spirit with him. Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body” – but the immoral person sins against his own bodyOr do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in youwhom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.  1 Corinthians 6:12-20

The items in quotation marks were popular slogans of Paul’s day, used by the Corinthians to justify their behavior. Paul agrees wit the slogans in part, but corrects them to show how the Corinthians have misused these ideas.

Drawing from my lessons on economics, I’ve learned that short-term pleasure can lead to long-term disaster. This is especially true in the area of sexual immorality. For a few minutes of pleasure, countless men and women will throw their lives away — lose fellowship with God, end up divorced, diseased, or pregnant, and face estrangement from family and friends. There can be psychological and financial losses, damage to your reputation and many other consequences. Most of us assume we’ll be the exception. We won’t get caught. Nobody needs to know. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Rather than tell the Corinthians what bad things might happen, Paul used another approach. He suggested the Corinthians honor God by recognizing their bodies are God’s temple.

Image result for image of fleeing sexual immoralityThere is such a thing as freedom in Christ. I don’t get flung into the fires of hell because I screwed up. Those slogans came from somewhere, most probably from an expression of freedom, but our freedom in Christ is meant for our good and God’s glory. When we step beyond those boundaries, we end up out in a swamp with only a hard way back.

Yes, all things are lawful for the Christian. God’s world is meant to be enjoyed. Everything God created is good, including sex. That’s very, very good! But not everything we can do is good for us. Sex outside of marriage is unprofitable and can lead to being mastered. Christians are to refuse to be mastered by their bodies. Enjoy the world, but don’t press your freedom so far that you do damage to yourself. Immorality breaks marriages and shatters homes. We are free to do it, but sin still has serious consequences. Will what I want to do help my relationship with God or hurt it? Will it damage someone else? Will it affect the church’s testimony?

Freedom does not mean the absence of constraints or moral absolutes. I live in Alaska where I am free to walk out into the woods whenever I wish, but if I do it without bear protection, I stand a good chance of ending up a bear’s dinner. I am constrained by my need of self-protection to carry a gun so that I can enjoy the beauty of nature. God’s moral laws act the same way: they restrain, but they are absolutely necessary to enjoy the exhilaration of real freedom.

Paul argued that sexual immorality is an offense against God the Father (v 13-14), Jesus Christ (v 15-1) and the Holy Spirit (v 18-20).

“Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.” This sentence isn’t about food, but about sexual immorality. Paul emphasized the subject to show how God values the human body. Both the stomach and the food are temporal. Later, in Chapter 15, we’ll learn that God will raise our bodies from the dead. Our bodies are precious to Him. Why?

This passage sees the return of Paul’s “do you not know” questions. Paul also used the word “members” several times. And this gets to why our bodies are precious to God and why what we do with our bodies matters to Him a great deal.

The moment we believed in Jesus Christ we were grafted into His body. We are now members of Christ. So, just like we wouldn’t want to stick our physical hand in a food processor, God doesn’t want us to misuse parts of His body. It was therefore unthinkable to Paul that Christians would ever be sexually immoral, because what we do to our bodies we also do to God.

Now, I’ve heard it argued that Paul was preaching against prostitution because of the lack of love and commitment. He’d be okay with the sexual relationship between two people who love one another. Yeah, there’s a moral distinction between sleeping with a prostitute and a passionate interlude with a steady date.

Sin remains sin.

Armed robbery is a much more violent form of theft than shoplifting, but that doesn’t mean shoplifting is okay. Corinth had a big prostitute trade, so Paul addressed it, but the Greek word used for “immorality (porneia) deals with all kinds of sexual immorality. And, Paul had just listed some of them a few sentences before.

The word “joins” or “unites” (NIV) is used in each of these verses. The Greek word was used for gluing. An immoral man glues himself to an immoral woman. A believer, on the other hand, should glue himself to the Lord. Why do you think the word “glue” is used of sexual relationships? After all, aren’t many sex acts purely physical, without any real personal involvement? No. Paul says it is impossible to have a physical-only sexual relationship. There is no such thing as casual sex, inconsequential sex, or recreational sex. I’ve met psychologists who will admit that the sexual act is such an intimate act that it involves and affects the whole person. Paul quoted from the Old Testament to prove his point. In Genesis 2:24, God says of the sexual act, “the two will become one flesh or one personality.” We error when we dismiss sex as inconsequential. If you’re a Christian, your body is God’s body. When you have a sexual relationship with someone who is not your spouse, you glue yourself to another instead of God.

The last three verses provide tremendous encouragement about the resources God has given us to live a sexually pure life. It starts with the powerful admonition to “Flee sexual immorality!” It is a present imperative and should be translated, “Keep on fleeing” or “Make it your habit to flee!” The Bible’s advice for avoiding sexual immorality is simple: stay as far away as possible from the persons and places and things likely to get you in trouble. Real men and women run! They don’t stick in and fight.

In 6:18, Paul put sexual sin in a category all its own. All the sins in the world are put in one column and sexual sin is put in another. All sins are outside the body except sexual infidelity, which alone is a sin against one’s own body. There is no gradation of sin. Sin is just sin, but sexual sin is unique in its character. Like a malignant cancer to the body, immorality internally destroys the soul like no other sin. This is why we must flee from it. If we allow ourselves to succumb to immorality, we will be guilty of destroying our own body and the bodies of other partners, but more — we damage the temple of God.

Paul finished the passage with the crux of his argument. “Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?”

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, the local church is called the “temple.” Here, the same Greek word (naos) is used of the individual Christian. The term used in both passages for “temple” is not the word for a pagan temple, or even for the Jewish temple structure and grounds. It refers to the Holy of Holies, the most sacred place for the people of God in the Old Testament. Paul was saying that God Himself is resident within us. Your body is His mailing address. He dwells in YOU!

The New Testament never calls a church building a Holy of Holies, but it designates the believer’s body as such. Does that change your perspective on the subject, Christian? Few of us would consider committing an act of sexual immorality in a church chapel, but some of us frequently commit sexual immorality with God’s temple.

The good news is that we have the Holy Spirit. He lives inside of us, ready to help us in our battle against sin. One of the words for Holy Spirit in the New Testament is parakaleo, which means “counselor” or “helper.” We have been given a divine resource in the battle against the flesh which includes sexual sin. We don’t have to be in bondage, because we have the power of the Spirit of God within us to supernaturally help us resist temptation. It is possible to live a life of sexual purity, especially as we rely on the Holy Spirit Who gives us strength to abstain from our fleshly lusts.

Finally, we have been bought with a price. We know longer belong to ourselves. In a sense we never did. Paul’s image does not picture a slave being sold to a god and then set free, but being transferred by sale from one owner to another. Formerly, we were slaves of sin, now we are slaves to God (Romans 6:16-23; 7:6).Your body belongs to God, Christian. So we have no right to pervert or misuse our bodies sexually, because they don’t belong to us to do with what we will. We’re not the masters of our bodies. Verse 20 teaches that we have been purchased by God at the cost of the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross for us. That blood has cleansed us from sin. In light of this great purchase price, Paul commanded us to glorify God through sexual purity, out of gratitude for what Jesus did. This means to show God off, to make Him look good.

We have the privilege of living lives that honor God physically, emotionally, and relationally. Being sexually pure affects our relationships with each other, but ultimately it’s about our relationship with God. He is the only one to whom we owe adoration and ultimate obedience. This is an amazing reality—God can be glorified in the choices we make in expressing our sexuality. The Lord is honored when we resist sexual temptation. God is glorified when we express our sexuality through the marriage relationship.

Yeah, we live in a sexually saturated society in the 21st century. It’s not unlike 1st century Corinth. Paul didn’t lower the bar for them and God has not lowered the bar for us.

So what if you’ve already blown it? I’m not surprised. We live in a sexually saturated society. A message like this can make you feel guilty that you’ve already violated God’s word, which is no doubt why people try to reject teaching like this. The Bible is filled with people who made mistakes and wandered in the wilderness for a while before coming back to God. Confess your sin and God is willing and able to forgive it. You must confess to God because sin against God is so much greater than the sin against anyone else that the other victims pale into insignificance. The question of confession to others besides God is a difficult one. From a 12-Step perspective, it’s always good to confess your wrongs and offer to make amends. Just remember, there is temptation in that direction, so you might want to make your apology in writing.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Choose this day who you will follow and get on with it. Sexual sin is cumulative in its damaging effects, kind of like carbon monoxide. It stays in a person’s system for a long time, with the result that a non-lethal dose can sometimes kill because of the accumulation of poison in the system. A second act of immorality is not a freebee—it compounds the sin of the first one, spreads the cancer a little further, and eats away at a little more of one’s personality and spirit. The only way to deal with such sin is to end it immediately, radically, permanently, and in complete dependence upon God. Covenant with God that you will never let it happen again. Ask Him to give you strength. Become accountable to someone.

In recent years there has been a movement among Christian young adults called “secondary virginity.” It’s been a way to encourage those who have already sinned sexually at a young age to establish a new marker and commit to abstinence from now until marriage. Some in the liberal press have made fun of this effort, but I applaud the young people who have committed to starting over.

A word to those of us who have no fallen, but know those who have. Be willing to forgive them. Remember, God has forgiven you too, of other things. Was the sin in the life of your spouse, child, close friend any worse than the sin you have committed? God forgave YOU. Forgiveness is not just a feeling; it is a decision to do what God does for you every day!

Yeah, we know it’s not easy. We’ve been there ourselves.

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