Thursday, September 19, 2013

Touching Base, Part 216

TB 216
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 1
Tripping on our past and falling backwards. Ouch!
22 Sept 13

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

So, has anyone ever tripped on their past? You should be able to answer that question when done working through this Touching Base.

To start I want you to think about “decision” vs. “discipleship”. When you came to Christ, was the gospel presented to you as just a decision - for example, “I just need to ask Jesus into my heart and my eternity is secured.” Kind of like fire insurance. Or was the gospel presented to you more as an invitation to discipleship - “In surrendering my life to Jesus I am beginning a long walk in the same direction that will challenge me to embrace the values of His Kingdom here on earth.”

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
Big Idea: Lost Christians often fail to break free from the past.

In our text this morning, we saw a church not quite getting the “discipleship” idea. They had embraced Jesus but certainly were not walking in obedience and surrender. Perhaps they thought it was just a decision they made, not a lifestyle they agreed to embrace. The result was that they were lost, misguided, and just plain wrong in their walk of faith. Let me show you what I mean.

V.1 What is being reported to Paul? Who are they worse than?
Paul’s statement about how they compare to Corinth is astounding. Corinth was a place where the pursuit of pleasure, immorality and various forms of idolatry flourished. One of its main temples, devoted to the worship of Aphrodite, had more than 1000 priestesses who engaged in prostitution as an act of worship. What was going on in the church was just as, or even more, perverse.

What is the specific example of sexual immorality? Note that it says this was his father’s wife, implying it was his stepmother. Under Roman law and God’s law incest of this kind was illegal.

Now just stop for a moment and comment on the following:

Why are people not responding to the gospel? The institutional church is a far cry from what Jesus taught. There are a lot of non-Christians who realize the church looks nothing like what Jesus envisioned.

So the issue is sexual immorality, correct? Well, yes and no. Whenever there is an issue presented, often there is a deeper driver, a root that is causing the problem. As he moves on in this letter, Paul reveals the big issue in the Corinthian Church that he has been addressing since chapter 1. This is the fundamental root issue that is causing this church to get lost, to be misguided - check out v.2.

Pride is a posture of the heart that tolerates what does not belong in our lives, and causes us to insulate ourselves from the truth of God’s word. In failing to break free from their past habits and attitudes, they were moving in a completely godless direction.

You might want to stop and pause here and ask “what attitudes, habits, belief systems from my past (or the current world system) are hampering my walk, misguiding my steps and blurring my vision?”

Note how Paul points out how they should be acting. Work through v.2b-5 as a group and note how radically different their response should be. Let me give you some notes to help your discussion.

V.2 This is, no doubt, the last step in a series of steps that churches need to take at times with this kind of person. Note the implication that this person is flaunting his behavior along with the rest of the church. You can read the following verses to see how healthy communities embrace less harsh steps first. Matt 18:15-17, Gal 6:1-2, 2 Thess. 3:14-15.

V.4 Note that this issue had impacted the whole church (v.2), thus discipline was to be done by the entire church. But at other times, not all sin is everyone’s business.

V.5 What is hard to understand about this verse? What is clear? What is the intention of handing this man over to Satan? If we are correct in assuming that this man is a believer, how do you interpret Paul’s reference to being saved? (When you read v.9-13 you will see that he definitely was a believer and the stepmother was probably not, therefore no mention of disciplining her.)

Have you ever been in any kind of situation where you had no choice but to kick the person out? How tough was that? Did you do it well?

I want you to see how different this response is to how they are currently responding (v.2a and v2b). Without making these hard calls, they are getting lost as a church/individuals. They need to break free from the past (pride, in this case) so they can walk the life of discipleship.

When you hang on to some of the old habits, attitudes and beliefs of the past, you can become a pretty godless Church, a pretty unchristian Christian. Often, the old way is very accommodating; the new way deals with sin.

Two comments as we close:

I think that the church must be courageous these days in addressing tough issues in the body of Christ. Sexual sin, like in Corinth, is one of the issues that plague the North American Church. Without courage, we will get “lost in the city”. Our sexual practices will simply reflect the culture or, at times, be even worse.

Secondly, I think that what needs to accompany courage is compassion. We see compassion in this text by noting that the larger context of Scripture clearly shows us that this is the last step in a series of steps in dealing with this kind of individual. Compassion is also demonstrated in that the intention of this action is restoration, and healing. Check out 2 Corinthians 2:5-8. This is probably referring to a different man but note the heart for restoration in Paul. Also note in our text that no one in this church is considered lily white. They are all proud, there is sexual sin, the place is full of people in need of grace. Perhaps as we understand our need for grace, our approach to those who are struggling will be filled with compassion and grace. What do you think?

Have you lost your way as a Christian because of the ways of the past (attitudes, beliefs, behaviors)?
Are there all kinds of issues flooding in to the group you lead, because the root issue, an attitude of the past, a belief system of your life before Christ is still very much in charge?
Do you have the courage to deal with yourself first?
Do you have the compassion and courage required to deal with others?

Don’t trip on your past, but instead walk in obedience.

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