Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Touching Base, Part 220

TB 220
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 5
27 Oct 13

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.

Christians can be deceived into thinking too little of the Gospel.

What this statement means is that there are plenty of Christians in our day and age who have reduced the Gospel to asking for very little, demanding next to nothing. They think they are “in”. They think they are saved… but are they? If you are reading this as a group take some time to agree or disagree with the statement and defend your position biblically.

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11


As we have seen in our last several weeks of study, the Corinthians were guilty of several things. One of the factors that lay at the root of the problem was that they had made an unhealthy dichotomy between the Spirit and the body. They apparently believed that behavior in this present life had little or no effect on one’s true spirituality. Despite their continuing existence in the body, the Corinthians consider themselves to be the “spiritual ones,” already as the angels. Hence, since from their perspective the body is eschatologically insignificant (6:13,15:12) neither does it have present significance. (1 Corinthians, Gordon Fee)

Sounds weird right? Yet that belief of “what I do in the body doesn't really matter,” lives on today in the Christian community. There are people confessing Christ but not displaying a changed life. There are those that attend church but don’t look anything like the Head of that Church. Some can recite doctrine but, for whatever reason, don’t live it out 24/7.

Question: How does Paul demonstrate the demands of the Gospel to these Corinthians?

There are three key verbs that he uses to help them wake up from their deception. Before we get to the verbs themselves, note what he says beforehand.

V.9-10 What is the question? What is the problem?
Deceived - To be misled from a proper course of action. The issue is that some were being deceived.
Note the list of v.9-10.
How politically incorrect is it to state that a Christian who is living a homosexual lifestyle is deceived? Just in case there is any doubt what Paul may mean by homosexuality, refer to Romans 1.

V.11 “And that is what some of you were.”
• This is a phrase that clues us into their history. They could like us say “Hi my name is … and I am a recovering…. How would your group fill in the blanks?
• This is a phrase that demonstrates the infinite love of God. God reached down into their broken world when they were far from God and saved them.
• This is a phrase that demonstrates the power of the Gospel. That is what they were, but now they are different. Well, let’s say they are supposed to be different; this is where the problem is. What they were, is still what some of them are in practice.

So back to our question - How does Paul demonstrate the demands of the Gospel to these Corinthians? Note the three verbs that are in the past tense, highlighting something God has done in their lives, referring to their conversion.

1. Washed

This word literally means “to wash something off”. But it is not a surface wash, like when you dust a shelf or clean a window. It is a wash that penetrates deeply into the core and it is for our good.

For example in the Old Testament, “loúein” is commonly the rendering of the Hebrew “rāḥas”, which means “to wash,” “to bathe. There was the idea of a ritual cleansing. See Lev. 11:40 for one example. There are several examples of this in the Old Testament. However the idea of cleansing or washing goes deeper in the OT. There was a need for moral cleansing. See Isaiah 1:15-16, Psalm 51:7. When we come to the New Testament we see Paul using this exact Greek word that he uses in our study text in Acts 22:16. Again note the moral dimension, the spiritual implications and the transformation implied. Then note what Jesus said about the need for washing:

Matthew 23:25
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Notice who is doing the washing. V11 “… in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (demonstrating authority) and by the Spirit of our God.``(demonstrating the internal, invasive nature of the wash)

“The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to take the truths about Jesus and make them clear to our minds and real to our hearts- so real that they console and empower and change us at our very core.” The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Kellar, page 51.

Notice something else, even though it is a powerful profound wash, the temptation to go back and walk on old path can be powerful as well.

How do you think Paul is doing so far with helping demonstrate the bigness of this Gospel?

2. Sanctified

Paul continues to drill down by moving on to the idea of sanctification. Please note that these three verbs are very much connected and Paul is not listing these words in order of importance.

This word has the idea of being set apart for service to God.
Set apart- Not meaning to separate from living in the world (monasticism) but coming away from attitudes, behaviors and beliefs that run contrary to God’s truths. See 1 Corinthians 5:9,10
Dedicate - As one comes away from old patterns and paths they move toward God. When we come to faith, the Spirit sets us apart and makes us His sons and daughters. We are His children and we are to live like His children. See Romans 12:1,2

This whole process of washing and sanctifying involves a new wardrobe: “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Is 61:10

See Romans 4 for the wardrobe upgrade.

Discuss the following:

Uniform versus Costume
A costume is something you put on and pretend that you are what you are wearing. A uniform, on the other hand, reminds you that you are, in fact, what you wear.

One person tells the story of his first day in US Army basic training when we were each given a box and ordered to put all our civilian clothes in it. The box was mailed to our home address. Every day after that, the uniform we put on reminded us that we had entered a period of disciplined training designed to change our attitudes and actions.

How is this working out in your life? What are the greatest challenge areas?
How would you describe your civilian clothes in contrast to the new uniform you are now wearing?

Christians can be deceived into thinking too little of the Gospel. Paul is crafting his argument to demonstrate that the Gospel demands a changed life. One more verb to go.

3. Justified

This word means “to be put right, set free, acquit, to cause to be put in right relationship.”
It may be difficult in some languages to find a succinct expression equivalent to ‘to be put right with.’ Sometimes the closest equivalent may be ‘to be related to as one should be.’

This is an interesting verb in light of what Paul has just talked about. Verses 1-8 are all about getting them to be related to each other as they should be. Unresolved issues, poorly-dealt-with issues have compromised their horizontal relationships. Sin has distorted their relationships to one another. Note that sin has done the same to our relationship with God. But when we come in repentance, He washes us, sanctifies us and justifies us so we can relate to God as we should.

Paul sums up his argument very clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:17:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”

Will there be Christ followers that struggle with the issues listed by Paul? Absolutely. However, let’s not dumb down the Gospel to accommodate our struggles, but by the power of the Spirit call people to a new level. After all He has washed, sanctified and justified us.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

Friday, October 18, 2013

Touching Base, Part 219

TB 219
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 4
What can be worse than rotten cheese and dead possums?
20 Oct 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.

On Sunday I talked about disputes in the church. In our text, Paul addresses this issue in 1 Corinthians 6:1-8. The problem was not that they were having disputes, but that they were mishandling disputes. When you mishandle disputes, this can be worse than rotten cheese and dead possums (you needed to have been there on Sunday to understand my cheese and possum reference). Can you think of any nasty disputes that stank up a whole office, church, friendship or marriage?

Question: How are we to handle disputes?

Realize that Paul is addressing a very specific issue in the church, in the first century, in Corinth. While the text does not provide every answer to our question, it does provide some answers, unfortunately coming from the negative example of the Corinthians.


What was the wrong way (v.1)?
What was the right way (v.1)?

Note the following about the Gentile court systems:
The Roman judicial system was pervaded by “improper influences” and this “made equality before the law unattainable” or virtually so. To the wealthy, well-born, and well-connected went the chief rewards of the legal system, along with many of the other benefits available in society. There was a strongly aristocratic bias to the whole culture. (Witherington, B., III. (1995). Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)

In this particular situation the wrong way for dealing with conflict between believers was to take the case to the corrupt courts. As you think of disputes in a varied number of contexts, what are the wrong ways we often deal with conflict? What Scriptures inform you of the right way?
Sample: Matthew 18:15-20; Eph 4:25-31; Hebrews 12:15; Romans 12:10; Proverbs 19:11

What I find interesting about the Corinthian situation is that the way they were dealing with conflict and disputes was a reflection of their life before Christ. See the following:

“The Corinthian believers had been so used to arguing, disputing, and taking one another to court before they were saved that they carried those selfish attitudes and habits over into their new lives as Christians” (MacArthur NT Commentary on 1 Corinthians page 136)

Here are some discussion questions: What do disputes reveal about your character? What does your dispute style indicate about the health of your soul? Do you have a track record of handling disputes that is reflective of bad family patterns that you grew up with? Has coming to faith in Christ made any difference in how you handle disputes? Have you allowed God to sanctify your default dispute resolving style?

Bottom line - Paul is saying “don’t take fellow believers to court.” That is part of the old way that has got to go.


This might sound like an overstatement BUT, one’s hell on earth could very well be the dispute they are currently engaged in. Paul is about to say something about their future that should shape their present circumstance.

Let me illustrate before we look at v.2-3:

“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven.” (Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis)

I think that, in what Paul says next (v.2-5), he is attempting to remind them or teach them of how perfect justice will one day be meted out and to use that understanding to empower them to handle current day disputes with greater justice and integrity. If they will one day play a key part in the courts of heaven, where there is justice and integrity, certainly they should be able to handle cases in this age with justice and integrity. A mind preoccupied with Heaven will result in a person seeking to handle disputes in ways reflective of God’s coming kingdom.

Paul does not explain the Christian’s role, but just references it. I have included an article at the end of this TB that will help flesh out a bit more on this issue.

“Jesus himself taught that his followers would act as judges at the end of time (Matt. 19:28; see also Rev. 20:4). The language of the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) also implies this in Daniel 7:22 where it says that judgment was given to “the saints of the Most High.” This future role of believers reflects that they will be victorious over their enemies and enjoy the honor of ruling with Christ after he returns (cf. 2 Tim. 2:12).

Second, Paul reminded the Corinthians that believers will judge angels. Many angels fell from their positions of authority when they rebelled against God (2 Pet. 2:4). Followers of Christ will pass judgment on these angels when Christ returns…”

With this understanding of our future role in the just courts of heaven, here is the question we need to ask ourselves when facing disputes here on earth in the church, or elsewhere: “In what way can my attitudes and actions demonstrate the Kingdom of God in this dispute that I am currently engrossed in?


This verse can be translated, “It is already a complete defeat for you.” For this third answer to our question (“How are we to handle disputes?”) we could reference the whole text, but I thought v.7 really clarifies why disputes need to be handled properly. Like smoke, the first inkling of a dispute, if not dealt with, can burn the whole “house” down. Corinth was defeated because they were a permissive environment for disputes to begin with. Note that they have many lawsuits among them. The fire is raging.

Is there any dispute currently in your relational network that you are just hoping will go away? If you smell the smoke, you’d better deal with it… or it might deal with you! Just ask Corinth - “It is already a complete defeat for you.”


I think Paul is referring to the classic case of where you win… but you lose. Ever won but lost? Ever got the last word in but wish you hadn’t? Ever scored more points, but felt like a loser? Ever successfully proven your point but felt like nothing was gained or so much was lost? Sometimes it is better to walk away.

Paul was certainly referring to our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 5:39–42. Better to lose money or possessions than to lose a brother and lose your testimony as well. Perhaps this is the hardest thing to do but at times it is the right thing to do.

Is the Christian never to go to court under any circumstance? I have included a good article on this that perhaps will add some fuel to your discussion.

As you think of your family, friends, church, and work, what answers to our question most aptly apply? Take some time to pray into this issue.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact

By Bob Deffinbaugh at

Does this apply to civil proceedings or to criminal proceedings as well? Should a Christian ever “press charges” against a fellow-believer? These are very difficult questions, for which there are not always black and white answers. Allow me to make a few comments on these issues for your consideration.

We know from the Scriptures that Paul has several encounters with the court system of his day. When Paul is brought before Gallio, it is in Corinth (see Acts 18:12-17). There, Gallio’s decision is reached and announced before Paul can even speak a word, and the result is a landmark decision. Gallio rules that Christianity is Jewish, and thus men like Paul can proclaim the gospel under the same protection of the Romans that the Jews enjoy. Later, when Paul is arrested in Jerusalem, he appeals his case to Caesar, knowing that a fair trial is impossible in Jerusalem or Caesarea (see Acts 25:6-12). We do not know the outcome of his trial for certain. The Book of Acts ends with Paul in Rome, and we know a few more details from Paul’s “prison epistles,” such as Philippians.

It is not wrong for Paul to appear in court in these cases, so we must conclude that while Christians are urged not to take one another to court, this is not the same as saying that a Christian should never appear in court. A Christian may find that his or her spouse files for divorce in a civil court, and we may have no other choice but to respond (failure to respond brings its own foreknown results). It would seem, at least in my way of viewing the New Testament teaching on divorce, that a Christian may even have the option to file for divorce in the case of immorality (see Matthew 5:32). When another party chooses to sue us, we have little recourse, other than to make our best case before the court. In this day and age, churches are being sued much more frequently, ironically, sometimes because they have exercised church discipline.

What Paul seeks to forbid in our text is Christians looking to the secular court system to resolve spiritual conflicts between themselves. There are times when two Christians appear in court when neither is attempting to harm the other. For example, one Christian might accidentally run into the car of another believer. His insurance company may try to withhold payment, even though he admits guilt. In such a case, the two parties might appear in court, but it is the two parties’ insurance companies seeking some kind of legal judgment. I know of one case where a property deed was altered, and the property in question belonged to a Christian camp. The property was donated by a Christian, who allegedly altered the deed. In this case, the ownership of the property had to defined, and it could only be done in court (or so I was told).
It may be necessary to go to court to protect the interests of someone other than ourselves. Suppose you were appointed the guardian of two young children, and a relative was illegally trying to gain control of the property of these children, property for which you were given responsibility? In such a case, you might have to act through the court system to protect the interests of the children. When we are acting in a fiduciary capacity, and not for self-interest, legal action may be necessary for us to serve others well.

It is possible that while one cannot take a brother to court apart from church discipline, it might be required after church discipline. You will remember from our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 18 that once the whole church has sought to turn a man from his sin and been ignored, the church is to excommunicate him, treating him as a “Gentile and a tax gatherer.” As I understand our Lord’s words, the person is to be dealt with as though he were an unbeliever.57 If this person were, let’s say, sexually molesting his little girl, a concerned Christian mother might have to seek a custody hearing or might even request an injunction. Once again, this cannot be for revenge, but for the best interests of both the husband and the child.
It should be said that some Christians get into legal troubles, troubles which necessitate them going to court, because they do not seek proper legal counsel before making agreements or commitments. Lawyers are not just in practice to get us out of trouble; they are also there to keep us out of trouble. Sometimes we may get ourselves into trouble because we want to appear spiritual, and so we agree to do things without defining the details. Differences and disagreements which result from such agreements are unnecessary, and the result of our own carelessness.

There may be a time to involve both a lawyer and a Christian brother. (If you are fortunate, you may find a good Christian lawyer who meets both of these requirements.) As I understand and have observed the legal system, a person accused of a crime may very well need to be represented by one who is an expert in the law. The court system is set up in such a way that both the prosecution and the defense do their best to prove their case. The prosecution is not going to try to defend the one they are accusing. To fail to have an attorney when accused of a crime seems foolish in most instances. At the same time, spiritual issues need to be addressed, and an unbelieving lawyer is not capable of dealing with these matters. A similar situation is evident when visiting someone who is hospitalized with very troubling symptoms. This person needs the best medical help he can find. On the other hand, he and his family members and friends need prayer and biblical encouragement. While there are cases in which we must choose between a lawyer and a Christian who is wise in the Word, there are also many times when we need both. Sometimes we must choose the courtroom or the church, but at other times we must not lose contact with either.

I must admit that in the past I would have said that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6 are to be applied to civil cases, and not to criminal matters. The list of offenses Paul gives us in verses 9 and 10 include those matters which are morally wrong (adultery, covetousness) and those which are criminally wrong (e.g. swindlers, thieves). There may be times when the Christian chooses not to press criminal charges against a fellow-believer. There may also be times when this is done for the good of that believer and for the good of society. Violent physical abuse may be an occasion where pressing charges is in order, especially after church discipline has been carried out. There are no nice and neat answers to such troublesome matters, but we do have spiritual principles to guide us. In the final analysis, we should act in a way that we believe takes God’s Word seriously, which promotes the gospel, and which brings glory to God.”

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Touching Base, Part 218

TB 218
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 3
What happens when you bring your stepmom to church?
6 Oct 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.

How many of you had a “jungle gym week”? A “jungle gym week” is where what you had planned didn't happen, or it did but it took a lot more work and creativity than you had ever imagined. Perhaps you didn't get there (the stated objective) the way you thought… you may have been confronted with some complex problems that really demanded discernment on your part. Relationships, careers, school, and leadership can be like that. Ok… life can be like that.

Perhaps the opposite of this is a “ladder” kind of week – straightforward, predictable, “been there, done that”, guaranteed outcomes, well-worn path, can put it on auto-pilot, business as usual...

Text: 1 Corinthians 5:9-13
Big Idea: Christ followers need to live, love and lead with two worlds in mind (outside the Christian community, and inside the Christian community).
This is why life can seem like a jungle gym - two worlds, two different contexts, two different frameworks. Let me show you what I mean.
Question: How are we to live, love and lead outside and inside the Christian community?

1. OUTSIDE (v.9,10,12,13)

Notice that, in these verses, Paul is specifically talking about people that are not Christ followers.
How would you summarize the problem in the Corinthian church based on v.9 and v.10?
One keyword, “associate”, literally means to mix up together or to associate with in a close way.
Also note the four adjectives that describe Corinth in the mid 50’s. These are broad generalizations that Paul is making for a reason we will see later.

Now note what Paul says in v.12-13 about the outsider. Note the keyword, “judge”.
What does Paul mean by not judging?

Judgment, in this context, is not referring to having a prophetic voice into culture and standing up for what is right or wrong. He is not saying “don’t be a light on a hill or the salt of the earth”. He is not saying “don’t speak out for social justice or issues of inequality.” He is talking about judgment that passes a sentence as in v.1-5.

Rome allowed local Jewish communities to judge Jewish offenders of Jewish laws. This judgment and the discipline were carried out in the synagogues, the community centers for local Jewish groups. In the early church this practice was still in operation.

I think that today we are guilty of two extremes: either we pull away, have nothing to do with the world or we are pulled in, and become like the world. Either way we are lost in the city. If you or the corporate body is pulled in, then we lose our moral voice of authority and credibility. If you or the church pulls away, we become irrelevant and disconnected from the real needs of the community. In both cases we look nothing like Christ who was known, as a friend of sinners AND the spotless lamb of God.

Place yourself on this chart and discuss. (A stands for associate):

Pulled in ------------------A-------------------Pull away

Discuss the dangers of both extremes and of associating.
Note: Sometimes, depending on our own issues, we need to be careful of association. For example a recovering alcoholic might not have a ministry in the bars. How do v.6-8 help us understand the dangers of associating?

2. INSIDE (v.11,12,13)

Note in v.11 that there are two more adjectives added to the list. Why would Paul be specifically providing this list? My hunch is that not only was Corinth guilty of these behaviors but so was the church. No doubt there were lots of great people in Corinth but Paul wants to show them where their affinity with the city is a problem.

For further understanding of this section about the insider, you will need to refer to the TB # 216 where we already dealt with this in v.1-5. Let me say that it is very important to understand the context and the bigger picture of Scripture so that this text is not terribly abused.

Let me raise some issues for your consideration:
a) The church has so often been guilty of the exact opposite of what Paul is talking about.

We pronounce judgment on the world, we sometimes don’t associate, mingle, we have a “holier than thou” attitude but when it comes to the inside, we don’t hold the church accountable. We closely associate with Christians that perhaps are just as guilty, or guiltier, than the people we are pulling away from.

For example:
- We condemn homosexuality but create a permissive environment for sexual immorality in the church.
- We condemn Wall Street for misuse of funds but within our walls, we tolerate lavish church buildings and big church budgets that cater to the “wants” of Christians.
- We condemn hypocrisy in leadership in government, but at times have allowed leadership within the church to live a lethal dualistic lifestyle.
- What might you add?

How do we apply the words of Paul?
It starts with each of us following Jesus as a disciple, not a consumer. It starts with leadership leading disciple-making ministries, not consumer-driven churches that fatten the flock by catering to very self-centered needs.

Corinth is a church that has slipped far below the holiness radar. Paul is trying to help them clean up a big mess – he`s having to be reactive. I think one of the lessons for the modern-day church is to not get on the slippery slope in the first place. Let’s not start heading the direction of the Corinthian church because if we do, we have to take the drastic measures that Paul is referring to when it comes to the insider. Let’s be proactive, not reactive.

b) What happens when you bring your stepmother, who you are sleeping with, to church or your small group?

The context is that the stepmom is not a believer (remember our discussion of v.1-5). The son is a believer - that is probably why he is mentioned in v.1-5. The church’s role is to deal redemptively with him. How the church approaches her is what needs to be done differently. He is an insider, she is an outsider. We need to live, love and lead with both worlds in mind.

So what might be a “ladder” approach in dealing with this couple? What I mean is, what might be the status quo, simplistic way of dealing with this situation? Sometimes church traditions can promote a pretty godless manner of dealing with these kinds of situations. And what is the “jungle gym” approach? In other words, based on what Paul has stated, how should he be dealt with, and how should she be dealt with?

What are the risks of dealing with both of them differently? For example some onlookers in the church might even be upset because we used different standards to deal with both of them, and they are exactly right, we did use different standards. She is living in a way that is probably consistent with her worldview and in keeping with much of her culture. On the other hand as a professing believer, his lifestyle is in total contradiction with the one he claims to follow. Welcome to the world of the jungle gym - it is messy.

I encourage you to live, love and lead with both worlds in mind.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact