Thursday, November 21, 2013

Touching Base, Part 223

Bloom Where You Are Planted
24 Nov 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.

Ever had the thought, “I want out of here!” Ever looked at a situation and just wanted to move on, move out, or find a trap door somewhere and get a thousand miles away from the “problem?”

What is it about some situations that exasperate us? Have you ever known that God wanted you to stay faithful yet you just felt like your timetable and God’s were VERY different? I say “go”, God says “stay”. I say “I am done”, God says “no you are not!”

Today we are looking at four scenarios (in the Corinthian Church) that represented places they would rather not be. Places that they would rather just have in their rear-view mirror. But here was the problem: God (through the pen of Paul) was reminding them that living out the Kingdom where they were, was more important than looking for the trap door.

I realize that there are times where we have complete freedom to move on, where we have done all we can do in a particular situation. However there are times where God wants us to stay faithful to a situation and live out his Kingdom purposes.

Let’s look at four unique scenarios in our text and four lies that some Corinthians possibly believed to justify a departure.

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:10-24
Big Idea: Bloom Where You Are Planted

SCENARIO #1 (V.10-11)

v.10 “not I but the Lord” As you read the larger context it makes perfect sense for Paul to say this. In v.6-7. he has just stated what his preference was regarding marriage because of the present crisis (v.26). Now what he is talking about is something Jesus talked about.

What was the background for Paul to say this?
Some Christians had gotten the idea that being single and celibate was more “spiritual” than being married, and they disparaged marriage entirely - some Gentiles, in reacting to the sexual sins of their past, came to look on celibacy not only as the ideal state, but the only truly “godly” state.

Note the “bloom where you are planted” language: “wife must not separate”, “husband must not divorce his wife.”

This is one of those “what about?” verses. What about adultery that Jesus talked about, what about abuse, what about…? He is not talking about “what about”; he is speaking into a very particular situation, answering questions that require specific answers. In light of the situation, Paul reminds them of Jesus’ teaching- there are no grounds here for divorce.

Here is the first lie that can cause us to take up our roots when in fact God might want us to deepen our roots.

Lie: “I can grow if I go!”
This situation represented a boat anchor and they thought “if I can ditch this situation I can soar to new heights.” Ever butted heads with God when it comes to where you think you would thrive, versus where God knows you will thrive?

SCENARIO #2 (V.12-16)

Note again Paul’s opening remarks. He was very aware that this specific scenario was something on which Jesus never commented. However, Paul realizes that the Spirit of God is leading him (v.25, 40) and he knows that the Old Testament (of which Jesus approved) held the marital covenant in very high esteem.

What is very clear in this text? What needs some explaining?
I think v.14 is the most difficult to understand. From the context we know that “sanctify” does not refer to salvation. Paul (in v.16) is referring to the spouse as a non-believer so just living with a non-believing spouse doesn’t save them. This word “sanctify” can have the idea of blessing and being set apart. I think Paul is getting at the idea that if you are a Christ follower, living with a non-believer, then your life, values, testimony, and the Spirit in you should be a blessing to that home. Your presence graces that home. Again, the same could be said of the reference to the children. There is a protection and blessing by having a Christian parent in the home (yes, I know that much more could be said here. If you are in a small group go for it, drill down deeper).

The key section that introduces us to the possible lie is v.16.

Lie: “God can’t work here!”

Ever felt like that? Perhaps as a parent or a friend, the situation is so tough, the push-back is so intense, others’ hearts are so hard that you begin to believe that God has left the building.

SCENARIO #3 (v.17-20)

Why would someone be uncircumcised? Well in that day it was an embarrassment among the gentile population to be circumcised, so some were going out and getting “uncircumcised”. However, there were also gentiles that were getting circumcised, because some of the Jews that said it was what they must do to fit in. Either way there was immense peer pressure to fit in, to embrace the “markings” of a culture that said “I fit in.”

They key verse in identifying the lie is v.19.

Lie: “The marks of success are more important than the heart of success.”

This is how it can play out: I can find myself in the right place, where God wants me. I can be where God has called me but my heart can disconnect from God’s and I can become more inclined to do what people think. I become more aware of what people think… than what God thinks.

Blooming where I am planted, at times, requires me to reject what the culture says I must do to fit in, and instead walk in obedience to God.

Have you ever found yourself to be where God wants you, but your heart is not keeping in step with His truth? The “voices” of where God has called us can sometimes be loud, brash and controlling.

SCENARIO #4 (v.21-24)

Some wonder why Paul is not coming out and condemning slavery here. We need to remember that slavery in Paul’s day was very different than American slavery:

“In urban Corinth he addresses neither the most repressed slaves in mines, gladiatorial shows, or to a lesser extent, in the fields, but household slaves. Many household slaves enjoyed economic and social conditions superior to peasants (who constituted the majority of the Empire’s free population). A small minority who worked for powerful people even wielded more wealth and power than most aristocrats - some noble women married into slavery to improve their social station! Such observations are not intended to condone slavery of any sort, nor to deny its frequent dramatic abuse (e.g. beatings) especially for women. But it is important for modern readers to understand that on average, Roman household slavery proved quite different from slavery, even household slavery in America.” Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: A Historical Inquiry (New York: Oxford, 1990)

V.21 Many slaves could gain their freedom and Paul is certainly encouraging that if possible
V.22 Socially they may be slaves, but they are now Christ’s freedman and His slave. The Lord has freed the Christian from the penalty of sin (2 Cor. 5:21) and from Satan and his kingdom (Col. 1:13) and bound us as "slaves" to himself (Rom 1:1).
V23 Some interpret this metaphorically - because of the context – v.21- “don’t let it trouble you”. In other words, perhaps God wants you to stay where you are. Paul is saying, “regardless of your social standing realize your higher calling as slaves to Christ.” They had become slaves to the ways of the world, the ways of men - hence the strife, divisions, immorality and immaturity.

I think v.21 “don’t let it trouble you” is key in identifying our final lie. For some, their calling was to remain a slave, to live out the Kingdom of God in that context. No doubt for some in that audience, slavery was not the best option. However, God might be saying “stay, don’t let it trouble you, be faithful where you are.”

Lie: “I deserve better than this.”

Some of them had developed an arrogant theology, an “I am a King’s kid” theology on steroids. Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:8-10. Being a slave didn’t jive with being a so-called king, honoured and strong. But Paul says, “Don’t let it trouble you…” In other words, ditch the weird theology and serve faithfully where God has called you.

Sometimes we move on instead of deepening our roots because we are looking to validate ourselves way too much. Feeding a hungry ego that is supported by a arrogant theology is a full-time job!

The theology of the cross reminds us all that we should be willing to go really low and remain faithful and serve in those places.

Bloom where you are planted. Looking for a trap door, an easy out? Perhaps God is saying, “stay, be faithful, work hard, keep your eyes on Me.” Don’t let the lies rob you of hearing God’s voice.

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