July 31, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (1 Corinthians 5)

Submitted by Richard L. from Gracepoint Davis Church

1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Given the warning in v. 6, what must have been the content of the Corinthians’ boasting?  In what ways have I had a boastful or cavalier attitude toward sin’s power to spread?  If the church is correctly analogized to a lump of dough through which the leaven (i.e. yeast) can spread, what kind of relationships among church members is being envisioned here?  The emphasis of sincerity and truth “is not on our perfection and sinlessness, but our openness and honesty….”[John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 77.]  What are the ways in which I need to uphold sincerity and truth in my battle against sin?  What would a church look like that upholds sincerity and truth?

Given the warning in verse 6, the Corinthians’ boasting must have been about how they could manage or handle the circumstance/sin, and somehow not be affected.  I can imagine they had a “what’s the big deal?” attitude, not thinking that the sin was a threat, or had an attitude that they were strong enough and moral enough to discern what was right, so confident in their ability to deal with that sin.  Perhaps in that culture this kind of sexual immorality was not so shocking, or even something acceptable, so that the Corinthians could boast that it was okay and not a big deal.

For me, I’ve in the past had that same attitude that I can manage sin, to wait until later to confess and repent.  I remember throughout my 20s trying to “manage” sin, jumping through so many mental hoops to justify continuing in sin.  There were times I would sit in front of the word of God in a time of devotion just like this, and the word of God would convict me that I had to confess something and repent, and even apologize to the people I hurt or lied to.  But instead of obeying God’s prompting, I would calculate the ramifications of confessing that sin.  I would be afraid of the hit to my so-called reputation or fear needing to take a break from ministry.  I didn’t appreciate the power of sin to spread and affect the church, the community, and people all around me.  I thought “I can deal with this later” but I didn’t see how my attempts to hide my sin distanced me from others in the church, with my leaders, and with even with myself, as I became very compartmentalized.  I didn’t see how my sin spread to chill relationships and the overall unity of the church.  My attitude was very cavalier because I didn’t fear sin’s power, but I feared disapproval and a knock to my status over the holiness of God and sin’s ability to overtake my life and spread.

I think in my current context, I need to rethink my attitude towards sin and its power to spread among the people I minister to.  I naturally gravitate towards wanting to maintain and keep things the same, and I find it hard to speak the truth in love because I don’t want to be rejected and I care too much about people’s approval.  Yet, I need to hate sin and fear its power to spread, so much that I push past that natural desire to keep the status quo because the picture of sin here and throughout the Bible is as an infectious, highly contagious virus that will spread quickly if not dealt with swiftly.  The Bible describes the devil as a “roaring lion” looking to “devour” (1 Peter 5).  Sin is nothing to take lightly.  So in my own life, as well as with those I love and who have been entrusted to me, I must be vigilant and aware to any way that sin can take root and spread, and I must be quick to respond and fight sin with the truth of the word of God, the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6).  My fears should not be that I am rejected for speaking the truth, but what would happen if I don’t speak the truth and deal with sin.

If the church is a lump of dough in which the leaven can spread quickly, the kind of relationships envisioned is ones that are deeply intertwined.  You mix dough, you knead it and work on it so that all the ingredients get mixed well and evenly spread.  The church is supposed to be relationships that are this close, mixed in and intertwined.  That means getting into each other’s life, knowing what is going on, influencing one another for the better.  That’s why Apostle Paul is so concerned about sins spreading because the church is supposed to be this close.

I need to uphold sincerity and truth by being honest about my sins, confessing it to others so that I can be prayed for and find help to fight sin.  Upholding sincerity and truth would also mean not trying to fake it, meaning not pretending that everything is okay, but again confessing my sins and brokenness, and not being afraid of having to take a break from ministry like I used to fear, but rather to accept being in ministry or not that if that’s what it takes to fight sin and to overcome it, then accepting it.

A church that upholds sincerity and truth would be very different and distinct from other groups of people in this world.  I think it would look like the early church described in the Book of Acts, where there was fear of God and exciting things were happening, but where deception and lying were a huge threat, requiring a swift cutting off of the threat (story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5).  Such a church would be very abnormal to the rest of the world because the norm in our culture–especially as upwardly mobile young students/professionals–is to mask yourself, build up an impressive resume, and hide behind accomplishments and status.  A church like this would seem so different and distinct.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father,

I confess that I’ve often bought into Satan’s lies that sin in my life and in the lives of others is something I can handle and manage, but I see today that it is something not to be taken lightly.  It has that power not only to infect and destroy my life, but destroy the entire community.  Thank you for placing me in the context of this church, through interconnected relationships, and for giving me people who have spoken truth and helped me grow.  I see how you have strengthened and matured me with the bonds with people here, but I also realize how my sin can have a huge effect on these same people.  Help me to see sin and temptation properly and to fear its spread.  Give me the bigger picture of how my life is not just about me, but that when I fight sin, it has a profound effect on the whole church, for better or worse.  Give me the bigger picture also in speaking the truth in love regarding sins in the lives of people you’ve given me to minister to.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Submitted by Cindy C. from Gracepoint Davis Church

1 Corinthians 5:6-13 (ESV)

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

1 Corinthians 5:6-8

  • Given the warning in v. 6, what must have been the content of the Corinthians’ boasting?

The content of the Corinthians’ boasting must have been regarding the brother in the church who was committing sexual immorality.

  • In what ways have I had a boastful or cavalier attitude toward sin’s power to spread?

The times I’ve had a boastful or cavalier attitude toward sin’s power to spread were times when I wanted to do what I wanted to do despite having an inkling that my actions/decisions could lead me deeper into sin. During these times the lines I replay in my mind include–this won’t hurt; I’m not hurting anyone; I have things under control; I know my boundaries and I won’t cross them; or, I know when to stop.

In my first years of ministry I remember not being fully honest with my motivations of serving. In addition to serving God, I wanted the church to be a place where I can gain a source of significance through the roles and responsibilities I could earn. Instead of honestly confessing these sins, each time they came up I justified them away. I justified that these sins aren’t a big deal. I told myself that life was too busy to stop to think about these sins.  However, because these sins were not dealt, through time my heart grew cold. My entire focus and goal was on looking like someone who can perform her duties well. My sins caught up to me and the process to rebuild and restore my heart took longer than it should have had I dealt with these issues early on. The sin in my heart that I thought remained standstill steadily grew.

As I am reminded of that time in my life and other times when I grossly underestimated the power of sin to spread, I am warned against the subtle sins in my life that also have that potential to spread. I am warned against the constant pull of comfort and temptation of wanting to settle down now as a new mom. I confess the times I have excused myself from working harder or staying behind later to help out because I wanted to quickly get back to my child. Those little decisions to excuse myself and not work so hard may not seem so harmful at the time but have a way of settling in me so that my standard for service to God is lowered. I hear many stories of people who once served God with zeal and passion but once they start having kids, their zeal cools and eventually fades away until they’re barely going to church.  Their examples serve as a warning for me because the subtle sin that dragged them down is also in me. That’s why I need to daily guard myself against the desire for comfort, which like yeast, can spread quickly and pull me out of the battle, and commit again to not allow this new season of life as a mom to be an excuse to serve any less.

  • If the church is correctly analogized to a lump of dough through which the leaven (i.e. yeast) can spread, what kind of relationships among church members is being envisioned here?

The fact that sin, like yeast can quickly pervade the entire dough tells me that each individual has that power to affect many others unbeknownst to him because relationships within the church are that interconnected and tight. One person’s decision, one person’s action doesn’t just stop with him. The actions and decisions of a single person is noticed by others and will serve to be a source of blessing or curse, encouragement or discouragement.

I’ve experienced and witnessed many times the power of one person’s positive decision or action fueling many more people to take steps of faith to obey God. Their perseverance, sacrifice, obedience didn’t end with them but served to be part of stories that people tell to inspire others, and served to be examples that people cling onto to help them obey God. In Davis we never grow old of hearing stories of the early years when Pastor Jonathan worked several part-time jobs so that he could support his family and run the church. Or the story of how Pastor Timothy quit his job in order to be more available to the students here in Davis.  And more recently, seeing examples of single people leaving being in a familiar setting to go on church plants. These stories continue to serve to inspire me and many others to live more sacrificially or to take that step of faith. I’ve also personally experienced and seen others come to points of repentance or rededication because of one  person’s testimony of the reality of God.  It prompts me to think of what if that person didn’t obey? They would have missed out on God working in their life and God working in the lives of others through their testimony.

The flip-side is also true. I can recall many times when my own disobedience, selfishness, self- preservation was a source of hurt and discouragement to my housemates and friends.  Or other people using my example of disobedience to justify their own act of disobedience.

How I live, then, is very important, because I am not my own. I am part of this Body of Christ, where my actions and decisions are seen and felt by other people around me.

  • The emphasis of sincerity and truth “is not on our perfection and sinlessness, but our openness and honesty….” [John R.W. Stott, The Message of 1 Corinthians (Downers Grove, IL:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1985) 77.]  What are the ways in which I need to uphold sincerity and truth in my battle against sin?  What would a church look like that upholds sincerity and truth? 

One way is to allow God’s truths through His Word to take a deeper hold in my life so that His truths can cover over the lies and worldly values that are still deep in my heart. What I’ve been doing is for each lie, each worldly value, idol, that is persistent sin in my life, is to choose verses that I can claim to help me battle against those sins in my life. Doing this has been helping me to be quicker in pulling up God’s Word and praying through them when the temptation comes to give in to a desire or sin. Another way is to allow my issues and sins be carried through prayer by others in the church. This means needing to share honestly and openly before others so that I can be helped.

A church that upholds sincerity and truth would look be a place where the Gospel is lived out and passed down to others undiluted because people in the church have a desire and commitment to carry out their lives according to biblical truths. This looks like people striving to allow God’s values to shape and direct their own lives and life decisions.  It will be a place where the relationships between one another is close and tight, free of any kind of division caused by social or economic differences, and free of division caused by the different roles that people have in the church. It is the picture of love lived out described in Romans 12: 9-20,  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17  Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

  • In v. 11, what is the key point of the phrase “bears the name of brother”?  What damage is done by those who call themselves Christian but do not live according to the teachings of God’s Word?  Are there these kinds of hypocrisies in my life?

Apostle Paul instructs the Corinthians how to address a Christian who commits sin and is unrepentant. He specifically gives these instructions to only those who “bears the name of a brother,” and not to non-Christians. Why? Non-Christians are not committed to live for God and under God’s rule, so we naturally don’t expect non-Christians to live by Christian principles and values. However, when someone who claims to have God as his Lord over his life but does not live according to the teachings of God’s Word he becomes a stumbling block to both Christians and non-Christians. To Christians the actions would be considered divisive because while the rest of the group is trying to live according to God, the person in sin is doing what he wants to do. This sinful example may also lead others to follow in practicing sin. Or the sin may be confusing to those who are trying to live out their lives for God because when they won’t know what to make of it when they see someone disobeying God but still calls himself Christian.

And even more damaging is the kind of stumbling block this person would be to non-Christians who look at the confessing Christian’s life and see that his life is no different from that of non-Christians which will lead the non-Christian to think, “Why then should I believe in God if believing in God makes no difference in my life?” It can also lead non-Christians to think that all Christians are hypocritical, causing them to be more cynical and closed off to the Gospel the next time they have an encounter with Christianity.

Knowing these things warns me of the hypocrisies that exist in my life. As a Christian, it is a given that I should be a loving, selfless person, living before a Holy God.  However, I confess many times I’m still living for myself. I’m more concerned and diligent about caring for my own needs than caring for others. And too many times I miss out on opportunities to meet the needs of others around me. It is also the basic Christian duty to sacrifice and give without expecting anything in return. However, I see in myself how natural it is to calculate how much of my time, resources, energy, emotions, and money I give to people because I am still so concerned about having resources left over to take care of myself. Or I find myself being a hypocrite when I call Jesus Lord over my entire life, yet there are still idols of comfort, family, and self that I bow down to.

Seeing my hypocrisies in the context of this passage gives me greater insight and awareness into the kind of damage I am doing when I disobey God in these ways. I see once again that disobedience and hypocrisy do not only affect me but they have rippling effects on the church.  That’s why I need to be swifter and more diligent in catching myself whenever I am hypocritical otherwise there will be negative consequences on the church.

  • Note the distinction made in this passage between “people of this world” and the one “who calls himself a brother.”  What is the responsibility of Christian leaders with respect to someone who calls himself a Christian but is “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler?”

To those who calls himself a Christian but is “sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler,” Apostle Paul says it’s the responsibility of church leaders to judge them. Judging them implies pointing out the truth to them, in correction or rebuke. It means taking action in helping this person see his sin and repent before God. This may seem harsh to “judge” another person but this is the decisive action that a spiritual leader must take because what’s at stake is the spiritual health of the person and the church. That why in verse 11 Apostle Paul also asks the church members to not associate with the particular brother who calls himself Christian yet is committing sexual immorality. The goal is to guard the purity of the other church members while helping the brother in sin to repent, otherwise as verse 6 aptly describes, one person’s sin, like leaven can leaven an entire dough, or in this case negatively affect the entire church.

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