Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Touching Base - Part 225

Jamie Stinson
15 Dec13

(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.

Where does your first interruption with God find you… in 15 words or less describe your first interruption from God.

BIG IDEA: ”A divine interruption postures us for a faith eruption.”

The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi. At the close of that book, God… goes silent… God says nothing. There are no more prophets... there are no scriptures written by God… just 400 years of silent nights…God had simply quit speaking.

Two probable reasons why the Lord God instituted this kind of ‘famine’:
• Amos 2:11-12 says that God’s people commanded His prophets “not to prophecy”
• Zechariah 7:11-12 says that the hearts of God’s people became as hard as flint and they would not listen.

Israel stopped listening, so God stopped interrupting them.


‘the angel went to her’... after 400 years of silence…in the fullness of God’s appointed time…an angel just showed up in an otherwise everyday experience to an ordinary Jewish girl… which leads us to the first characteristic of an interrupted life.

You fill in your own blanks…:________years ago, I was ______________and God unexpectedly interrupted my life when ________________________.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

The phrase ‘greetings you who are highly favoured’ simply meant that Mary had been given much grace or "unmerited favour" from God.

There is a slogan that I’ve seen that says “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite.” Do you struggle thinking of yourself as ‘favoured?’ It’s one thing to be humble, but we have to be careful that we don’t wade too deeply into the waters of “undeserved grace.”


Notice the connection between his favour and his presence. In the next sentence Gabriel says, “Greetings you are highly favored…The Lord is with you.” So often the two concepts go hand-in-hand and that leads us to another characteristic of these interruptions.

Throughout the Bible, this phrase "the Lord is with you" was not applied to people in ordinary situations in life, but the term was used to address people who were given unique vocations that would impact all of Israel.

Mary would have been familiar with:
• God appearing to Jacob and confirming him as the covenant leader when He said, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go" (Gen. 28:15).
• God calling Moses at the burning bush to lead His people out of Egypt, He said, "I will be with you" (Ex. 3:12).
• Joshua leading the people into battle in the Promised Land when God said, "I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you" (Josh. 1:5).
• The story of when an angel called Gideon to defend the people from a foreign invasion, he greeted Gideon saying, "The Lord is with you" (Judg. 6:12).
• The story of David when God put him at the head of an everlasting kingdom, God reminded David of His faithfulness to him, saying, "I have been with you wherever you went" (2 Sam. 7:9)
• And maybe she was even familiar with the story of when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, He said, "Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you" (Jer. 1:8).

No doubt that Mary knew, when the words "The Lord is with you" are spoken…she was thinking about these great men, for it is a signal that someone is being called to a great mission that will be difficult and demanding. And the future of Israel will be dependent on how well that person plays his part.

As one commentator explained, "In all these texts, the destiny of Israel is at stake. The person to whom the words are addressed is summoned by God to a high vocation, and entrusted with a momentous mission, and . . . the religious history of Israel (and therefore of the world) depended, at that moment, on his response to the call." (J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1975, p. 49.)

Can you think of an interruption in your life when you felt the weight of the words “I will be with you”?


Mary is not the first to be troubled by God’s words….I’m sure many of us can relate! Have you ever been troubled by God’s words and what He has asked you to do?

Gabriel assures her that she has found favor with God. What does it mean for Mary to "find favor with God"?

"To find favor" can describe a higher ranking person bestowing kindness and favor upon an inferior and putting him in an important role of leadership.

• Joseph was a slave under Potiphar in Egypt, Genesis tells us that Joseph "found favour" in Potiphar’s sight, and was put in charge of all Potiphar’s household (Gen. 39:4–6).
• Noah was the first person in the Bible to be described this way. In the midst of a corrupt world, Noah was the one man who "found favour" with God and, as a result, was protected from the flood and established as the head of the renewed human family (Gen. 6:8).
• Abraham "found favour" with God and became the instrument God would use to bring blessing to the whole world (Gen. 18:2–3).
• Moses also "found favour" with God as the covenant mediator who helped to reconcile the sinful people with the Lord at Mount Sinai (Ex. 33:12–17).

These are just a few examples of how the one who finds favor with God is specifically chosen by the Lord for a particular mission in His saving plan.

We don’t have to do what Mary did in order to feel troubled by what God is asking us to do. Maybe you’ve had conversations with God that went something like this:

Really? You want me to move… THERE?
I have to forgive… THAT PERSON?
You want me to give… THAT much?
You want me to… LEAD that?
You want me to start… WHAT?

What’s been a troubling question that God interrupted your life with?


Then Gabriel goes on to say…You will conceive and give birth to a son ... Sometimes we sign up for what we believe God is calling us to and sometimes like Mary, we are drafted.

Have you ever felted drafted by God? He really didn’t give you an option? Or can you relate more to being a draft dodger? Explain.

I’m sure Mary thought she was in over her head. Let’s look at what Gabriel actually said to Mary about her child:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.
(Luke 1:32–33)

The words in 2 Samuel 7 would have been very familiar to many Jews in the first century, for they echo one of the most important Old Testament passages related to the Davidic Kingdom.

I will make for you a great name . . . When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. . . . And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
(2 Sam. 7:9, 12–14, 16)

Notice the many striking parallels between what was promised to David in this verse and what Gabriel says about Mary’s child in Luke 1.

Sometimes when God interrupts your life, and calls you to a big assignment…you can feel like He is putting you in over your head…And again don’t interpret your deep end through Mary’s deep end assignment…. you don’t have to be giving birth to a Messiah to feel this way.
Do you have an experience that seemed like a ‘deep end’ move that God called you


“How can this be?” We know that she was not unwilling to be an instrument (1:38) but she was honestly perplexed about how it was all going to be accomplished. Gabriel explained the Holy Spirit would make this happen and the holiness of the Christ child is declared. He reveals to her that the Word was indeed becoming flesh (John 1:1-5,14)

The angel Gabriel stated a great theological truth that “no word from God can ever fail”, a statement that is often mentioned in the Bible. See Genesis 18:14, Isaiah 40:26-29, Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Matthew 19:26, Mark 14:36

God is sovereign, the Creator of ‘heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them (Acts 14:15)
And he is in charge of the world and everything in it (Psalm 24:1-2, 89:11, Acts 4:24)
God is able to make the barren woman conceive (Gen 18:14; 1 Sam 1-19-20)

Mary’s question was the how question, maybe your question is… “When…?”, “Why…?”, “Where…?”
Talk about this in your group.


Mary responds with a willing heart.

Scott McKnight in his book, “The Real Mary” elaborates on what Mary instantaneously knew from once she spoke those words…

He proposes that Mary instantly knew that:

• Villagers would taunt and ostracize her son
• Jesus would hear the accusation that he was an illegitimate child and he would be prohibited from special assemblies (Deuteronomy 23:2)
• Joseph’s reputation as an observant Jew would be called into question
• Joseph was legally required to divorce her
• Joseph could leave her stranded with a son without a father.

She must have wondered if there was an easier way. But because she trusted God…and she said yes to this divine interruption… she was postured for a faith eruption.

Surrender and obedience to the interruptions God places in our paths always costs… but the faith-erupting results are always worth it. It’s not always easy… but it’s always worth it.

Mary just couldn't have known… she began the journey by becoming the mother of Jesus… and had to stumble her way to becoming a follower of Jesus. Her interpretation of what Jesus came to do was so unlike the Davidic kingdom that Israel was hoping for. She never anticipated the kind of Messiah Jesus would become.

Would you say your life is postured for a divine interruption?
Why or why not?

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Touching Base, Part 224

Eric Prost
08 Dec13

(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.

Good theology takes the original context of a Biblical text into consideration. This TB tells the Christmas Story in some of its original 1st-century BC context.

Imagine standing on an island in the sky, 1300 feet up with steep cliffs on every side. On your elevated island is a palace with Roman baths, a swimming pool, and other luxuries. Because it is so high and so remote, it is secure, with only three narrow winding paths making their way up to you. You are on the inside of the strong gates at which the paths end.

You might reasonably look around at the view of the Dead Sea and your kingdom with satisfaction and a sense of security. You commissioned this fortress as well as other ones around Judaea; you built a city by the sea – Caesarea Maritima – that became a major port, itself a feat of ancient engineering, along with many other public works.

You played your hand well with the conquering Romans. You and your family were first loyal to Pompey the Great, then Julius Caesar, then Marc Anthony, then the Emperor Augustus, all the while avoiding the wiles of Cleopatra. You killed off rivals (hence the need for the strong fortresses). And you are wealthy.

You are a client-king of the Romans but, nevertheless, King of the Jews.

Does this sound familiar? A man on a high mountain viewing the kingdoms of the world? Read Matthew 4:1-11. There, Jesus is in a showdown with the devil.

Our fortress in the sky is Masada, south of Jerusalem. You are Herod the Great surveying your kingdom. You have managed to hang onto power through successive Roman leaders, all of them powerful, and all commanding legions of well-trained Roman soldiers. Your family rose from obscurity, but your father allied himself with Pompey the Great, who actually stormed Jerusalem and (sacrilegiously) entered the Holy of Holies. During these early struggles you were sent away for safekeeping to another part of the country. Julius Caesar then threatened Pompey, who fled to Egypt and was summarily stabbed to death upon arrival. To keep you safe, your father again sent you away from the threats.

Brilliantly, your father helped Julius Caesar, putting Caesar in his debt and hanging onto power in Judaea when it was otherwise likely that the new strongman would punish your father for his past loyalty to the enemy. You were awarded Roman citizenship and later made governor of Galilee. Then, when Caesar was murdered in Rome, you allied yourself with Marc Antony. With his support, you travelled to Rome and were confirmed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate when you were 33-years-old. With Roman military support you stormed Jerusalem yourself to realize your title. When Antony faded and the first emperor, Augustus, rose up, you in turn gained his favour, remaining king and consolidating power in Roman Judaea.

During this reign you rebuilt the temple, the grandest since Solomon’s. It is from the pinnacle of this building that Satan himself took Jesus to suggest he jump off to see if angels would rescue him. You built cities and public works to the benefit of your people, and managed food supplies during lean times. Being somewhat paranoid, you built strongholds throughout your realm where you would be safe, and had many informers reporting to you. You also executed two of your sons, one of your wives, and the High Priest.

And then, in the year you likely died, you ordered that the babies of Bethlehem be killed because another rival was among them. And so the lives of Herod and Jesus converge at Christmas.

What glorifies God more – contrasting Him with Satan or contrasting Him with us? I think the latter, since we are multi-dimensional beings, rich in contradictions, steeped in sin, and beings who know a whole lot more about ourselves (from scripture and from experience) than we do about Satan.

Herod was not a one-dimensional evil king, but a multi-faceted human leader. We can understand his actions, his pursuit of power, wealth, fame, security, and a dynasty. His motives and behaviour are only too familiar to fellow human beings.

What are inexplicable to us are the actions of Jesus.

His journey is parallel but reversed. Rather than going from obscurity to kingship, Jesus, “who, being in the form of God,” then “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:6-7). He, too, was then sent by his Father to Egypt for safekeeping for greater things and later was, by the Roman procurator of Judea, confirmed King of the Jews at 33-years-old. A storming of the capital with soldiers did not follow his getting that title, though. It was first displayed above his head on a cross.

In Romans 2, Paul writes about God's righteousness and how this means that God has put us in a right relationship with him. God, in effect, says to us, “Are we okay?”, meaning, “is our relationship alright, are we on speaking terms, is the relationship stable?” The answer, of course, is no – until Jesus. Herod, throughout his career, also asked each rival Roman general/leader, “Are we okay?, hoping that they would overlook his past loyalties and keep him on as a client-king of Judaea. He managed this. And we can understand his tactics because we are similar and would have likely governed the same way. Jesus, rather than saying to the powerful of the world, “Are we okay?”, asked that of humans – rhetorically – and lost the kingship of Judaea to gain the world.

May we prepare our hearts for Christmas during this second week of Advent.

Eric Prost
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Touching Base, Part 222

The Marriage Box
17 Nov 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.

Answer the following:
How has your life been positively impacted by a healthy marriage?
How has your life been negatively impacted by an unhealthy marriage?
Would you agree that marriage is no private affair? The health or sickness of a marriage can impact a family, community, church and beyond.

Today we are looking at marriage. The reason this issue comes up in our text is because the Corinthians raised it. This is important to note. Paul is addressing a specific scenario, at a specific time in history with unique nuanced issues that will shape what Paul says and does not say. I say this so you don’t think that what Paul says is biased or unfair; remember he is speaking into a specific situation. He is not saying everything but only what needs to be said for this situation at this time.

Text: 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (supporting texts 29-31, 36-38; see comments below)
Big Idea: One Flesh Means Both Invest!

V.1 Note that they raised the issue. Also note what Paul says about what is good for a man. Now why might he say such a thing? Remember he is speaking into a specific situation. Check out v.25-29.

Note this practical advice (v.25) in light of the unique situation - the Neronian persecution was just around the corner. The winds were blowing, and he knew the climate of Rome was not believer-friendly. There had even been a beating in the synagogue (see Act 18).

He also believes that it is also good for a man to marry (v.7b, 28). He is endorsing both singleness and marriage that are ultimately determined by gifting and calling. Yet he also shows his hand on what he would prefer (v.7a, 38).

V.2 Wow… is anyone aghast at what he has just said? Does it sound like he has just reduced marriage to some kind of relief valve?

If you want to take Paul out of context you could make Paul sound like a pig. But if you want to be fair with Paul, read Ephesians 5, where he likens marriage to our union with Christ (v.25), or read what he just wrote in chapter 6 showing his high regard for marriage. I like Paul because he is perhaps being more honest than the church has been – he knows we have sexual appetites, drives, passions and that marriage is the safe, healthy place for that to be expressed- if your gift is not celibacy, that is. The Corinthians’ alternative was prostitutes!

So how does Paul develop the big idea? Remember this idea of “one flesh” was raised earlier in 6:16.

He raises the issue of duty in marriage on both spouses’ parts (v.32-35). Note the various aspects of this word. Note that he uses the word “duty” because some were neglecting their duty (v.5a) in marriage so he is wanting to strongly make his point.

1. Duty is a work word (v.3)

One writer has said “Love is hard work. I would carry it one step further. It is the hardest work I know of, work from which you are never entitled to take a vacation. You take on burdens and cares. You inherit problems. You have to feel beyond yourself. You have to think of things other than yourself. Your responsibilities are now multiplied, and you are trusted with greater commitments. You see the easiest part of marriage is the wedding day.” (Ravi Zacharias)
Discuss if you are doing this in a small group.

2. Duty is an other-centered word (v.3)

As a group, discuss the marriage box above:
- How full is your Marriage Box?
- Would your spouse see the box as being more or less full than you would see it?
- What are some great ways your spouse invests in the Marriage Box?
- Denis de Rougemont said “Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love…?” How does this truth affect the marriage box?

3. Duty is an intimacy word (v.4)

Here’s the bottom line - the wife has the duty to provide sexual satisfaction to the husband AND the husband has the duty to provide sexual pleasure to the wife. Men in that culture needed to hear this loud and clear - One Flesh Means Both Invest!!!

Paul is putting sexuality on a higher plane than one may find in most cultures, including the church, where sex is often seen as the husband’s privilege and the wife’s obligation. However, Paul is saying something radical and very biblical (one flesh). There is mutual authority, privilege and responsibility in the sexual aspect of the relationship. One flesh means both invest.

The view of the Roman culture in which the Corinthians lived (remember that Paul is speaking to a heavily gentile populated audience) was that men were to take wives in order to have legal heirs, while sexual pleasure, if it was to be sought at all, would typically be found outside the marriage.

Now let me highlight three things that worked against what Paul was saying to them:

a. Consumer Sex

Consumer sex is self-seeking. The “duty” that Paul is talking about is self-giving.
The view of the day by men was, “Mistresses we keep for the sake of pleasure, concubines for the daily care of the body, but wives to bear us legitimate children.” Sounds kind of consumerist to me.

For many men in Paul’s day, and for many today, their first and very defining sexual encounter was, and is, consumer driven. Note the following quote from Alicia, a junior at Duke, who explained with sad honesty: “From the time I lost my virginity until now, it’s only been the guy getting pleasure…. More guys have had sex with me than I have sex with them…” The Ring Makes All The Difference - page 110

Note: When monogamy is not the rule - either in polygamous or in sexually-unrestrained cultures – “women become the objects to be collected and used by men.” The Ring Makes all the difference page 122
This was happening in Corinth like today.

What other evidences of consumer sex do you see in culture?

b. Outside, Inside

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. So married wives and husbands were depriving their partners of sexual intimacy (see v.5a). They had an “outside, inside” problem:
They had problems in bed because they had problems outside of the bed.

Sex is such a great and sensitive thing that you will not be able to sweep these problems under the rug.
What are outside-of-the-bed problems that can impact sexual intimacy? (unforgiveness, self-doubt, anger, fear…?)

c. Sexual History

In Corinth there were, possibly, people in the church who had been married up to 20 times. There were men who had slept with dozens of prostitutes. Now they are married and suppose to be monogamous and investing in each other. How might sexual history hinder the big idea, One Flesh Means Both Invest?
Think of Alicia from Duke, how might her sexual history make a healthy sex life with her future husband challenging?

Corinth had it all! They were three for three.

Oh, and just in case any are thinking, “this is why I want to test drive the vehicle before marriage”, think again.

Professor Jay Teachman of Western Washington University:
“One of the most clearly defined correlates of cohabitation is an increased risk of marital dissolution. ….he notes that cohabitation increases the possibility of divorce by as much as 50 percent. He even calls cohabitation one of the most ‘robust predictors of marital dissolution’- making living together first one of the worst things you can do for your marriage. Teachman also warns that even premarital sex by itself is associated with an increased risk of marital disruption, though at lower rates than living together before marriage.” The Ring Makes All The Difference
p. 63.


4. Duty is a safety word (v.5, 6)

I am running out of trees so I will be short: Note there is to be mutual agreement on abstention. The woman is not a piece of chattel, which was the common view of the day in many circles.

Goliath was big, ugly and smelly, but it only took one well-placed stone to bring him down.
For some marriages that well-placed stone is in the marriage bed. Unresolved issues, unspoken hurts, the acceptance of unhealthy habits, patterns that are normalized in a marriage, all this the enemy sees and seizes upon. Unhealthy sexual relations can be the exact spot where the enemy throws the stone. One well-placed stone can fell a marriage. How safe is your marriage in the context of (v.5,6)?

If you are married I would challenge you to work through this TB as a couple.
If you are single but one day plan to be married, think about how you can best prepare now for a healthy vital sexual relationship with your marriage partner.
If you don`t fit into the above two categories, let this TB remind you of how important it is to pray for married people in the church. Healthy marriages are a labor of love that greatly benefit from a praying community.

Remember there is way more to marriage than sex, but Paul in answering their questions needed to address this key aspect of marriage.

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Commentary on supporting texts for our main text (7:1-9)

7:29–31. The second reason Paul felt the single state was advantageous was the potential it offered for detachment from temporal situations. The phrase the time is short referred to the Lord’s return (cf. Rom. 13:11), but it was also a summary philosophy of life for Paul who lived not for the temporary but for the eternal (cf. 2 Cor. 4:18). This detachment from temporal matters should characterize all Christians but it was more complex for the married (cf. Mark 13:12) for whom, nonetheless, devotion to their Lord should occupy first place in life (Luke 14:26). Paul certainly was not recommending abandoning marital duties (cf. 1 Cor. 7:3–5).
Instead he was calling for a commitment to eternal matters and a corresponding detachment from the institutions, values, and substance of this world which was passing away (v. 31). Such a commitment was more easily made and enacted by a single person.

Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books

7:36–38. The interpretation and translation of this passage is difficult, as the alternate marginal translation indicates. The issue revolves around whether the indefinite pronoun anyone (v. 36) refers to a father or to a prospective bridegroom. The NIV translators, following most modern commentators, have adopted the latter point of view but have included the traditional interpretation in the margin. The strength of the bride groom view lies in the fact that it permits a consistent subject for the verbs used throughout the passage, a strength which the NIV translators forfeited by making the virgin the subject of the phrase getting along in years. This decision was possibly prompted by the need to explain why the bridegroom might be thought to act improperly (i.e., his delay in consummating the marriage may, with her advancing age, adversely affect her chance of ever getting married). The bridegroom view, however, faces a lexical difficulty in the meaning of two verbs (gameō and gamizō) for marriage. In order to sustain the bridegroom view it is necessary to understand the terms as virtual synonyms, meaning “to marry.” But gamizō usually means “give in marriage,” and gameō means simply “marry,” as these words do in the other New Testament passages where they occur together (Matt. 24:38; Mark 12:25). This distinction in meaning continued to be recognized even in the second century (Apollonius Dyscolus, Syntax 3. 153). So it seems that the marginal reading is to be preferred.
Paul, then, gave advice to a father who in the first-century culture exercised great decision-making authority in matters affecting his family. A father may have decided that his daughter should not marry, possibly due to reasons similar to those Paul had mentioned in 1 Corinthians 7:25–34. But in coming to this decision, the father had not reckoned with the fact that his daughter might not be able to remain single. She might not possess the gift of celibacy (v. 7). If so, Paul recommended that the father should not feel obligated to hold to his previous commitment but instead let his daughter marry. However, the father should feel free to follow through on his conviction to keep his daughter single (v. 37) if three conditions were met: (a) He had a settled and firm conviction about the propriety of her celibacy. (b) He was in a position where he was free to exercise his authority, that is, he was not a slave in which case the master could determine the daughter’s destiny. (c) He was under no compulsion from evidence which suggested that his daughter was not able to remain single but required marriage instead. If these conditions were met, then the father did well not to give her in marriage.

Lowery, D. K. (1985). 1 Corinthians. (J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck, Eds.)The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Touching Base, Part 221

TB 221
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 6
Sex Is Not Just Sex!
10 Nov 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.

Would anyone disagree that the mishandling of our sexuality can be the cause of so much brokenness in our culture? I am sure that all reading this could list many examples of the brokenness that tends to pile up when we don’t handle our sexuality in a proper way.

This past Sunday we continued our Lost in the City series. The Corinthian church was lost because they looked so much like their city when it came to sexual practices.

Text: 1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Big Idea: Sex is not just sex.

Culture (v.12-13)
The first couple of verses of our text provide us with some cultural clues. Notice in v.12 and v.13 that Paul is quoting them:
“ Everything is permissible for me” “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”

The first quote in the Corinthian culture basically opened up the door for all kinds of so-called freedom in the sexual arena. The second quote essentially reduced the sexual appetite to something that was merely biological. Just as the stomach is for food, in the same was sexual appetites and the body go hand in hand. Crave it, go for it! Carpe Diem!

Note Paul’s first rebuttal. How has stepping beyond God’s boundaries hurt culture, hurt you? In other words, how has our so-called freedom not been beneficial to our culture, to our personal lives?

Note Paul’s second rebuttal to the same slogan. Is it possible to be mastered by this issue?

Do you think any wife has been hurt because of the sexual addiction of her husband that started long before they ever got married?

Note Paul’s third rebuttal to the second slogan. Now note what he says in the second part of v.13. Paul has just taken the body from being something that is purely biological and destined for destruction and elevated it to a status far higher than appetites, urges, food and desires.

Where do many of our slogans come from that dictate sexual practices in our culture? How determinative are they regarding how the church behaves?

In light of our big idea, let me list the four points that drive home that sex is not just sex. Remember that Paul’s audience is the church. People outside the church may think we are nuts to believe such things but I would suggest our cultural slogans regarding sexuality have been damming and have inflicted much pain and brokenness on our culture. There must be a better way.

1. Sex is not just sex because it either honors or dishonors something of great value (v.13b,14)

How does what Paul says redefine one’s body image?

When a person comes to Christ, He wants to redeem our distorted view of the body. It is not just a physical shell that we live in, but one that we can use to honor God (or dishonor Him) and one that God will restore in the end. This body is of great value in the eyes of God. See 1 Corinthians 15 for more commentary on Christ raising our bodies.
Bottom line - our bodies matter to God, they are of incredible value and not just mere throw-aways. Regardless of shape, size, functionality, the body matters.

One of the most popular young women’s magazines, Cosmopolitan, had the following headlines on its July 2010 cover: “8 Foods that Keep You Slim All Summer,” “The Sexy Secret to Making Smart Decisions,” and “What Men Find Hot”.

What do these kinds of headlines say about a woman’s body? How does one derive value based on these headlines?

Do you think there is, at times, a connection between sexual promiscuity and poor body image? Do you ever think that someone engages in sexual promiscuity to validate themselves, feel loved, wanted, accepted, alive and to find themselves? Why doesn’t it work?

2. Sex is not just sex because an improper union can rival your union with Christ. (v.15-17)

What is the rivalry mentioned in these verses?
See the following verses that talk about our unity with Christ. Ephesians 1:22-23, John 14:18-23, 15:4,7 17:20-23

Note the word that describes our unity or bonding with a prostitute.
“When first talking about this phrase (one flesh, unite) it appears to be talking only about physical, sexual union. But while the words do not mean less than that, they mean much more. When the Bible says that “all flesh” had corrupted their way on the earth (Gen 6:12) or that God would pour out his spirit on “all flesh” (Joel 2:28) , it did not mean that only bodies were sinning or that God was giving his spirit to all bodies. Rather, he was giving his Spirit to all people. “Flesh” is a synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part of a thing is used to represent the whole (as in our phrase “counting noses”)” The Meaning of Marriage p.222

In other words there is no such thing as casual sex. Science will back that up, but Scripture gives us another dimension. Whether you fell into bed with some stranger totally drunk or engaged in sexual relations with your marriage partner - sex connects.

Note- The Corinthian church because of its sexual immorality was supporting the sex trafficking industry of its day. Many of the prostitutes of the day were abandoned female babies that were raised for the sex trade. Our so-called freedom can be another person’s nightmare. Does that still happen today?

3. Sex is not just sex because improper sexual relations actually sins against the body (v.18)

From our context we can see that sinning against the body is a,
- Moral issue- crossing God’s boundaries- sexual immorality was a term that referred to all forms of sexual sin that happened outside the marriage covenant
- Spiritual issue- dishonoring what God values- our body, and rivaling His relationship with us-
- Emotional issue- “one flesh” involves emotional bonding
- Physical - Just as in Corinth, we are experiencing as a culture the physical effects of sexual immorality.

“STI’S are very common among teens and young adults, and they have the potential to change a young person’s life forever. Just how common? In the US in the year 2000, an estimated 19 mill cases of sexually transmitted infections occurred. About half of these infections occurred in fifteen to twenty four year olds, even though they only represent about 25 percent of the sexually active population.” Girls Uncovered page 36

Many STI’S cause more problems for females than for males. ….pre-marital sex is sexist, placing a larger burden on women than on men.

4. Sex is not just sex because your body is a temple (v.19,20)

We have already touched on this issue of value but note the imagery changes to temple. Note who dwells within the believer. What in this text tells us whether He is the owner or the renter?

What are the implications regarding how we then should treat His temple?

Note what follows the “therefore” of v.20. In light of all that God has done for us, and whose we are, Paul says honor God with your body.

My guess is that this is not something we initially thought of when we came to Christ. Having a godly body is just as important as having a godly attitude, making godly choices, having godly relationships.
What are ways we can honor our body? Look to the text for some clues. “Flee” is one idea Paul mentions.

Our walk with Christ needs to affect our sex life. It can be the hardest part to surrender because of cultural slogans that brainwash us or because of well-worn paths that are hard to abandon.

One last point - perhaps God is prompting you to come to the rescue of the exploited. Paul, in telling men to clean up their act, was ultimately protecting women who were often victims of sex trafficking. Do you know of someone being exploited right here in Kingston? Someone’s so called freedom might be causing someone else’s nightmare.

God help us!

Mark Kotchapaw
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

By Bob Deffinbaugh at Bible.org

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 bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Friday, September 27, 2013

Touching Base, Part 217

TB 217
Lost in the City 2013 – PART 2
What Grocery Bag Are You Eating Out Of?
29 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.

Can you relate to any of the following statements If so, why and when?

“ I am overly consumed with…..”
“I can’t get my mind off…..”
“I feel all knotted up inside.”
“I can’t focus because…..”
“This is killing me.”

We all know what it is like to have something eating us up inside. In fact, I am sure we would get 100% agreement on the statement “what is in you might be destroying you.” This is our big idea from today’s text, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.

This week in our series, Lost in the City, we are looking at a section of Paul’s letter that is addressing this very issue - what is in you might be destroying you. But the additional complicating factors are,
a. They are boasting about what is destructive. In other words they don’t understand the damage being done to them, both as a church and individually
b. The issue at the core is sin, downright, outright sin. Something Paul says they need to get rid of.

Note: Sometimes what is eating us up inside is not a sin issue but part of the brokenness that we accumulate in our lives as a result of living in a broken world.

So let’s look at this issue as we answer the question, “how can what is in you destroy you?“

1. What is in you, can permeate you (v.6)

Note the phrase “works through the whole batch”- like the smell of a skunk, it knows no boundaries. Have you ever noticed how all-consuming internal issues can be? They seem to seep into every blood vessel, every organ of our body. They seem to have enough energy to bother us 24/7… unless, that is, you are a Corinthian and you are so ignorant of the damage being done that, in fact, you are boasting!

Notice the analogy Paul uses to help the Jewish and predominantly Gentile audience understand the power of what can be in us.

It was customary in both Gentile and Jewish homes to keep back some of the dough of last week’s dough, allowing it to ferment, then adding it to this week’s dough. Note how much dough Paul refers to. This tells you something of the power of what we are talking about. If you were a Jew, you would think of the Feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover and the command to Jews in the Old Testament to cleanse their house of any leaven once a year. It was potentially toxic. In the New Testament, leaven became a symbol of the process by which an evil spreads insidiously throughout a community until the whole batch is infected.

Do you think they get the point Paul is making? He wants them, not to boast, but to be broken and get rid of this stuff! The phrase “get rid of” can mean to cleanse, “to pierce” with a lance or sword, and thus “to kill”.
Read in v.1-5 in context and we know Paul is not talking about using swords literally and killing.

Read through the following texts and discuss the power of leaven:
- Regarding attitudes - Hebrews 12:15 (defile means to stain, taint, pollute)
- Regarding teaching - Luke 12:1. Think of this issue of teaching in the context of the many students who attend Bethel:
“From the moment Christian students first arrive on campus, their faith is assaulted on all sides by fellow students and teachers alike. According to a ground-breaking 2006 study by professors from Harvard and George Mason universities, the percentage of agnostics and atheists teaching at American colleges is three times greater than in the general population. More than 50 percent of college professors believe the Bible is ‘an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts.’ Students are routinely taught that Darwinian evolution is the substitute creator, the Bible is unreliable, that Jesus was like any other religious figure, and that any Christian who thinks differently is at best old-fashioned and at worst intolerant, bigoted and hateful. These ideas are perpetuated in the classroom through reason, logic and evidence.” (Apologetics for a New Generation, p.19)
- Regarding character- 1 Corinthians 15:33
- Regarding someone else’s weakness – Galatians 6:1

2. What is in you, can rob you (thief) (v.7,8)

Note the last four words of v.7 “as you really are.” What is Paul saying? Christ can save us, set us apart, make us His sons and daughters but leaven can rob us (not of our salvation, that is not Paul’s point), but of our spiritual health, wholeness and well-being.

This is why Christianity says “be egalitarian (equal) regarding persons, be elitist regarding ideas.” Not every statement, position, worldview, attitude, or behavior is equal. Some beliefs are downright destructive.

If you are reading this in a group take some time to talk about healthy choices and truths to live by, in contrast with what bad choices and “truths” look like.

The result for a believer making the leaven a staple of our diet is that we are not as we really are, instead we become the accumulation of our bad choices. That was Corinth: living way below who God had made them to be.

Discuss the following:

Why does God insist that we worship Him? For the same reason that parents tell their young children to stay away from fire, or speeding cars. God doesn't want humans to detach themselves from ultimate reality, which only ends up hurting us. (Is God A Moral Monster? Paul Copan, p.30)

Look at the price we are paying for making leaven part of our diet as a society.
“Prominent secular psychologists Edmund Bourne and Lorna Garano note that moral relativism (relativism was defined by Nietzsche as “ You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”) has come to dominate modern life. …. They add that this is a major cause of anxiety among Americans.” (Apologetics For A New Generation, p.43)
This is one of the reasons why the Gospel means “good news” - Jesus invites us to build our lives on truth that is good (though not always easy and sacrifice-free) for us.

Note in the remaining section, what Paul says about the gospel v.7b,8.

As the Passover Lamb, what has Jesus done for us? Remember what John said? John 1:29

Remember that at the Passover, unleavened bread was used.

Three quick things as we wrap.

• How do we get rid of this leaven? Verses 7 and 8 show us: Jesus our Passover Lamb that takes away leaven is the key. We need to repent of leaven to Jesus. Secondly, note that getting rid of these kinds of issues, at times, takes community. The pronoun “you” in our text is plural. Paul is addressing a community of believers that need to deal with leaven. Sometimes, we need key people in the community to help us with our leaven.

• Note that this leaven is not in the world but in the church. Our greatest battles and temptations can come from other believers.

• Note that the gospel is liberating news. Some people say Christianity is restrictive and oppressive. I think Paul might beg to differ.

Don’t get lost in the leaven but walk in the wholeness of God’s truth.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

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.

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com