Monday, January 16, 2012

Sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany, "A Pure Temple"

Sermon Outline
1.      Paul addresses sexual immorality, which couldn’t be of greater significance for us today. Marriage being redefined, living together outside of marriage is all but accepted, teens experimenting, marriages in stormy waters, internet has opened a huge private arena for sin and temptation, removing many obstacles once curbing behavior. Which has been the greater influence on how people think of sexuality? Modern culture and the world influencing the church? Or the other way around—the church influencing the way society thinks?
2.      Like today, the church in Corinth had lost a clear testimony to God’s design for human sexuality. Slogans—traction on the street? In the church? Borrowed from Paul’s teaching on other subjects? “All things are lawful for me” (or “All things are in my power”) (“I do what I like”); but not everything is helpful, and what’s more—sin enslaves. Freedom>slavery
3.      “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” Sexuality not just satisfying our “appetite” as is the case with food, even though culture screams the opposite. Sex-drenched magazines line the checkout aisle of nearly every store, movies and music sing the sweet praises of sexual unfaithfulness and loose inhibitions. Politicians and celebrities count up their affairs as nuisances that we should ignore.
4.      What slogans today? “You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it” (except cars don’t suffer heartbreak and feelings of rejection, and you’re not united with a car). “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” (except Jesus and Paul say sin enslaves or masters you). “My faith is a matter of my heart and spirit”—idea that whatever is done in the body has nothing to do with the spirit. Dividing spirit from body. But you are your soul and body. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:17-18).
5.      All cultural tendencies to treat sex anywhere but in marriage as normal and inevitable must be resisted by the church. Higher calling and a higher view of God’s gift. God designed one of the best gifts for humankind, and who knows better than Him how it should be used for the greatest good, love, satisfaction? The Bible and therefore the church is counter-cultural in this way, and has a strong stand to make and an important message to carry. Marriage between a man and a woman is the one God-given place for the healthy expression and satisfaction of sexual desire, and outside of marriage those who are single should practice chastity/celibacay. Wait till marriage. The powerful bonding force of that act that makes the two one flesh, belongs where it can create stability, foster love, and perpetuate union between a man and a woman. There it supports and builds up family. This view is vigorously opposed by the world; but is ignored to our own harm.
6.      But where do we go from here? Is this an issue only for the young and marriageable? Or is it a matter for the whole church?
7.      First to acknowledge the hurt and brokenness that has occurred because of ignoring God’s good design. Admit whatever part we may have played in it. Repent of our own sin, and hear God’s call to higher things. Next, call the church and those outside it to find salvation in Jesus. Jesus came to buy us sinners out of slavery. “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
8.      No greater and more amazing truth than this, to shape a positive Christian attitude about sexuality. Bought with a price. What price? The very life of the only Son of God, Jesus Christ! God’s most treasured Son, His most highly beloved. The one with whom He is well pleased. His life, His precious blood of an infinite worth, His purity and innocence before God, His sinless love and self-sacrifice—the greatest model for a husband’s love, and His death to pay the price for all our sins. How much are you worth? What is your value? God has placed this infinite value on you, that He gave His only Son to buy you back from your sins. God saw us, bound and sold in every one of our sins, sexual or otherwise, and He gave His Son as the redemption price to buy us back.
9.      See how precious your freedom and forgiveness is? See how God purifies you, cleansing you of all the guilt and shame of every sin? No accident that when God describes the love of Christ for His church, He uses a picture of marriage—the church is presented to Him as a bride, spotless, clean, without blemish or fault. How did she get that way? It was not by her own goodness, but because He made her holy and cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word. It was not because God’s love was blind. He knew who we were and saw our sins, and stains and blemishes. But He took our shame on Himself and gave all His purity, innocence, and love in return. Everything that is His becomes ours in this marriage.
10.  So what does this mean for us now? By virtue of His cleansing in baptism, your body now is the temple of the Holy Spirit! A doubly great blessing! No longer does God choose the Temple of Jerusalem, with fixed, immovable stones and woodwork and metalwork to dwell in. No matter how glorious and beautiful and stunning that Temple was, God left that building to send His Spirit to dwell in our bodies as His most holy temple. God dwells in you! And just as it would be a sacrilege to vandalize the building of a temple or church, so also it is unholy to disregard the God-given value of our bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. We should take care not to grieve or sadden the divine guest that lives in us—the Holy Spirit. Instead we are called to holiness and honor. And through the forgiving, washing, daily work of the Holy Spirit in us, He keeps our Temple pure, turning away from all sin.
11.  So whether old or young, single or married, divorced or widowed, this is an issue for you. There is no place from which you cannot start anew from God’s forgiveness and seek to live a new life by His grace. God calls us to leave behind “old familiar ways” of sin to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. Both elderly and parents have a vital role for the next generation. Lead by example. Teach from your mistakes. Mentor a grandchild or youth. Parents, show yourselves concerned and approachable, so kids can talk openly and honestly with you—even if to admit sins or weaknesses, and seek forgiveness. All of us—Christ was able to love even the worst of sinners, and at the same time call them away from their sin to new life in Him. Tax collectors and prostitutes came to Jesus, not because they expected to find approval for their sin, but rather forgiveness! That their burdens of sin and guilt could be laid down for Him to carry to the cross. Let’s do the same as we lay down our burdens for forgiveness, and seek also to forgive others in the same way. Give witness to the great value God has placed on us. You who are burdened under past sins, confess them to God, or speak to your pastor to find assurance of forgiveness. Speak to your trusted family member or friend to seek out accountability. When sexual temptation comes, follow the example of Joseph in the Old Testament, who fled, or ran from temptation. When he was alone and faced with temptation he said “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Don’t encourage temptation by isolation or exploration.
12.  We can be salt and light, we can give witness to God’s design of sexuality to the world. But it all starts with knowing whose we are—that Christ Jesus made us God’s children by the great price of His life. It continues with the knowledge that His Spirit has made our bodies His holy dwelling place, and living out that identity as forgiven, cleansed, temples of God’s living Spirit. So glorify God in your body, in Jesus’ name and by Jesus’ love. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1.      In 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, Paul seems to be addressing some common “slogans” or sayings that were circulating in the Corinthian church, or perhaps on the streets of Corinth. What are the “slogans” that is responding to, and how does he redirect or reshape them to make his point that sexual immorality is not permissible for the Christian?

2.      How does Paul argue that sins committed in the body are truly significant and spiritually harmful? Instead of sex being a “casual encounter,” what in fact takes place? 1 Cor. 6:16-20. The “one flesh union” that sex creates is actually a good gift of God’s creation when used within the design that He gave for it: marriage between one man and one woman. Gen. 2:24; Mark 10:6-9.

3.      How does the proper use of our bodies then directly impact the holiness and purity of the Holy Spirit’s Temple (our body)? How ought a single Christian to live? A married Christian? (See 1 Cor. 7 for Paul’s further instructions on sexuality). 1 Thess. 4:3-8.

4.      What distinctly high honor and value does the Holy Spirit’s dwelling in us grant to our bodies? How has the influence of the world and sexual attitudes of our culture eroded or disregarded that value? How can we rebuild it among ourselves and with the youth of our generation? What have the consequences been of increasing sexual immorality?

5.      For those who have repented of sexual sin, and discovered God’s better plan for themselves and their bodies, what cleansing/purification has Christ accomplished for our bodies as God’s Temple? 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Col. 2:11-14; 3:1-11; John 8:10-11. What new purpose for living does He grant us? 1 Cor. 6:20; Heb. 13:4; 1 Thess. 4:3-8

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