Recent Gallop Poll: Mental health change from 2019-2020.
Gender/Politics/income/race…attend religious service: never, seldom, weekly
-Every category saw significant decrease in mental health in 2020…not surprising
-Sedgwick county mental health calls were up 900%, suicides were double
-One category in the poll that saw an increase in self-assessment of mental health….was among those who said they practiced weekly attendance at worship service.
Dr. Tyler Vanderveele of Harvard has done years of research on the impact of “religion=practiced faith in community” (not just personalized spirituality) on personal and public health.
His evidence in line with the Gallop poll indicates that…God is really smart.
I’m being a bit facetious…I know you can’t make too much of polls…or “research” in terms of proving things that require faith in what God has told us.
But there is long-term evidence that goes against the conventional wisdom that sees involvement in Church life as:
-Nice but not necessary-
For many, church involvement is little more than a cultural artifact…people doing stuff that doesn’t actually amount to “real life”
-Praying, preaching, meeting, talking, Bible studying, communion, baptism
Nice, symbolic…but not the real stuff of life…outside the church is the “real world”
The world of substance.
Inside the church is the imaginary world of old faith, and old Books, and old stories.
Nope…not the way it is really is.
*In many conversations over the years…including this past week…with leaders in the “real world”
-Leaders of businesses, and of military organizations…you know the “real stuff”…planes and soldiers and money and factories
*I’ve been struck by how often they want to talk with me about the stuff of church, the things of God…the old books, and old faith, and old stories.
They want perspective on the so called “real world” they are immersed in…and they understand… in order to be true perspective it must be of an eternal nature
The Church is, in fact, the body of Christ on earth…it is the most important, by far, organization on the planet.
It is an organization but it is also organism…a living thing, led by Christ himself as the head.
The Church ought to be the center of a believer’s, and a believer’s family’s life.
Some might say…“No Jesus should be.”
Yes, Jesus should be…which in practice looks like his Church
Why is this so important?
Because it is so true.
And since it is true…there are implications for living in line with it, or for attempting to live out of line with it.
It’s as true…as the fact that we breath air and eat food…and in all truth there are implications for ignoring it.
“Well, It doesn’t impact me…I’m not that engaged with church”
If you are not involved in the life of the church…then it is impacting you…in ways you don’t even know.
The church is the Lord’s plan A for the world. (there is no plan B)
To live outside or largely outside the life of the church is to live outside the primary work God is doing on the planet.
There are many good and noble organizations you can be involved in (I am currently involved with two good organizations).
But the church is the ONE necessary organization.
“This is all so self-serving…you are a pastor…you are just selling “church””
I believe what I am saying and that I am responsible to God to say it.
“But Terry, I don’t need a church to be a good Christian or a spiritual person”
Okay…you are, of course, free to believe what you choose.
But what I am saying, I’m convinced
-holds up biblically
-holds up historically
-holds up experientially
I’m really not selling…I’m just telling.
*Years ago, I was sharing the gospel with a friend and invited him to our church…he stopped me and said (as we stood outside) “This is my church.”
-I said “Okay, I will respect you enough that if we speak of this again, you will need to be the one to initiate”
-Several years later…he did bring it up…and he committed his life to Christ…and he became part of our church for many years…he went to be with the Lord a few years back.
His idea of how life worked (this is my church)…was different than God’s(this is my church)…his ideas didn’t work well.
I said a few weeks ago…that as a young man, church was a boring, non-relevant thing for me.
Then…I encountered Jesus, or he encountered me…and virtually overnight…or at least over a summer…his church (my local church) became amazing, life-giving, essential for me.
I’ve lost count of the people who I had not seen in many years: FromHigh School, College, Military, Community…who were at one time far from God in their hearts
-Who when we have renewed contact at reunions, funerals, run into them at a store…whatever…they have been very interested in telling me “I am in a church now!”
They tell me of their relationship with Christ…and what brought them to the point of seeing their need and God’s provision…but inevitable they want to tell me of “church”.
The church is where they are experiencing and expressing God’s work of grace in their life.
I’m making the point of how precious and important the church; the body of Christ is…
As a lead up to what is a very direct and could be disturbing chapter in Paul’s letter to the confused church in Greece.
It could be disturbing…outside of a clear view of how so very valuable, precious and important the local church…the body of Christ is.
With that in mind…Let’s read God’s word:
5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this? 3 Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present. 4 When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, 5 hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
Wow…there is a lot to unpack there (not the least of which is this “handing over to Satan” business, that sounds weird)
So let me start with a story.
Years ago, I was just out of college and living in FW, Texas.
I had become a part of a church I loved…we met then in a downtown YWCA.
One week I was in a church meeting where we were praying for a church member who had consistently and persistently been living in open rebellion to God.
As per what Jesus taught in Matthew 18…members of our body had gone to this person several times…with loving kindness and offers of help.
They were rejected over and over.
Finally, after a number of months…some from the church were gathered and prayed that
…God would be as “gentle as possible but as hard as necessary” in order to restore this person who was on the path to destruction.
I remember there were tears…no anger, no retribution…just love and pain.
They were judging the person’s sin…but there no was sense of arrogant “judgment”…as in “we are better you are worse.”
They asked God to remove his hand of protection…and they declared this person no longer a member of our body.
I also remember maybe 6 months later when this person we prayed for was restored to the church…
She was in tears as she recounted her self-inflicted misery and the love the church had shown her…and ultimately “God’s severe mercy” that brought her back.
So, I saw this passaged lived before I studied it in books and commentaries.
I start with a story because this passage is a real-life story.
It’s not hypothetical, it’s not Paul’s theories…it is biographical…real people in real circumstances.
There was a man…probably a leading citizen of Corinth…likely someone with local influence.
Who was sleeping with a woman who was not his wife.
The woman was probably his mother-in-law and either his father was dead (bad) or still alive(terrible)
The woman was probably not a believer…because she is not mentioned in the verses as one to be dealt by the church
And in this chapter Paul says they are to judge those in the church, God judges those outside.
This activity was totally against…the way of Christ, the Law of the Jews, and it is was even illegal in the Roman laws of the time.
The sinful behavior being allowed to persist in the church was problem enough…but here is what really disturbs Paul.
Instead of grief and proactive steps to deal with the sin…they were in some strange way “proud” of what was happening.
What does this mean?
- It could be this guy was a well-known Corinthian so they looked the other way on his sin because they were so proud to have him in their church.
-Like churches who are so happy to have a celebrity that they are willing to put up with lots of nonsense to have him or her around.
- It could be they were proud of their “modern/advanced” views of Christian liberty.
-We are so free in Christ…we can do pretty much whatever we want.
“We are so mature, so liberated by grace…we can even return to the old life patterns of sin”
-Paul will address this twisted logic later in this letter
Either way…what matters was they had an elevated view of humans and a low view of Christ’s church.
So, he gives them some direct instruction on what they must do (and we will learn from 2 Corinthians that they did in fact follow through on his advice).
Here’s what he told them:
When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus…
I am there in Spirit (A statement of solidarity…I’m with you on this…this the truth)
And the power of the Lord Jesus is present
*What he is describing is not some magical, mystical experience…they are not dancing around a fire, shouting incantations…sticking pins in a doll.
He is describing “Church”.
Much like what is happening right now:
We are assembled in the name of Jesus
-“Name” means under the authority of
-We come together as church in his name because he has given us the command, the power, and his presence to do so.
We are in Solidarity with Paul (and all the other host of believers around the planet…present and past…who believe the gospel.
*This is not something we are making up as we go…it is the historic truth of our faith
And the power of Jesus is present here.
“Where, I don’t see it”
-You don’t see electricity either…but it’s power is evident
-You can see (and hear) because of its presence of electricity in the speakers and bulbs.
-His power is present in his Word, His Spirit, and His transformed people.
In that setting…as God’s locally gathered people… Paul said they were to “Hand this man over to Satan”
As to why? Mercy.
So that his sinful nature (his will in rebellion to God) might be destroyed(turned around) and so he will be saved on the day of God’s judgment.
So…“why”=a severe mercy.
As to the “What”?
De-member this person (he has in essence done this himself)…now put him out of your fellowship.
In so doing, either directly (by a prayer) or indirectly by the fact that he is no longer under the spiritual “cover” of the church…you put him fully back into Satan’s domain.
In his next letter to this church in Corinth Paul calls Satan the “god”(little g) of this world.
He is a dog on leash…but the leash is long, and he is really mean…not someone to be trifled with.
The person I mentioned who came back to church after having been disciplined…came back in a physically broken condition…her body had literally been broken.
This was, in her case…a severe mercy.
This topic is generally called “church discipline”
The goal is restoration of the individual not punishment.
But even if the individual chooses to not be restored…
This is still important…because the church is so precious.
All human organizations who don’t destroy themselves exercise their a form of discipline.
-Businesses, schools, military, sports teams, families.
We have, in 30 years, had to initiate the process just a very few times.
One was a man who had been hiding his sin (which was also criminal behavior) from everyone.
God gave a member of our church a direct knowledge (knowledge he could not have acquired on his own) about what this man was doing…and in some detail.
When confronted the man confessed…and was amazed that anyone could know.
I was amazed that he was amazed…did he not understand that God knows everything?
We offered him daily and then weekly…help and accountability.
We offered him the chance to move in with other believers.
We were willing to pay a price for him.
He said “yes” then “no”…he left the church on his own and did not come back.
He eventually went to jail…and his life, as best I can tell has not gone well.
I can tell stories of better outcomes…where people responded and people have thrived.
Okay…but come on Terry “Isn’t this mean and judgmental”
Let’s see how Paul would answer that question.
6 Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
It’s not “mean” but it does require making a judgment…because there is a lot at stake.
Judgments are made all the time to protect things that are precious and valuable
-“You can’t do that in our society (judge a behavior)…you will suffer a fine or go to jail”
-“You can’t do that on our team(judge a behavior)…you will be removed”
-“You can’t do that on our highways(judge a behavior)…your freedom (to race)undermines everyone else’s freedom and safety”
*Recently some celebrities were racing on a public street and killed two small children-
Without judgment there can be no freedom.
In the Super Bowl tonight…there will be 7 referees passing judgment
You do know that a flag and a whistle and a hand signal…are all demonstrations of judgment.
“You can’t do that…now back up 10 yards.
“Tweet”…you are out of bounds…you don’t get those 6 points
“Flag”. “You can’t do that…You’re out of the game.”
There would be no freedom, no enjoyment, no game…without judgment.
Certain behaviors undermine the freedom of everyone else…they destroy the organization/nation/team.
Precious things are lost without judgment being made in appropriate ways at the right times.
*I was on a football team where a key player was allowed to stay on the team even though he had broken certain rules.
Rules that other, less talented players, were made to sit out games for breaking.
The coach called me in asked me what I thought should be down with this star player(a friend)…he wanted my take.
I said “He should be made sit out a game, like any other less talented player.”
The coach did not take my advice…and the team morale and unity went down.
That star player…eventually quit (it wasn’t good for him to not be judged…it was not good for the team…for him to not be judged”
This act of discipline in the church at Corinth was a mercy to the man…a severe mercy
But more importantly it was about protecting the church.
Paul uses a lot of Old Testament symbolism in this paragraph but his points are:
- Sin (symbolized by yeast) that is not dealt with decisively becomes normative…this is bad for everyone…permeates the entire body
- Get rid of these remnants of the old life…this is not who you are anymore…you have been redeemed…you are not under God’s judgment anymore…or under sin’s cruel rule.
*So why try to go back into that bondage?
- Don’t let sin (like yeast) permeate your life…let truth and sincerity(purity) work its way into and out of your lives.
Now…he clarifies what he had written in a former letter (one we don’t have; it has been lost)
In that letter they had understood him to teach that they were to pass judgment on those who were not in their church…those outside their body.
He is clarifying here that he is speaking of holding one another in the church to a standard of holiness that allows for the church to remain a healthy not a diseased body.
He is not saying they should be trying to pass judgment on everyone in the culture around them.
Jesus modeled this by being very harsh with the “religious” folks who claimed to be insiders with God…and being patient with those who were outside the faith.
Paul said…look, if someone claims to be a believer, a part of the local body of Christ…but lives in persistent and unrepentant sin…don’t hang with them as if everything is okay
It’s not good for them or the church…or those watching the church.
**This is not a spiritual “rule”…you cannot ever eat with Christians who are living in ongoing sin.
The principle in place here is…DON’T LIVE AMONG THOSE WHO ARE WILLFULLY AND PUBICALLY EMBRACING SIN AS IF EVERYTHING IS FINE…ITS NOT.
*Don’t communicate by your actions, especially to those outside the church watching…that this person is the norm, that they represent Christ accurately…when they don’t.
Of course, you are to self-correct as a family…but don’t go around trying to make those who are not Christ followers act like they are.
God will judge those outside the church…you are to lovingly correct one another inside.
Here’s how he says this…
9 I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. 11 But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. 12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
This sounds like a terrible idea on the face of it…a bunch of self-righteous people…judging one another…pointing fingers back and forth.
“I expel you”
“No, I expel you”
Well, yeah, if you put it like that…that does sound terrible.
But Paul doesn’t put it like that…in fact, this is one paragraph in an entire letter that all fits together.
If you take this paragraph in context…here is the full story.
- The body of Christ is precious.
- Sin is a terrible master for anyone…it destroys lives and if allowed to persist, destroys whole churches
- Don’t try to correct the entire world…that’s not your business…love the people of the world…but you are to address persistent, unrepentant sin in the church you are part of.
- All this is in the context of love….1 Cor. 13…love is primary in all that the church does…even when it does the merciful act of judgment.
So…a mean-spirited, unloving, judgmental person is not qualified to participate in this mercy of discipline.
In fact, they should be addressed themselves…for their own persistent and unrepentant sin.
That’s a lot of stuff to take in…
But remember this is not a guy named PAUL, sitting in Jerusalem Star Bucks…sipping a latte typing out big theological ideas.
This is a guy whose life has been completely turned around by Christ.
A man who has suffered more than we can imagine for these believers…he is putting his money where his mouth is.
A man who cares deeply for them, the Church.
He is addressing real people…actions bringing real harm to real people…a lot is at stake.
There is no 1,2,3 set of rules here…But are there principles that are important and permanent…principles that allow room for application to various times and settings.
- This is about: Persistent, unrepentant, public sin
-Persistent: an ongoing, long-term lifestyle of rebellion
-The verb he uses for the immoral man indicates “ongoing sin” not “occasional”
-Unrepentant: “I don’t give a flip what you or God says.”
-Their pride was evidence of this attitude
-Public: It’s “out there” for others to observe
- In about persistent sin the church not in the world
The church, is to throw a flag on itself…not those who are not even on the team.
- It should not be easy for the church…discipline it is a costly form of relationship/discipleship
-When we have initiated the process…we have offered to pay the price to help people…money, time, effort.
- When(if they repent)…the process ends
*Welcome them back fully and freely.
5.For us If they leave the church…we pray…but the process ends because they have “de-churched” themselves.
“Okay…but…still…Jesus said “DON’T judge””
He did…in fact let’s read it.
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
Then he said…judge yourself (see the plank…symbolic for a large sin)
Why? So, you can see clearly enough to help someone out with a speck (a proportionately “smaller” sin)
This requires a “judgment” of sort…you have a speck; here’s how I can help you get rid of it.
“Judgement is service here”…a speck hurts…judge your own sin, so are positioned to help others be rid of theirs.
Jesus is not saying we can never call certain behavior wrong… “don’t judge anything”
He is specifically going after the petty, judgmental, quick to find fault attitude that was so prevalent then and now.
It’s about judging motives, and hearts, and even eternal destiny.
What Paul is describing in our chapter today and what Jesus describes in Matt 18…is an “others-centric, careful, redemptive…judgment of behavior.”
For the good of the person, for the health of the church, for the glory of God.
-Sin is bondage but it wants you to believe it represents human freedom (we will major on this next week)
-The church is precious and your involvement in it is super important and each of us contributes or takes away from it’s purity by our own choices. (we will get this later in the letter)
-Learn to love the church God has placed you in.
-“I’m not in one”. “Why not, that’s problematic…the church is essential for you.”
-Your heart will follow it’s investment…those who love the church…do so because they have invested time, talent, treasure in the church.
-If you do not love the church…a local church…it is because of a lack of investment.
-Church discipline is extremely rare…we have started the process maybe 3 times in 30 years.
-But the need to be in relationships where is there the freedom to give and receive scriptural correction is always there.
Are you in those kinds of relationships?
Will you take steps to enter into them if not?
Will you to continue to lean into them if you are?
Me and couple of good friends have recently “upped” the ante on honesty in our lives…it has been very helpful.
The gravitational pull of sin and apathy will move us, over time, down into less and less honesty and openness in our lives.
We must give full effort to escape this pull…and consistently and intentionally move into open and honest relationships with others.
“But do I have too?”
No, you don’t have too…but you can if you choose to.
And if we only saw as God sees…we would more consistently choose to.