CHANGED BY JESUS
- Pastor Mark Driscoll
- 1 Corinthians 6:1-11
- March 26, 2006
Father God, as always, I thank you for the Scriptures. I thank you that you love us and care for us, and you’ve allowed us to be a church that gets to study the Scriptures together. As we study, we invite the Holy Spirit to inform us through the Scriptures that he inspired to be written, and we ask that you would make us a people that would be pleasing to you and profitable to our city. For that to occur, we ask that as we study, we would see the person and the work of the Lord Jesus, and that we would love him and serve him. And it’s in his name we pray. Amen.
Well, we’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians on just different ways to jack up a perfectly good church. Last week we learned that making out with your mom isn’t good – still true. And in the coming weeks we’ll deal with tongues and women in ministry and getting drunk and prophecy and just all kinds of craziness. This week one of the things we’ll learn is that Corinthians is not an idealistic book; it’s an intensely realistic book. It acknowledges that Christians that live in community together are going to occasionally have conflict and disagreement.
And this is oftentimes actually of a litigious nature, whereby as Christians, as a church, we like to do business together. Which means, for example, me, I’ve bought a home from someone in this church, and I’ve sold a home to someone in this church. I’ve rented to people in this church. I bought a car from someone in this church. I’ve had people do work on our house that go to this church. And this is what happens; we like to hire each other, help each other, because if you’ve got a business or a skill or a talent, or you’re a carpet-layer and I need carpet, or whatever it might be.
God’s people – it’s a good thing for us to do business together and help one another out so that you can feed your family and they could feed their family. But what if someone doesn’t do a good job, doesn’t follow through, doesn’t meet expectations, doesn’t complete the work, or doesn’t get paid for the work they did do – what then? How should Christians respond, particularly when something has gone wrong in a business sense with another Christian in their church?
We have between 80 and 90 million lawsuits filed every year in this country. 70 percent of the world’s lawyers are in America. 50,000 more are being added every year. The litigious nature of our society does creep into the church. It also happened in Paul’s church in Corinth, where the Christians were all suing each other. You can imagine that makes for a very unhappy church. Everybody gets together and they’re all tied up in litigation, you know. It’s hard to be in that Bible study, you know. “Please pray for my court case.” “Yeah, mine too.” You know? “They sued me.” “I counter-sued them. Thank you, Jesus.”
It makes for a very awkward prayer meeting when everybody’s got a suit and a counter-suit and is walking around with a video camera trying to get evidence for the hearing, and that was what was going on in Corinth. Everybody’s tied up in litigation. And it happens in this culture as well, in our day, where one of the worst things that can happen to you is you get rich and somebody finds out, because people try to get rich by robbing from the rich through the court system. So you own 100 million bucks; somebody tries to, sue you for 10 million – I’ve seen this before.
And then what happens is they know that it’s gonna cost a million dollars to defend yourself, even from a frivolous lawsuit, so they know you’ll settle for maybe 500,000 just to save half a million bucks in court costs. So they and their ambulance-chasing attorney can make half a million bucks and split it; even if it’s a frivolous case, because it’s cheaper than going to court – which makes me wish we had a legal system where if you bring a case and lose, you have to pay for the defense of the person that you brought the case against; that would greatly reduce frivolous litigation.
Nonetheless, what was going on in Corinth was like that. People saying, “You’re rich. I’m gonna sue you.” And you’re like, “Yeah, but I’m your deacon.” “Well, cool – then you can’t sue me, because Christians aren’t supposed to go to court.” And that’s kinda what’s going on in Corinth. Everybody’s suing each other and going to court. And so the question is: when you have a conflict with a fellow Christian, particularly in the church, how do you deal with it? How do you resolve it? And this text, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, has been widely abused. So we’re gonna read it very carefully and pay careful attention to the heart of what Paul is seeking to say.
First thing he says is that Christians within a church should try to resolve disputable secondary matters between themselves, not rush off to court, okay? “If any of you” – verse 1 – “has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?” First thing he says is if you and another Christian in the church have got some sort of disagreement, particularly of a business nature, before you just run off to the non-Christian judge and ask him, what’s holy – and he doesn’t know – then the two of you should try and bring it before a saint.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “Well, aren’t all the saints dead guys?” If you were raised Catholic like me, the saints are all dead guys. But when the Bible uses the word “saint” it just means somebody who loves Jesus, right? So here let’s say there’s a guy named Hank, and he’s a plumber, and he loves Jesus. He’s Saint Hank, the patron saint of sinners. He’s cool to get in the middle of this and help sort this out. We don’t need the judge – plumber Hank will do just fine. “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” At the end, you and I are gonna work with Jesus to judge the world.
“And if you are to judge the world, are you not confident to judge trivial cases?” We’re gonna hang a lot on that word “trivial”, okay? We’ll come back to that, but in the reading of this, when you miss that clause, that caveat, it changes everything, so we need to make special note of it. “Do you not know that we will judge the angels?” That’ll be cool, you know – angels and demons, we’ll judge them as well, at the end of time. “How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!”
They don’t need to be a professional, attorney. They need to love the Lord, have a sense of justice, impartiality, Biblical knowledge, filled with the Holy Spirit, maybe the spiritual gift of wisdom – they’ll be fine. “I say this to shame you.” He says previously, “I don’t mean to shame you.” Here he says, “I certainly mean to shame you – what you’re doing is shameful. You should be ashamed.” “Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers?” Part of the problem in the church is that there are a bunch of arrogant people, and they think they’re really wise. But on this count he says, “Well, if there’s some dispute, if you’re all so smart and wise can’t you untangle a few conflicted knots? I mean, can’t you settle a few cases between people?”
Let me back up and summarize what Paul’s saying. First thing he’s saying is that a Christian and a Christian that have a conflict, if it is a disputable matter, a secondary matter, a trivial matter, they should not rush off to court. They should agree on an independent third-party mediator or arbitrator to come in between them and work out the difference. The court systems actually use arbitrators and mediators to try and work out differences, and Christians should do the same. There’s mediation and arbitration Christian groups that actually do this.
Paul says as much as possible Christians and churches should try and do business like that. Simple, clean, arbitrated, mediated – as much as possible, keep it clean – on trivial matters, right? We would call this, legally, civil matters. I’ll give you examples. You are doing a real estate transaction with somebody in the church. You’re selling them a home, and you’re cutting them a good deal because you love them, and you’re trying to help them get relocated. But the way the deal goes through, they don’t pay you everything that they said they would. What do you do about that?
Well, you bring somebody else in who’s Godly, and you say, “Do we both agree to give them our case and then do what they tell us?” “Yeah.” So then you bring in a Godly real estate agent, or mortgage broker, or banker, finance person, somebody who understands these things, and you let them look at the facts and then make a judgment. And you say, “Well, we’ll live with that, and we’ll do it.” Maybe somebody sells you a car, and they say, “It’s a good runner, and I promise you it’ll run, and if anything happens in the first three months I’ll cover it. And I just want you to feel good.” You drive it away and it blows up.
You go back and say, “It blew up.” And they say, “Psych – I’m not gonna cover it.” You say, “Well, you know what, you gave me your word.” Then we’re gonna get a mediator. Maybe you hire somebody in the church to do a remodel project on your house, and they don’t finish the job. Or maybe you sell somebody the car, and you say, “Well, I understand, brother, you can’t afford it, so you just make me payments, and we’ll call it good,” and they don’t pay you. Or maybe you’re 27 guys living in a studio apartment – like some of you are – and in the middle of the night 26 of you move out and still the one guy with the electric bill in the end. And he’s like, “Hey, no fair!”
Well then, you bring somebody in. You bring your Bible study leader in; you bring somebody Godly in to mediate the difference. Those are trivial matters. Most of the church’s conflicts are trivial matters. Weighty matters – totally different story. Treason, Al Qaeda, you know, terrorism and stuff – we don’t do that, right? Like if you come home, and your roommate’s like got big posters of Osama Bin Laden, is cooking meth, and there’s a lot of ticking things in your room, you know, call somebody with a gun, right? Don’t call us. Call somebody else. Don’t call your Bible study leader. “Susie, I think he’s an Al Qaeda. We need a mediator.”
No, no, no, You need the Army; that’s what you need. You need the Army. Get some guy with face paint and a gun who jumps out of a helicopter onto your dorm – get that guy, right? Those are weighty matters, you know. So the church, there are certain things we should just punt – like, “That’s a terrorist, That’s all you.” So he’s talking about smaller matters, and most of the time among Christians it is smaller matters. It’s things that are some money or some inconvenience, but really, running off to court, jamming up the court’s time, probably not appropriate.
That being said, he’s saying that initially Christians should try and resolve their differences among one another in a respectable, honorable, non-secular court way. But let me give some clarifying points on where I believe Paul is going with this, and some things he’s not saying. Let me get some water real quick. I want you to balance 1 Corinthians 6 with Romans 13. 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 must be balanced with Romans 13:1-7. Those who don’t do this end up making some real mistakes. Romans 13:1-7, there Paul also writes and says that God helps to institute secular government and law, and that he works for justice through secular courts, through secular governments, and through secular law.
So what he is saying there is that it is okay, and we should obey the state, and obey the laws, and be law-abiding good citizens. Here he’s saying if it’s Christian to Christian we should try and not burden the secular court. We should take care of our own affairs in as much as we possibly can, so balancing this with Romans 13:1-7, that God also works through secular law courts, cops, jails and such – let me give a few clarifying points. First, like I said, that larger matters are fit for the secular court. Treason, murder, rape – those are criminal activities. And the church tends to deal with sins, not crimes, and I need you to see the distinction, okay?
If a crime is committed, call the proper authorities. If a sin is committed, they won’t come. If you call 911, “They gossiped! Come over right now!” they’ll be like, “They what?” “It says in Proverbs gossip is bad. They totally gossiped. Hurry!” They’re not coming, right? You’re on your own. You’re totally on your own, right, and you can’t file a suit because of adultery or fornication or porn addiction or drunkenness, because those are not crimes. Those are sins, right? So a lot of things only fit in the church because we deal with sins. Other things fit in the courts because they’re crimes.
You need to see a distinction between sins and crimes. You call the cops if it’s a crime. You call a mediator or an arbitrator or the church if it’s a sin. And you’ve got to distinguish those. Also, this does not give the church to cover up crimes. I mean, it’s shocking that I need to say that, but some churches do say, “Well, if a Christian did it, then we’ll deal with it, and we’re not gonna notify the authorities.”
Because then they could continue to do it. They can move to another parish. They can quit their job, go to work elsewhere, and there’s more victims. It’s not just about covering Christians; it’s about protecting victims. God is a God of justice; he doesn’t just want us to cover crimes. And I’ve seen some churches – in the name of protecting their own – actually harbor sexual offenders, rapists, pedophiles, that in no way should be protected. They should be handed over to the proper authorities, because their victims need help. The children need counseling. The families need to be notified. They need to be registered as a sex offender if they’re a rapist or a pedophile for the protection of others.
I’ve seen some churches say, “We’ll deal with it internally,” and then all of a sudden the person moves out of town, goes somewhere else, and just continues their long trail of victims, because the authorities were never notified. That is completely unacceptable. I think confidentiality for churches is just completely overrated. We make you sign a no confidentiality clause, which means if you come in and say, “I’m doing something really bad. You can keep a good secret, right?” “Oh, no. No. It’s no secret. We don’t keep a secret.”
If you come in and say, “I molest children,” we’re not gonna keep a secret. If you come in and say, “I’m stalking a woman in the church, and I’m thinking I’m gonna do something evil,” we’re telling her, right? I mean, that’s the way it has to be, and we get these things all the time. I’ve sat down with guys who were registered sex offenders, dating a girl. “Have you told her you’re a registered sex offender?” “Uh, no.” “Are you gonna?” “No – she’ll dump me.” “Duh! But she has that right, right? She has the right to know that.” “Well, you can’t tell her!” (Snickers) “Yes, I can – and I will.”
“Then I’ll sue you.” “Cool. Feel free. We’ve got a whole church full of attorneys. I don’t care. Whatever – you know. I don’t care. I’m gonna tell her.” I mean, and not to make light of it, but it’s like we’re not gonna allow women, children to get hurt. We’re not gonna allow crimes to be committed in the name of keeping a secret, because, justice is important. I mean, I had one guy – years ago – come in. “I commit a lot of adultery. I think I’ve gotten a sexually transmitted disease. Don’t tell my wife, but do be praying for me.” “I’m telling your wife!” “Well, she won’t be happy.”
“Of course not – she needs to go get checked.” “Well, you can’t do that. You’re a pastor. You’re supposed to be confidential.” “No – I’m not just your pastor. I’m your wife’s pastor too. I mean, you need help.” “Well, I didn’t commit a crime.” “You did commit a sin. You sinned against your wife, and your wife deserves to know the truth. And let’s hope and pray you haven’t already given her something.” And people love to play this game where they come in and dump their stuff on Christians and then want to cover up their crimes, feeling like, “Well, I said I’m sorry. That’s good enough.”
No. That’s not what he’s talking about. Romans 13 says you obey the government, right? If there’s child abuse or molestation or rape – a crime’s being committed – notify the authorities. And obey the government – God works through the government as well.
And this clause in 1 Corinthians 6 is an attempt not to burden the secular authorities; it’s not an excuse to ignore the secular authorities. There’s a great distinction. Additionally, this does not forbid Christians from suing non-Christians. I’ve seen this sometimes too. You know, you hire a non-Christian to work on your house, and they tear the roof off and disappear with your money. You’re looking up going, “I see the Lord, which is nice, but it’s getting wet.” You know, and you go to sue them, they say, “You can’t sue me – you’re a Christian.”
You say, “Well, but I don’t have a roof. I had to sue you, or you could put the roof on.” But sometimes you have to sue – you’ve been ripped off, you’ve been taken advantage of. Somebody’s reneged on a business deal. You went into a business partnership with somebody who is not a Christian and they took money or did great damage, and legally they’ve committed crimes – then pursue legal recourse, absolutely. That’s okay. Again, Romans 13: if a crime’s been committed, obey the law, use the judicial system. Also, this does not mean that a Christian can never sue another Christian.
I think what Paul is talking about is first trying to work it out, and last resort – if absolutely necessary – you end up in secular court. We’ll deal with some qualifiers for that in my next point, but there may be a point where you and another alleged Christian go into business. They rip you off. They take advantage of you. They steal from you. They do something that’s illegal. You have the right to seek legal recourse. And this does not mean that if a non-Christian sues a Christian that you can’t defend yourself. I had one guy, he was getting sued.
He comes to me, he says, “Man, I really wish I could get an attorney. I’m like, “Why?” “I’m being sued.” “You do need an attorney.” He said, “Well, I’m a Christian. I thought we were not supposed to go to court.” I said, “Dude, you’re going to court no matter what! They’re suing you, right? Like if somebody punches you in the mouth, put your hands up. You gotta get some defense here.” He said, “Well, it’s okay to get an attorney?” “You better get an attorney.” I said, “Did you do this?” He said, “No. I think they’re just trying to squeeze me for money.” “Well then, defend yourself.”
Because if the word got out, “Hey, sue the Christians. They don’t get attorneys because they don’t like to go to court,” it wouldn’t go so good for us, right? Like we’d be getting sued all the time, and it would lead to injustice. And our God is a God of justice. So his first point is, I think, essentially, if there’s a Christian in the church on a secondary, disputable, trivial, more minor case or infraction, they deal with it internally through a mediator or arbitrator.
Secondly, that Christians should, however, when they decide to pursue arbitration, mediation or secular jurisprudence, they should first consider what is in the best interest of the Gospel, and how this will reflect on Jesus and their church. It says in verse 6: “But instead, one brother goes to court against another” – one Christian is suing another Christian – “and this is in front of unbelievers!” Paul says this is not a good witness, right? Deacon Dan and small group leader Sally go to court, cussing each other out, fighting, pulling hair, going total Jerry Springer.
The non-Christian’s up there going, “Would you Christians knock it off?” That’s a bad witness; that’s a bad, bad, bad witness, when Christians are just maligning one another, and the non-Christian has to get in and sort out the mess. Paul says that’s not a good witness. “The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have already been completely defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers,” to your sisters, to the other Christians.
Here’s what he’s saying: before you pursue arbitration, mediation, or you pursue legal means in the secular court, the first thing you say is, “At what cost will I pursue this?” Not just financially, but what will this do to my friendship with this Christian? What will this do to the witness of the Gospel? What will this do to our church? What will this do to the name of Jesus? How will this appear outside of our church to the non-Christian friends, family, media – whomever might be involved? And you look at it, and you say, “Is it worth it?”
Now, there may be times you say, “You know what, the best thing for the name of Jesus here is to take this to court, because crimes have been committed. Justice needs to come. God’s people need to stand up for that which is right.” I’ll give you one case historically – slavery, where it was a lot of Christians who stood up and said legally, slavery is wrong. And we’re gonna fight. We’re gonna fight legally. We’re gonna fight for change. And we say okay, good. That was a good demonstration of the love of Jesus. So sometimes going to court is the best way to show the loving justice of Jesus Christ.
Other times you look at it and you say, “You know, this just isn’t worth it, because if I go to court, what I’m bound to get – even if I win – is going to so harm the church, the name of Jesus, the reputation of the Gospel, that it’s not just about me. It’s about him, and us, and it’s just not worth it.” I’ll give you some examples – most of the business transactions that I’ve had with Christians, to be honest, have been wonderfully good. Every time I’ve been in some sort of business transaction with a Christian, I’ve always tried to do something to make it worth their while. They’ve always tried to do something to make it worth my while, kinda. You know, we love and help each other.
There have been a few occasions where I felt like things weren’t handled all that well. And at the end it was like, “You know, I could push it. I could go to suit. I could make a little more money on this deal, could get a little more favor my direction, but at what cost?” If this is a Christian, and a friend, and they’re in the church, and their pastor sues them, that’s always weird, you know, to get sued by your pastor. I mean, that really alters the relationship pretty substantially. So it’s like you know what, I’m gonna eat it. So there’s been a few occasions where I’ve eaten some dollars.
You know what – that’s okay. That’s okay, because at the end of the day the friendship, the reputation of Jesus, the well-being of the church, that’s more important on some cases. Not all – but on some. And what Paul is saying here is before we pursue litigation we ask, “Is this what’s best? Is this really what I should be doing? Not just that I’m angry or mad or bitter, that I’m greedy, or I’m power-hungry, or I want to get my vengeance, but is this really best, for me to pursue this against this other professing Christian?” Sometimes yes, sometimes no, but that’s a prayerful, careful issue of discernment.
Third point: Christians ultimately accept that in this fallen, sinful world, things are wrong, go bad, and that you’re not gonna get perfect justice, because nobody’s omniscient. They don’t know everything like God. Nobody’s completely impartial, like God. Nobody’s fully just, like God. So whether it’s an arbitrator, mediator, church discipline case, secular court, there will be occasions – sadly – of injustice. So what do you do? You wait for that last judgment; that day at the end where Jesus calls it all like it is and straightens out all that’s been made crooked, and you finally get your day in court.
So he goes on, verse 9: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Here’s what he says: if somebody keeps sinning, don’t worry, they’ll go to hell. And you say, “Oh, well, it looks like now they’re just getting away with it, but apparently they’re not getting away with anything,” right? It’s like they’re just stacking up all of their reasons for condemnation, and then there’ll be a final sentencing before Jesus in the end. So he says, “Do not be deceived” – and some of you, I’m afraid, are deceived. You say, “I’m a Christian.”
You may not be a Christian if you practice a life of habitual unrepentant sin. And he gives a list of examples of sinful behavior that is incongruent with Christian living, and you can’t be both; you must be one or the other. What he’s saying is this: if you’re a real Christian, you’ll experience life change, right? It’s like how do you know that’s an apple tree? It’s got apples. How do you know that’s a cherry tree? It’s got cherries. How do you know that’s a duck? It floats. Well, it doesn’t float. Well then, it’s not a duck.
How do you know that’s a Christian? They live a holy life, repentant of sin. They’ve changed. Well, what if you’ve never changed? Well, then you never knew Jesus, and you’re going to hell, because Jesus changes people. Here’s what he says: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Verse 9 – “Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral” – he goes through a long list of people who are going to hell; people who are continually, habitually sexually immoral.
And this is fornicators, people who are sleeping with one another before marriage. This is friends with benefits. This is pornography, strip club. This is whatever – it’s kind of a junk-drawer word for all kinds of sexual sin. You say, “But I’m a free-spirited Christian.” No, you’re a free-spirited going-to-hell guy. That’s all we got for you. “Nor idolaters,” which is one of the Commandments, meaning you love someone more than Jesus. You see to make them happy instead of Jesus. You seek to please them instead of Jesus. Something is more important to you than Jesus; that your highest allegiance, your greatest joy, your deepest devotion, your most profound treasure, is not Jesus. It’s something or someone else.
This could be a sports team, a gal, a nice guy, a new car, a cool hobby, a income, a house, even a dog or a cat can be an idol that becomes the sum total center of your world to the degree that you’re not able to really connect with God, because this other god has gotten in the way and is taking all your time, and your energy, and your money, and it’s the center of your life. He says those people don’t know God, and they’re not gonna be with him forever. “Nor adulterers” – these are people who are married and then commit infidelity outside of their marriage covenant.
This would include people who are married, get their eye on somebody else, divorce that person so they can run off with this other person. That includes that as well. We’ll deal with adultery a little more in 1 Corinthians 7. “Nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders” – I’ve got the verses in your notes. The debate on homosexuality today is very intense, but it’s also very clear in Scripture.
They’re rebelling against God’s intention of one man, one woman, one flesh. That was God’s intention.
He goes on. You say, “Well, is he picking on gays?” No, he’s picking on everybody, right? He just got dudes that are sleeping with their girlfriend and looking at porn. He got, gals who love their shoes more than Jesus. I mean, he’s getting everybody on this deal. I’ll just keep going – “Nor thieves,” right? People who are ripping other people off. Scam artists, con artists, the guy who says, “I want a down payment to do work on your car or house,” and doesn’t do the job. The person who breaks into your house, breaks into your car.
The person who, you know, is shorting you on your salary. Thieves – just crooked people always trying to make a buck in an inappropriate, dishonest way. “Nor the greedy” – right, greedy – sometimes we think of greed as just a corporate thing, but greed is also a personal thing. And sometimes it comes out just as being cheap, right? And the truth is you either love people, and use money, or you love money, and use people. Greed is when you love money and use people.
ne of the heartbreaking examples – it’s kind of basic, but I know this daddy who’s going to California with his little girl – cute little girl. They’re gonna be right near Disneyland. Of course, daughter says, “I want to go to Disneyland,” you know? And he says, “No. It costs a lot of money.” Now, I could understand if dad didn’t have any money – but dad’s got money. Money’s not really the issue. He’s just cheap; he’s greedy. So he looks at his little girl and says, “No, we’re not going to Disneyland.”
You take her to Disneyland, you get her a princess outfit, and you get her a crown, and you get her some mouse ears, and you get her a Slurpee, and you get her some cotton candy. And she’ll be in the happiest place on earth, and when you die, you can go to the happiest place outside of earth. Otherwise, it’s gonna stink for you, because you’re greedy, right? If you really are a Christian, you say, “Man, I want to have good memories with my daughter. I want to help my friends. I want to be generous and kind. I’m not greedy. I’m not a lover of money. I love people, and I use money. I don’t use people, and love money.”
Greed – greed is not fit for God’s people. Sex before marriage, pornography, homosexuality, thievery, is not fit for God’s people, nor is – he goes on to say – “drunkards.” Alcoholics, drug addicts, right? People who are habitually unrepentant; don’t get help, don’t want help, just keep drinking, just keep smoking, just keep shooting, because their god is their substance. Also “nor slanderers” – people who rip other people and just love to speak trash against others.
“Nor swindlers” – people who are always working a deal – part of the thievery and greed – always just making everything work out to their benefit, taking advantage of the kindness of others, particularly in the church. None of them, he says, “will inherit the kingdom of God.” Such people go to hell. Now, you may be deceived here, saying, “But I’m a Christian pervert con artist” – no, you’re not. No, you’re not. “Are you judging me?” Totally. Now – you’re not, because again, if you are Christian, you repent of sin, and you see life-change.
You can’t say, “Well, I had this sin, and then I met Jesus.” “What happened?” “Nothing.” “Then you didn’t meet Jesus, because Jesus changes people. That’s gonna be his next and last point. So if you’re here today, and you haven’t seen any life change, you must ask yourself, “Am I self-deceived? Do I really know Jesus? If I know Jesus is God, who lived without sin as my example, died for my sin as my substitute, and rose to be Lord over my life and oversee my money, and my sex, and my friendships, and my mouth, and all of it, and I don’t honor him, obey him, don’t listen to him, and do what I please, do I really think that he wants me in his kingdom?”
And some of you say, “Well, shouldn’t God take everybody to Heaven?” No, you wouldn’t be happy at all. You and I would be absolutely bummed, right, if like we died and woke up in Detroit. We would just be like, “What the heck? What the heck? Jesus, come on!” He’d be like, “Everybody got to come, just like you wanted.” Like, “I got shot in Heaven, right? Somebody jacked my car in Heaven. This is not Heaven. This is Detroit. I was hoping for more. I’m woefully disappointed.” See we do this thing where we want everybody to go to Heaven, but if they hate Jesus, won’t obey, don’t listen, do whatever they want, we wouldn’t want them there in the first place.
So we’re just totally conflicted and hypocritical. Those who obey Jesus get to be in the kingdom. Those who don’t obey Jesus don’t get to be in the kingdom. Are you saved by your works? No, but if Jesus has saved you, your life reflects love of Jesus as highest priority. His last point, then, is that true Christians experience real-life transformation. He says, verse 11, “And that is what some of you” – what’s the word? Love the word! “Were.” Right? So let’s say – let’s just be honest. Don’t raise your hand until the end – otherwise people will know what you’ve been doing.
But how many of you have been sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves, greedy, alcoholics, drug addicts, slanderers, swindlers? How many of you, before meeting Jesus, or you met Jesus and he’s been working on you, and that’s what you used to do? Raise your hand – be honest. Okay, the rest are lying, which didn’t make the list, but also counts, right? That’s all of us, right? We all sinned, and then we meet Jesus. And he tells us to repent, we repent, he sends the Holy Spirit to change us, we change. It doesn’t mean we’re sinless and perfect, but it does mean we’re different. And we see ongoing, continual change in our life behavior patterns; that’s the way it works.
So if you come in here and you say, “Well, I’m sexually active, and I rip people off,” well, join the rest of us. Repent, give your life to Jesus, have him change you, and stop doing that. And if you become a Christian, go back to those people that you’ve ripped off, stolen from, had sex with, taken advantage of, and apologize, and make recompension. Make it right. Say, “You know, I ripped you off. Here’s the money.” “What happened?” “I met Jesus.” “Oh.” “And he said I need to make it right. I’ve done wrong. I lied to you. I hurt you. I’m sorry.”
This is where we apologize to people. We ask their forgiveness. We make right the wrongs that we have done. And occasionally, when people rip us off or take advantage of us, we – if it is worthwhile – we take the loss. And they say, “Why did you do that?” We say, “It’s grace. See, God’s been gracious to me. I’m being gracious to you. I could take you to court. I could sue you. I could make it real miserable. Here’s what you get: grace. I forgive you. I love you. I care more about you than this issue. I just don’t want anything to get between you, see, and Jesus, so I’m gonna take the loss and love you, and I’m gonna let it go. You do what you want to do.”
See, we’re giving room for God to work in people’s hearts and lives. And it doesn’t mean that we never pursue litigation. It doesn’t mean that we never pursue justice. Sometimes we must, but we’re always thinking what is gonna help people see Jesus, have their lives changed by Jesus? What would be best for this person in relationship to Jesus? Sometimes it’s justice. Sometimes it’s forgiving grace and long-suffering mercy. Because Paul says that’s what some of us were. We were all in our sin. Jesus loved and saved us. When we meet people that are in their sin, we need to love them in hopes that Jesus will save them.
He goes on to say, “But you were washed” – cleaned up. Jesus took away all the filth – “sanctified” – ongoing life of relationship with Jesus where he keeps working on us, because we’re all a work in process. “Justified” – declared righteous in the eyes of God by the substitutionary death and literal resurrection of our Lord God and Savior, Jesus Christ – made friends with God “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This all happens through Jesus, who then sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and empower and enable us to say “no” to sin, “yes” to God; to live a life of repentance, transformed, changed, so that we know we’re not perfect, but we are day by day being made to be more like Jesus.
That’s the point. Now, at first glance, as I was studying this text, it was sort of confusing because it’s like, don’t abuse the court system, and stop being a pervert and ripping people off. And I think here is where Paul is going. What he’s saying is that the Christians in the church are so mired in their conflict and in their argument that they’ve lost sight of their whole mission. And what he is reminding them is this: that if you need courts and judges and cops and prisons and attorneys and guns, you’re not being good Christians.
And I would break it down for you this way: some will say, “We need more cops. We need more CPS workers. We need more divorce courts. We need more battered women’s shelters. We need more rehab clinics. We need more patrol officers. We need more prisons.” I’ll tell you what we need: more Spirit-filled, obedient Christians. That’s what we need. That’s what we need, because if you’re a Spirit-filled, obedient Christian, you don’t need the cops to come get you; you’re not doing anything. You’re sitting there reading your Bible. They come, “What are you doing?” “Praying.” “Okay, cool.”
You don’t need the breathalyzer, because you’re not ever drunk, and you’re not drinking and driving. You don’t need the rehab bed, because you’re not doing drugs. You don’t need the battered women’s shelter, because you don’t beat your wife. You don’t need CPS to come check on you and your kids – they’re just watching Veggie Tales anyways – nothing to look at, right? You don’t need prisons to keep you from doing evil, because the Holy Spirit keeps you from doing evil. It’s not bars, but it’s conscience, and the grace of God, and the love of Jesus, and the fear of condemnation before a holy and righteous God that keeps you straight.
What that means is this: is that Christians, we shouldn’t be the ones that the cops are keeping an eye on. Now, we should be – should we be in prisons? Yeah, we should be there visiting the criminals, right? We shouldn’t be there because we’re the criminals. Should we be at the abused women’s shelter? Yeah, to serve the abused women – we shouldn’t be beating our women and putting them there. There should be no need for our women to go there, unless they want to go love and serve, which is absolutely right. A lot of the social service organizations are perfectly well and good.
Yeah, we need cops. We need attorneys. We need military. We need judges. We need shelters. We need rehab clinics. We need CPS. We need foster care. We need all of it. But God’s people shouldn’t be filling up those slots. They should be going there to serve the people who have filled up those slots, to love and help the people that are ensnared in the effects of sin. To love and to serve, to introduce them to Jesus, so that they might be filled with the Holy Spirit, that they might be governed by more than just fear of law and getting caught for a crime. Their greatest honor should be to live for Jesus and love him.
Because of that, he says, they’ll stop being perverts, and thieves, and alcoholics, and drug addicts, and murderers, and criminals. And some of us were that way, and we’re not anymore, which is just ample evidence that this is, in fact, true, because it’s happened to thousands of us in this church, and millions, if not billions, of us across the globe. What we used to do, we’re not doing. Some of you say, “But what about all those Christians that continue to do all these things?” Paul says perhaps they’re deceived, and they’re not really Christians.
There’s a lot of people who say they’re a Christian, and they’re not. That’s why a lot of the hammering that comes on the church, saying, “You’re all hypocrites.” Well, we’re not all Christians. Some of us are lying, or deceived. Just like when you look at Jesus and his 12 disciples, there was Judas on the team, who looked like he was on the team but was ripping off Jesus and didn’t love him. There’s always a few Judases in the bunch, but don’t negate the whole bunch for the work of one Judas, right? In this church, there are people who love God and are living new lives. There are people who aren’t living new lives – which indicates that they don’t love God.
And in the end, God will judge and God will sort it all out, and there’ll be justice, Heaven and hell, at the end. In the middle, what Paul is saying is this: you and I need to think about our witness. That’s what he’s saying. Because the world is watching, and the city is watching, and the non-Christians are watching. And if we can’t even manage our own affairs, how in the world would we walk up to somebody and say, “Do you want to come to my church? Jesus changes people.” They say, “Well, I thought you were suing the people in your church, and fighting and arguing. You’re always slandering them and having sex with them and ripping them off.
“What are you talking about, ‘Jesus changes people’ – you’re a wreck!” You say, “Yeah, you’re right. I have a bad witness. I’ve ruined my reputation. I’ve ruined the reputation of Jesus, and that is what I should be primarily concerned about.” So for those of you who are employers, this is what it means: treat your employees well. Be someone of integrity in your work. If you’re an employee, do your job well. Serve well, especially if you tell them, “I’m a Christian.” If you pull out your Bible at lunch, then show up early. Stay late. Do your job. Shut your mouth. Get it done. Deliver results if you want to read your Bible at lunch time, okay?
If you’re a person who puts a fish on your business card, then do your job really well. Deliver results on time. Don’t overbill. Don’t take advantage. Don’t take advantage of the fact that someone hired you because they thought you were a Christian. They gave you a measure of trust, and then you abuse that.
And this even comes down to how we just treat other people. And for example, if you go out to dinner after church, or lunch after church, and you sit at a booth, and you take it up forever. And you’re praying and thanking Jesus, and talking about how much my sermons stink and stuff – which I know a lot of you do. That’s cool. Then when you leave, tip well, right, because the city’s going, “Okay, these Christians, they roll in on Sunday. They take the booth for an hour and a half. And they leave a tract that says, ‘Do you want to go to Heaven with us?’” And the issue is, “I don’t want to go anywhere with you. You guys are cheap, and I hate you.”
So be good, you know? I mean, be good. Leave a good reputation. Leave a good legacy. If you’re gonna pray or crack your Bible, tithe to the church and give generously to the restaurant or the coffee shop. Be a good witness, right? Even if you’re in a business relationship, someone is unhappy. You realize, “I could fight him, or I could eat a little bit,” just look at him and say, “You know what – you know I’m a Christian. Our friendship is important to me. I’m gonna eat the difference on this, just to show you that I love you and I care.”
And sometimes we do that, because what’s more important than money is people and what’s most important is what people think of Jesus. That’s what’s most important. And then we trust Jesus to make up the difference. And Paul is reminding his church, “Man, the whole city is watching, and you guys are an absolute abomination. You’re just a terrible witness. Suing each other, sleeping with each other, ripping each other off, taking advantage of one another, slandering one another – come on. The city’s watching.
The city’s looking. Because most Christians don’t look at our doctrinal statement; they look at our life, right? And they say, “Well, do I want to be like you or not? Okay, you got a great doctrinal statement. Are you a nice neighbor? Do you love me? Are you good to do business with? Are you an honest person of integrity?”
But from this point out, just be a good witness. Be a good employer. Be a good employee. Do your business well. If you’re working with Christians, sign contracts so there’s no confusion. Make it clean and clear. Get it down in writing. If you’re dealing with non-Christians, make sure that you’re doing everything you can to be a good witness; even if it’s just praying over your meal, make sure that you’re a good witness. And that’s what Paul is telling his church. We can get bogged down in just all this petty nit-picking and lose sight of the fact that there’s a whole city that doesn’t know Jesus.
They’re all watching us, and they want to see if we’re hypocrites, or if we really love our neighbor like Jesus told us to. That is why it all matters, because our whole life is part of our Christian faith, and our whole life is part of our Christian witness. And the whole city is watching; the whole city is watching. So we want to speak well, and we want to live well on behalf of the name of Jesus. For those of you that are here, and you’re not a Christian, this is where we give you a chance to respond.
You’ve gotta pick a team. You’ve gotta walk with Jesus or walk away from Jesus, but sin and Jesus are incompatible. You repent of sin, give yourself to Jesus. Let him be Lord and God, and live a life of holiness and obedience to him. Maybe you’re here and you’re Christian, and there’s things in your life you’ve gotta go back to people and say, “I owe you money. I ripped you off. I did this – I shouldn’t have done it. I shouldn’t have slept with you. I shouldn’t have lied. I’m asking your forgiveness. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”
Be about the work of the Gospel. Some of you are here today and you’ve lost money. You’ve lost a job. You’ve lost a promotion. You’ve been mistreated. And you haven’t responded with evil. You haven’t declared war. And you may be saying, “Am I vindicated today?” I want you to be encouraged, because like Jesus – Jesus was lied about, taken advantage of, murdered. Didn’t defend himself, get an attorney. Maybe in the name of Jesus you’re acting a little bit like Jesus, and you suffer a little bit for the cause of Christ. And that’s an honorable thing; it’s not a bad thing.
When you’re ready, you can partake of communion, which is remembering Jesus’ body and blood, shed for our sin. You can give of your tithes and offerings. Those two things are exclusively for Christians. If you’re not a Christian, we don’t want your money. Don’t partake of communion. We love you. It’s good to have you. And when you’re ready, we’ll sing and celebrate, and we’ll worship Jesus. Why – because that’s what some of us what? Were! Jesus is working on us. Things have changed. More things are changing. God is at work.
And the life we had is not the life we have, and is not the life we will have, and is not the eternal life that awaits us in God’s kingdom for those who trust in Jesus. I’ll pray. Lord Jesus, thank you for an opportunity to study your Word – a very practical, simple word about living life together as the Christian church in community. Jesus, I pray we would take care of each other; cut each other real estate deals, and do bartering of goods and services, and help one another to live a very holy and pleasing and good life. God, that’s what we want. As we do that, God, I pray there wouldn’t be conflict.
I pray there wouldn’t be division. But if and when it comes, I pray we would deal with it in a responsible way; that on trivial things we’d deal with them through a mediator, an arbitrator, a good, Godly third party. When crimes are committed I pray we would respect the law; that we’d be good citizens; that the police and the judges and the courts would know that we obey and respect the law. And God, I pray for us as a people, that above all else, when we go to make decisions on such matters that we would consider the reputation of our church and of our Lord Jesus; that we would do that which is best for his reputation in our city.
And I pray, God, that as others look at us – how we conduct our business, and our sexuality, and our finances, and our alcohol consumption, that they would see people who are governed by the Holy Spirit, that don’t have need of external laws because they’re guided internally by conscience and the Holy Spirit and the truths of Scripture.
And so, Jesus, may the city see your people, and as the city sees your people may they see Jesus and what he’s done to change them. We ask that in his name. Amen.