That The Spirit Might Be Saved

Studies in First Corinthians – IX

In chapter five of First Corinthians, we come to a major sin issue that was infecting the Corinthian church. The church was tolerating the sin of a brother and it was destroying their testimony in the world. Not only that, but their tolerance exposed their pride in worldly wisdom and human philosophy. Rather than mourning the sin of their brother, they were patting themselves on the back for being “open minded.”

This was not simply a breakdown in the life of one individual, but the wide influence that sin was having on the life of the church that tolerated it. The purpose for which they existed, to reach the lost, was in danger of total collapse because of the sin they had allowed to remain in their midst.

Alan Redpath paraphrases Paul:

“And ye are puffed up,” Paul accuses them, “you are haughty and proud, so occupied with your discussions and theological arguments that you are closing your eyes to this terrible thing that is going on right in the very center of your church life.”

Paul makes it clear that the church should judge the sin of the offending Christian (5:3-5). We do not judge the world; God will take care of that judgement in the future. We do however judge the conduct (not motives or ministry) of those who are inside the church.

His words may seem harsh: “taken away from among you” (5:2), “deliver such an one unto Satan” (5:5), “purge out” (5:7), and “put away” (5:13). This was the action to be taken regarding the guilty party, however, he was not left to be abandoned. He was, after all, a sinner for whom Jesus had died. The remainder of verse five gives the goal: “To deliver such an one…for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.”

Church discipline is never easy but it is necessary to maintain our testimony in the world and to achieve its ultimate purpose — the salvation of the erring believer. According to 2 Corinthians 2, that is exactly what happened in this case.

If the church allows sin to remain, it paralyzes its witness, takes away the power, and removes the power of the Holy Spirit. An unholy church is a defeated church. The extent to which sin is permitted is the measure in which appetite for the Word of God will depart.

The Christian who is pure is powerful, but the man who is compromising is spiritually impotent. – Redpath

If the Sun is Still Shining…

You know that you should feel something and you wish that you could cry, but the tears stopped coming a long time ago. You are left with the emptiness of guilt, shame, and remorse that is the result of a struggle with sin. As you attempt to stand from your latest fall, you can’t help but wonder, “How can something so empty be so heavy?” Maybe you have sinned too much, gone too far, fallen too low, or just made an unforgivable mistake. “How could God love me?” you wonder, “Will He really forgive me?”

Let me tell you how you can find an answer to this question. Ask yourself, “Is the sun still shining?” If the answer is “yes,” then the answer is “YES!”

Photo by Denis Collette...!!!


Isaiah 31:35-37 (NLT) “It is the LORD who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves. His name is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, and this what he says: “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!” This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken!

This Scripture is even more amazing when you consider its context. It is surrounded by warnings from God through the Prophet Jeremiah that judgment and punishment is coming. God repeatedly warns His people that Babylon’s army is coming and their only options are to surrender and accept the punishment from the LORD or die.

These three verses shine a ray of hope onto a set of dark circumstances. In no way do they make light of sin, for the justified punishment from God will still come. But these verses are a reminder that any punishment and any consequences of sin we face before that final judgment are not for our destruction. Rather, if we submit to the correction of God, it will always bring us back into proper relationship with Him.

So you may be wondering if God will forgive you again. Ask yourself, “Is the sun still shining?”

I Call That Mercy

Once again, I was struck with the realization that what I call punishment God calls mercy. It has to do with the motivation of punishment. If you are a parent and you punish your child with the motivation being the child’s best interests, the child calls it punishment but you call it mercy. If your motivation is not the child’s best interests, the child calls it punishment and I call it abuse.

God does not abuse His children!

Photo by ZedZaP

Isaiah 57:14-21 gives us one of the most beautiful and poetic pictures of God’s mercy to the repentant and contrite of heart.

“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit.” (57:15)

“I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him…” (57:18)

I will “restore comforts to him and to his mourners.” (57:18) *What a great promise for those of you that are praying for a backslidden loved one.

These verses are beautiful and their promises overflow with the hope of anyone who has ever fallen and stood back up. God forgives! I was encouraged as I read these words today, but then my eyes fell on the final verses of the chapter.

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.” (57:20-21)

I read that and call it punishment, until I understand His motive. There is no peace for the wicked, no peace in this world outside of Him. The purpose of the punishment is to direct us back to Him. I call that mercy.

This Hurts Him More Than It Hurts You

My Bible (ESV Study) has headings, or titles, throughout the text.  Leviticus 26 has two headings; Blessings for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience.  I found myself reading the section titled “Punishment for Disobedience” with much anticipation.  It goes something like this…

“But if you will not listen to me…I will set my face against you.” (Plus lots of other unpleasant punishments)
“Then if you [still] walk contrary to me…I will continue striking you.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“If by this discipline you are not turned to me…I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“But if in spite of this you will not listen to me…I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.” (And, yes, other unpleasant punishments)

It may seem strange to you, and it did to me, that each time the Lord punished Israel for their sin I felt extremely relieved.  Relieved?  Yes, relieved.  I wondered why I felt so relieved.  The reason came to me.  I was relieved because each time I read the words, “If you continue to sin,” I was fully expecting to read that God was going to take His presence away.  And I realized in that moment how merciful God was being even in these harsh punishments.

You see, there is something far worse than the punishment and correction of God.  What if He left?  What if He gave up on you?

If we have heard it once, we have heard it a thousand times, God punishes those whom He loves.  But this passage (and my expectations) revealed to me just how merciful God is when He punishes us instead of leaving us.

It will not always be the case.  There will be a separating, a judgement, but until that day every punishment from the hand of God is an act of mercy trying to guide you back to proper relationship and obedience to Him.

And yes, it hurts Him more than hurts you.

Oh, How He Loves Us!

P.S.  When I ran spell check on this, it asked me if I meant “presents” rather than “presence” when I said that I was expecting God was going to take His presence away.  No, that is not what I meant.  My version is a much more terrifying prospect…for some.

God Wants You To Eat Your Vegetables

“If it tastes good, spit it out!” said the 70+ year old man who pulls his SUV around for a workout.  I saw his story on the news a few months back (tried to find a clip, but couldn’t come up with anything…sorry).  He and is wife are both over 70, yet they are in incredible physical shape.  They both practice a form of primitive workout and diet.  Their exercises resemble tasks that primitive man would have done; chase supper, kill supper, drag supper home.  Their diet consists only of things that primitive man would have eaten; no tv dinners, no frozen pizzas, no processed food period! (Sounds like no fun to me).

I kind of laughed when he said, “if it tastes good, spit it out,” but I think he was serious.  Now obviously this is a little extreme, but he has a point.  We always want the goodies, but we need something that is good for us (physically and spiritually).  And what is good for us is not always what tastes the best.  In fact, sometimes it tastes downright awful.  And sorry Mary Poppins fans, good lessons don’t always come with a spoon full of sugar; but they are good for us in the end.

So what’s my point?  Thanks for asking.  If you have a pastor that will preach the Truth to you in love without sugar-coating it, be thankful that someone cares enough about you to make you eat your vegetables.  If God is correcting you because of some sin in your life, don’t be angry; “for the Lord reproves him whom he loves” (Proverbs 3:12).  He is making sure you get the stuff that will make you strong.  He could just give you the stuff that tastes good, but with out good nutrition, you will die.

Now stop scooping those veggies to the dog under the table…eat up, it will make you strong! 🙂