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Sunday Sermon

“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” I Corinthians 5:1-13

God will judge those outside, (but you need to…) "Expel the wicked person from among you."

Throw the immoral man out.  Paul was disgusted that the Christians in Corinth could not see the stupidity and danger of their inaction!  Then, as now, someone must have argued, “Who are we to judge”, but Paul quickly retorts: You are the body of Christ! You must make moral judgments on the external behavior of those that claim to have been reborn! Paul was not talking about a poor choice someone had made, or how someone had slipped and committed a minor offense, but someone was living in direct contradiction to God’s law and the very mores and standards of the day.  Why were the members of this church at Corinth (and why are we) afraid to confront sin?

Paul called for the church, the body of believers, to take action and remove fellowship from the offending brother.  He was having sexual relations with his own stepmother. It was wrong, of course, but you and I have seen and heard of even worse in churches today.

So, do we practice church discipline? Do we say, in effect, “you cannot be a part of our fellowship and live like that.”  Do you ever see this happen in the typical church today?  What about the mega churches?  What about the liberal churches? What about my church?

You don’t hear many sermons about this because we have become institutions.  We have bills to pay, salaries to compensate, overhead payments, mortgages, pension plans, cemeteries to keep up and expectations for the support of foreign and local missions. The last thing you want to do is offend those that support your bottom line!   And what’s worse, if the pastor, youth leader or a volunteer is bringing in crowds and is adored by the congregation we are loathe to confront their sins—-even if the sin  destroys another person’s life.

In our denomination, it’s a fact that hundreds of adults have now come forward to tell the media that dozens of Baptist pastors sexually assaulted them and no one would listen to them. They went to the newspapers because church leaders refused to act.  What a sad commentary on our ecclesiastical leaders.Our denomination’s leadership simply “wished the problem away” by ignoring it or claiming that they had no authority over individual congregations.  We have to change this mindset.  It took a while, but finally a new director  was brought into Leadership within the Southern Baptist Convention.    J. D. Greear, current president of the Convention, recently described the abuses "pure evil" and called for "pervasive change" within the denomination, including cooperation with local authorities on investigations and support for survivors. Greear also admitted the church's failure in listening to victims and addressing their concerns.   It’s about time….

Nothing is worse than the use of the name of Jesus to prey on the vulnerable, or to use religion to cover up such crimes.  We need to listen to those that have been hurt and get angry at those that would abuse anyone entrusted to them.

The great leaders of the church and prophets of old offended some of the folks at times by speaking truth—-that’s what preaching and being candid will do. John the Baptist told Herod the truth about his illegal marriage.  John was right and it cost him his life. The purpose of a sermon, or of leading a group of churches, should never be to hurt or turn folks away, but rather to bring healing and draw folks to Jesus. BUT, sometimes healing can only happen after the pain of surgery: you have to remove the tumor or cancer within you: folks can only be drawn to Him when those standing in the way are no longer being obstacles.  The cancer of sexual predatory behavior and sexual assault requires surgery, not just prayer. Remove the offender is what Paul would say were he standing here right now.

Are there problems like this still in our denomination?   Yes—and there always will be. But do we have sin within this fellowship? No, I don’t think so, but what should we do if a member or leader is found to be guilty of living in such a way that it betrays his/her loyalty to Jesus and the trust of the sheep and lamb that Jesus placed under their care?  We’ve got to be courageous.

We need to act like the Bride of Jesus Christ and address things that are patently wrong. Why haven't we in the past?  For many reasons, but none of the reasons are valid.  But in the first place, churches should not deal with issues like this in darkness.  Hiding things that have been done that are immoral or illegal is wrong and not talking about it is destructive to our integrity as a church and denomination.  We can’t hide this.

We also seem to be intimidated by powerful leaders or pastors and volunteers—we allow people to bully us.   We must  courageously confront things that are wrong and stop the bully. Too often we’re afraid of dealing with something bad so we act as if it was not happening.  Bad things happen within a church, but the church, more than any other place, should be a place where children, women or those easily taken advantage of are safe, for crying out loud!  To whom is our allegiance?

Christian fellowship is supposed to offer clear guidelines on what it means to be a part of the body of Christ. If you expect little from members, that’s exactly what you’ll get. There’s nothing wrong with making it clear about what is expected and  what is demanded, morally speaking, in terms of leadership in a Christian fellowship.  And if we do that, it will, at times,  lead to church discipline—-something very rarely practiced in churches today. 

Some churches have refrained from confrontation because they don’t want to lose one of the biggest givers in the church!  Oh please! The only giver to the Church that matters is God Almighty! If He can bring  cool water out of a dry rock in the desert, part the Red Sea, feed 3,000,000 Hebrews for 40 years, raise people from the dead, He can take care of the short fall in our offering plates; we must choose to protect our children and confront sexual predators and adulterers.

Paul urged us “to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keep the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us” (Ephesians 4: 1-3, HCSB).Jesus said in John 13:35: “By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Love compels us to do two things when someone has committed an immoral or illegal act with another person: Protect the innocent one, and in love discipline the one that has committed the sin.  There’s no place where we are told to permanently exile a believer, but it’s okay to say to the offender that,  “you can’t join back in this fellowship until you turn away from what you were doing.”

We must be sure that WE can see clearly and there’s no log in our own eye!  It does not mean that we don’t confront and discipline, but we need to have our act together first. Don’t assume that you understand the full extent of forces that shaped a person’s perversion. You don’t have access to this information. Don’ judge their heart

We have to act in  LOVE! There’s no place for looking down our noses at people that have failed or to assume that they are worthless human beings. Jesus Christ died for the offender just like He died for the one offended.  If I can remember that I will never get pleasure or satisfaction out of seeing others disciplined, fired, removed, impeached, or put in jail!  Don’t always assume that the guilty man is aware that they’re doing something wrong.

We must show that our that first love, concern and focus is the reputation of our Lord and our unfettered ability to share the gospel.  We have to  love the ones that sin, because we are all sinners, but our first allegiance is to our Lord and Savior. We will not tolerate those that besmirch or diminish the cause of Jesus Christ within our fellowship—-but we will love them nonetheless.

When we start to lose our courage about confronting sin, we must realize that we are walking with giants, spiritually speaking, when we choose to take action—-but also know that the WORLD is against us! Confrontation isn’t easy and many are terrified of hurting others or alienating themselves.  But in confronting sin we’re also helping the one who has lost his/her way.

We must be as honest as we can about our own moral failings when they’re happening. Being attentive to our own little sins, and our justifications for them, will help us appreciate how easy it is to deviate from Christ’s call to be holy. It might also keep us from being hating the sin and the sinner in these matters.

Why does not God just take care of these offenders and protect children and others that are hurt as He sometimes did on Genesis when He “killed” some evil men?  Because God chooses to work through you and me, throughout history. His intervention, from time to time, to strike down evil men or women is rare. WE are His hands, feet and mouth.  He expects for us to protect the weak and susceptible  and to trust in Him for wisdom. 

But we can’t sit still and wait for God to bring down the walls of Jericho—-we have to march. We can’t expect Him to evangelize the world, end racism or stop pillaging and assault. He uses men and women, dedicated to Him, to accomplish and complete His holy work on this earth.

Let’s get to work.

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