Everybody’s Doing It – Part Four

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 This week’s lessons teach us to shine our lights in a dark world.
Purity and perversion.

Yesterday we began to look at autonomy, a view that characterizes our culture. Before the age of modernism, when people believed there was a God in the universe, the character and the law of this God was the law of man as well. We may not like it. We may fight against it. But that law stands, and we are not autonomous when there is a moral law in the universe. But when you push God out, you not only have a different view of man, you have a different view of man in relationship to law. The standard for law comes, therefore, not from God or even from nature but from within man, himself. Whatever I want to do becomes the standard.

So, we talk about the “Me generation,” which is just a way of saying in popular language what has happened philosophically. Man has become the center of all things. Perhaps to go further than that, man is all things. Or to go even further, I am all things. I am responsible to no one else. The great expressions of this secular spirit are the self-improvement movements and the human potential movements of our time.

Now, I want to mention some issues of morality and marriage – some in this week’s lesson and some more in next week’s, because I Corinthians 7 goes on to talk about marriage. I give this background because we cannot properly understand what is happening in the church unless we understand that the church is simply, at this point, reflecting the culture around us.

Jesus said of the church, “You are to be salt and light in the world.” At the very time he said this, he acknowledged the possibility that the salt can lose its saltiness or the light can be hidden. That is what has happened as the church has reflected the world’s values. The reflection of the world’s values is not Christianity. This passage, as well as other passages in the Word of God, explicitly stands over against any spirit of accommodation.

As Paul begins to talk about sexual immorality in verse 12 he says, “Everything is permissible. But not everything is beneficial.” What is he saying there? He is saying that if we break the law of God, we do so at our peril. Or to put it in other terms, breaking the law of God hurts. It is harmful. That goes against today’s thinking of individual autonomy, that “I can do what I want to do,” and that “I am a law unto myself, and therefore what I do is right and good.” Paul says that is not true. In a universe like this, where God for his own reasons permits sin and evil, you can break God’s law. When you break God’s law in this area of sexuality, there is no angel standing there with a flaming sword to keep you from doing it. You can do it. But God says it is harmful to you and it is harmful to society, which is just another way of saying it is harmful for other people, too.

Then in the same verse, Paul makes another point. “Everything is permissible for me,” he says, “but I will not be mastered by anything.” What is he talking about there? He is saying that if you break the laws of God, not only it is harmful, it is enslaving. It might master you. That is the trouble with sin. We think we want to sin. We say, “That is not going to hurt.” That is the first thing we do. Then the second thing we say is, “Even if it hurts, it is my choice. If I want to get hurt a little bit and I think it is worth the pain, that is all right. When the pain gets too great or if the consequences are too elaborate, I’ll simply quit.” Paul says, “You cannot do that.” Sin is like an octopus. You get within a tentacle, and you find there is another tentacle and that is followed by another tentacle. Pretty soon, you are caught and you can’t get free.

Study Questions
  1. Why has a “me first” attitude become the standard in every sphere of society?
  2. Why do people try to convince themselves that sexual sin isn’t harmful?
  3. How does sin ensnare us?

Meditate on Matthew 5:13-16. Name three specific ways you will act as salt and light in the weeks ahead by going against the tide of our culture.

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