Devotional Podcast #10: “Sin in the Life of Christians, Part 1”

January 31, 2018

I suspect many thoughtful, sincere Christians feel guilty because of their sins. Not necessarily the ones they commit before their conversion but after. If that describes you, I hope this episode and the next one will help you.

Devotional Text: 1 Corinthians 6:13-18

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Wednesday, January 31, and this is Devotional Podcast number 10. We are in double digits! Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I bring you a new devotional on this channel, so stay tuned.

You’re listening to Glen Campbell’s version of the Randy Newman song “Marie,” from Campbell’s 1975 album, Rhinestone Cowboy. What I want you to hear in this song, first, is the sincerity of the singer’s love for his wife—however imperfect it may be. He knows he doesn’t deserve her. He knows he lets her down in a hundred different ways. He’s brutally honest about his faults. And it’s clear that his wife, Marie, must love him to put up with him the way that she does! When we think about our relationship with God, well… to say the least, we’re much more like Glen Campbell than Marie!

Our scripture today comes from 1 Corinthians 6:13-18, which I’ll read now:

The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality.

The apostle Paul is addressing a very serious problem in the church at Corinth. Christians in his church were employing the services of prostitutes. Corinth was a busy port city, and as in all port cities, prostitution thrived. Corinth also had a history of temple prostitution in connection with a temple built to Aphrodite, the goddess of fertility and erotic love. This means that illicit sex was actually a part of pagan worship.

This was the culture that this little church in Corinth was called out of. A culture not unlike ours, when you think about how free and plentiful pornography is over our smartphones, tablets, and computers—not to mention the “old-fashioned” sexual sins of which Paul was aware!

I want to make two points about this: First, Paul is warning these Corinthian Christians in the severest terms: flee sexual immorality! Earlier in the chapter he warns these Christians that unrepentant sexual sin risks excluding us from God’s kingdom—eternally. In his second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 13, verse 5, Paul writes, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

In other words, sinful behavior, including sexually immoral behavior, is a symptom of a larger problem—we may be demonstrating, through our sinful lifestyle, that we do not possess saving faith.

I’ve said this in sermons before, but here’s a good test for us: Do our lives have a “before and after” Christ. Does your life have a “B.C.” and an “A.D.”? In other words, can you look at your life since Christ became part of it and see the difference that he’s made? Or does your life look just the same as it did before? If there’s no “A.D.” in your Christian life, that could be a sign of serious spiritual danger!

And you might say, “Yes, Pastor Brent, but I grew up going to church—going to Sunday school, going to Vacation Bible School, going to youth camps and youth retreats. I’ve always believed in Jesus. I never remember a time when I didn’t believe in Jesus! I can’t point to a ‘moment’ when I was first saved. So I’m not sure when the ‘before and after’ starts.”

I get what you’re saying, and I’m sure that describes the experience of many Christians, especially Methodists and others whose churches offer confirmation classes instead of emphasizing a moment of conversion. I’m Methodist now, but I grew up Baptist. In that tradition, we waited to join the church and get baptized until after we were converted—which is most often expressed by “walking down the aisle” at the end of the sermon, while an “invitation hymn” is playing on the organ—well, I guess fewer churches have organs, but you know what I mean.

Regardless, even if you don’t know the exact “moment” you were saved, you should still be able to look back over time and point to real differences that Christ has made in your life. Sanctification is a process of change over time, so you should be able to see changes. If not, Paul would say, that’s a warning sign that your faith isn’t genuine.

My point in saying all this is that I don’t want to minimize the seriousness of sin—for a single moment! Paul doesn’t want to minimize the serious of sin for a single moment. It’s deadly serious. Apart from God’s grace, apart from a lifetime of repentance and faith, sin will send us to hell. Full stop. There’s no way of reading the Bible and coming to any other reasonable conclusion.

But… Please don’t miss the grace that’s here. When Paul was warning these Corinthian Christians, in the most dire terms, to “flee sexual immorality,” he was speaking to Christians—genuine Christians—who were engaging in sexual immorality. No New Testament scholar disputes that. Look back at 1 Corinthians chapter 1, verse 2:

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified [past tense] in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…

So… Paul’s readers and listeners—the members of this church—are sanctified in Christ Jesus—indicating something that has happened in the past and is a present reality—these “sanctified” ones include the very ones who are also having sex with prostitutes—perhaps even on a regular basis.

And keep in mind: the Corinthian church struggled with far more than just sexual sin—as is clear from reading 1 Corinthians. They are far from a perfect church! Yet in spite of their sin, they are “sanctified” and “saints.” Paul says so in verse 2!

So Paul is not questioning the genuineness of their faith; he’s not telling them that they need to be born again… again. He’s not telling them that they’re not saved. He’s not telling them that they won’t be forgiven. He’s not telling them that while God forgave them a couple of years ago when they were converted, that was before they went out and did this awful thing—committed this sin.

That doesn’t even make sense when you think about it! When they first repented of their sins and came to Christ, when they were justified and born again, God foreknew all the sins that they would commit in the future—including even sleeping with prostitutes. Yet God forgave them then… and he would forgive them in the future, so long as they kept on repenting, kept on believing, kept on trusting in Christ.

Hear this promise from 1 John 1:9:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What sins do you need to confess to God today? Will you do so… and as you do so, you need to also believe that you’re truly forgiven.

I’m going to continue talking about this theme of sin in the life of Christians in the next podcast. Stay tuned!

7 Responses to “Devotional Podcast #10: “Sin in the Life of Christians, Part 1””

  1. Grant Essex Says:

    “A culture not unlike ours”

    Boy is that true!

    i was listening to a broadcast by one of my favorite Preacher/Teachers the other day, and he pointed out that America is no longer a “Christian Nation” (if it ever was). He used terms like Post-Christian and Neo-Pagan, but the one that rang true for me was Neo-Barbaric. Certainly seems appropriate considering the tens of millions of unborn children we have slaughtered over the past 30+ years. Add to that the pornography you mention, the pre-marital and extra-marital sex, the sexual perversion, and all of the “run of the mill, just plain crime”, and you don’t have a very pretty picture.

    It seems to me that most of us Christians spend more of our energy trying to avoid the sewer, than trying to change it. That may just be realism in a Post Christian America.

    • brentwhite Says:

      The “sexual revolution” has been an utter disaster in every way imaginable! The only encouraging news I’ve heard on this front is that the divorce rate is actually not nearly as high as many experts believed. It’s between 25-30 percent rather than the 50 percent that gets thrown around. That 50 percent figure was never real… It was an extrapolation from 1970s data that never materialized. Abortion rates have fallen but they’re still shockingly high.

      • Grant Essex Says:

        It’s like there are “Two Americas”.

        In one, I see great young people getting married, raising families, serving their country and generally enjoying the rights and responsibilities that I hold dear.

        In the other, I see self-indulgent hedonism which includes destructive behavior such as drug abuse. A subset of this group are the innocent children born to parents caught up in this lifestyle.

        I was very moved by the Albuquerque Police Officer and his wife honored in last nights SOTU address for adopting a drug addict’s child. It’s only one story and probably rare, but it was beautiful.

      • brentwhite Says:

        I share a concern with Dr. Roger Olson about what’s gone wrong with men these days—falling behind academically; going to college in far fewer numbers than women; basically, taking longer to grow up, move away from parents, assume adult responsibility; marrying later, if at all. It sounds really bad. Olson complains that the problems start early in an educational system that teaches boys that they are “defective girls.”

  2. Grant Essex Says:

    “Defective Girls” Wow! Haven’t heard that one, but it doesn’t surprise me. All things “masculine” are under attack. Just a bunch of knuckle dragging cave men.

    • brentwhite Says:

      The problem starts when we believe that men and women are just the same—or that their differences are simply a product of socialization rather than design.

  3. Tom Harkins Says:

    These are very interesting points about conversion, confession, and forgiveness. I am admittedly unsure of my beliefs on these matters. I do agree that if our lives show no evidence of obedience to biblical mandates, chances are pretty good that there is no salvation (though Christians may sometimes “wander,” as I certainly did). With respect to forgiveness, I just wonder “to what extent it goes,” so to speak. Certainly if we truly are Christians, our sins won’t keep us out of heaven. But they certainly do have an negative impact on us presently and, I tentatively believe, eternally as well. One only has to look at David as to the former. And I think that Paul speaks to the latter in 1 Corinthians 3 as to rewards, including speaking of someone “escaping through the flames” (NIV). So, we have to balance passages such as God “remembering our sins no more” with Jesus saying we will “give an account of every idle word” (KJV). And “God will judge each one according to their deeds” (so stated in some places that leave little doubt that believers are considered within that scope).

    Does “confession” change things? That is a pretty good question. I would agree that it does in some respects–when David said, “I have sinned,” Nathan said, “God has forgiven your sin: you will not die.” But then he continued, “But, because you have done this thing, …” So, some impact, but I would say confession does not “get us off the hook” altogether. We are certainly much better off for confessing (1 John), but not “home free” across the board, I don’t think.

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