Summary: Signs or benchmarks of spiritual maturity - Mature followers of Christ oppose evil, rather than just looking the other way.
Grow Up! - Measuring Your Spiritual Maturity
Measure #3: Actively Intolerant of Evil
1 Corinthians 5:1-13 – September 22, 2013
An Arkansas mountain man named Elias came walking into the little town store one day. And, to his friends’ surprise, he was washed, his hair combed, his beard clean, and he had on a three piece suit and a Bible under his arm.
His friends said, “Elias, what are you doing all dressed up?”
Elias said, “I’m goin’ to New Orleans. I hear the place is full of loose women, naughty shows, gamblin’ joints, and that the liquor flows like a river down there.”
One friend said, “So why do you have a Bible under your arm?”
And Elias said, “Well, if it’s as good as they say, I’ll probably stay through Sunday.”
There are those folks out there who don’t seem to make much of a connection between their relationship to Christ and their value system. But as followers of Christ, we should not just recognize evil, or avoid evil. We should actively oppose those evils that destroy people’s lives and hurt the cause of Christ.
Today we are talking about one of the clearest signs of maturity in a follower of Christ: an active intolerance for evil. And by that, I mean we do not stand by and silently “feel bad” about what’s going on. We do not just stand there and listen while evil is being spoken, we do not just stand there and watch as wrong is being done, and then, in some safe place complain to a friend, “Wasn’t that terrible.” No, the mature Christian speaks and acts in opposition to evil, especially when it appears within the church.
And by that, I don’t mean that we have a bunch of “religious policemen” running around telling everyone what they’re doing wrong. We’re all sinners and we all fall short. I’m talking about those things that are deeply destructive to the spiritual welfare of others.
So today I’m going to give you a couple of illustrations of how this works and then point you to the clearest example of this truth being lived out.
And here’s why it is so important that we understand this: allowing destructive, inappropriate behavior & attitudes to go on and on within a body of believers makes a church spiritually sick and it destroys that church’s witness in the community.
So if we want our church to be strong and healthy, and if we want to reach our community, we have to have the maturity to refuse to give evil a home in our church family.
In our Scripture verses, in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul called out these believers in Corinth because they were allowing something to go on in the church that was immoral, embarrassing, and was damaging to their witness and their influence in the world. A man in the church has taken his father’s wife, his step mother, as his new live-in girlfriend.
When Paul says, “It is actually reported…” that this is happening, he’s saying, “It is common knowledge. People outside the church know about this and are talking about this.” And to make matters worse, the people in the church are not embarrassed. They are proud! Proud of how tolerant they are in this situation.
But there is nothing to be proud of when we overlook those things that are destructive to the health of our church or destructive to our Christian witness.
Paul says basically that people who didn’t know Jesus and didn’t follow Jesus could look at what was going on and say, “Even I know that’s wrong. If being a Christian means allowing that to go on, then I want no part of this Jesus thing.”
And, friends, it is absolutely no different today.
• When our world hears believers speaking viciously about other believers today,
• When our world sees believers mistreating other believers today,
• When our world sees followers of Christ living a life of self-centeredness, pride, meanspiritedness,
• When our world sees Christians shamelessly and persistently living in ways that we say are wrong,
…we are doing real damage to the Kingdom of God and our witness in the world. So Paul calls us to do something about it when these situations arise.
First I want you to see that tolerating evil in the church is immature and cowardly.
What is it that would make us keep silent when we see something harmful or hurtful going on around us? It’s got to be one of two things:
• Either we are afraid that others might reject us for taking a stand, which means we care more about the opinions of others than faithfulness to God, which is immaturity and cowardice,
• Or we don’t really know the difference between right and wrong, which again means we are immature in our faith.