Let’s open our Bibles this morning to 1 Corinthians chapter 5. I want to remind you this morning that in 2 Chronicles 7 God promised His presence to those who would humble themselves and pray, seek God’s face, and who would turn from their wicked ways. People wanting to encounter God must not only humble themselves and pray, not only seek God’s face, but also repent and turn from sin.
But the question I have for us this morning is this: what motivation do we have for turning away from something that seems so enjoyable, something that makes us feel better temporarily, something that comforts our flesh or that drowns out our problems? Why would we want to stop this behavior when it really is so fun?
There are some motivations that won’t do it. The desire to please other people is not strong enough to turn our hearts from that which we love. The fear of getting caught, or the desire to avoid the inevitable consequences is not strong enough to keep us from sinning. Even the fear of hell is not strong enough to make us stop sinning.
See when people see how attractive sin is they will push past the desire to make others happy, they will totally ignore consequences, and they push God, eternity, heaven and hell right out of their minds.
Picture with me a man who is being tempted, and he is fixated on that object of temptation. And his wife calls to him, “please don’t do that, please, for me?” And he shuts his ears to her and can hardly hear her voice. And he gets a little thought, “you know, this will have bad consequences for you” and he pushes that thought out of his mind. And he goes to church and hear hears in the sermon, “you will have to answer to God for this, this could drag your soul into hell” and he gets up and leaves and doesn’t come back. Nothing, nothing can provide strong enough motivation for a man to turn from his wicked ways.
No motivation is strong enough to radically turn a man from that which his heart loves. However, there is one thing strong enough to break the power of sin. There is one thing strong enough to entirely turn us from our wicked ways. Let’s read about it in 1 Corinthians 5, and see if you can see the motivation:
7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast--as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 (NIV)
And I see 3 things in this passage:
Regulation (get rid of the old yeast)
Motivation (Christ has been sacrificed)
Celebration (keep the festival—celebrate the festival)
Let’s look at these together. First, the regulation or the commandment in verse 7: Get rid of the old yeast. That’s the commandment, that’s the regulation.
Now what yeast is he talking about here? Is he saying we’re supposed to only eat crackers? You know, flat bread with no yeast in it? No, what he is saying is explained in verse 8. He is referring to the “yeast of malice and wickedness.” In other words, turn from your wicked ways. Christians are to get rid of life-dominating sin.
Wait a minute, where do we get life-dominating sin? Well a little bit of yeast works through the whole batch of dough, so that eventually the whole batch is permeated with yeast. A little bit of sin indulged in will eventually consume our lives. Sin is like yeast, it spreads and permeates and consumes.
Some sinful practices were in the Corinthian church, there was a lot of yeast. There was division, and carnality, and sexual impurity, and lawsuits. This loaf of bread had a lot of yeast, and Paul commands them to get rid of it, to turn from their wicked ways. That’s the regulation.
But what is the motivation? Look at the end of verse 7: “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
Paul instructs the Corinthians to remove wickedness from their lives, for Christ was sacrificed on their behalf. What happened at the cross, was that Jesus redeemed them from sinful practices, therefore, as redeemed people, they were to get rid of all impurity (malice and wickedness), and live in sincerity and truth. They were to give up the practice of sin, for Christ gave up His life for them.
I want to encourage you to consider, just now, that this is the distinguishing factor that sets Christianity apart from all other religions. Other religions teach the giving up of bad habits, but only Christianity sets forth the good news of the gospel as motivation to do so. All religions teach morality, clean living, obeying laws, etc. but the motivation can be anything from attempting to gain God’s favor, to feeling better about oneself, and everything in between. Only Christianity sets forth the most compelling reason which is that of Jesus Christ giving up His own life for us. This motivation reaches the heart, changes the inner desires, and deeply affects the entire soul of a man or woman.
Now in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8, Paul is referring to two specific events in the life of Israel: the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. I invite you to turn with me to Exodus chapter 12, and let’s read of these events. There are two events here, the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread:
Exodus 12:3-7 (NIV)
3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. 12 "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. 13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt. 14 "This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD--a lasting ordinance. 15 For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. 16 On the first day hold a sacred assembly, and another one on the seventh day. Do no work at all on these days, except to prepare food for everyone to eat--that is all you may do. 17 "Celebrate the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because it was on this very day that I brought your divisions out of Egypt. Celebrate this day as a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. Exodus 12:12-17 (NIV)
So here we see that people who were under the blood of the Passover lamb would live, and they would be delivered from slavery. That the very night the Israelites left slavery they were to begin eating unleavened bread. No yeast was to be found in their houses for a period of seven days. The reason is because they were now redeemed from slavery, and they were to get rid of all that which was associated with Egypt.
And Paul says, “Christ our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” Meaning, that God’s judgment has passed over all who believe. God’s destroying angel has passed over us. And through His death we are saved from death. And now, because God’s judgment has "passed over" us in Christ, we are to remove all wickedness and malice from our lives.
And consider something just now: the death of the Lamb came first, and then the command to rid their homes of yeast. God did not say, “now if you will successfully rid your homes of yeast, I’ll protect your family from the destroying angel.” No, their lives were saved by grace, through the death of the lamb, by the shedding of its blood. And as a result, they were to rid their homes of yeast.
Finally, along the same line, let’s look at one other passage just now. Turn with me to 1 Corinthians chapter 6.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV)
This passage speaks of Christians as having been "bought" with a price. What Paul is talking about here was the custom of the times, by which a slave passed out of the hands of one master into the service of another, through an agreed-upon purchase price. Paul applies this concept to our deliverance out of a life of immorality, out of the hands of Satan, into the service of God.
This passage teaches us that a Christian has become the property of a new Master (God), and we have a new motivation (we’ve been bought, we were purchased by Christ) and this gives us a new mission; that of glorifying God."
And this price paid becomes the most powerful motive for Christians to remove all sin from their lives. "Get rid of the old yeast (of malice and wickedness) for Christ our Passover Lamb has been slain." "Flee from all sexual immorality..., for you were bought with a price." The cross is the true and biblical, as well as the compellingly powerful motivation for sanctification.
So, I want to describe for you what this looks like practically. Let’s say a man is being powerfully tempted again, and his eyes are on the object of his lust, and he is becoming mesmerized by the beauty of the temptation. And there is no motivation for him to turn from his wicked ways, every other thought is consumed in his desire to get what he is looking at.
And all of a sudden the Holy Spirit of God slams the cross down right on top of the object of his affection. And the man’s eyes are turned to Jesus, and He sees the passion of Christ to satisfy the justice of God. He sees the guilt and shame of his sin being taken off of him and put on Jesus. He sees men beating Jesus until He no longer can be recognized as a man. He sees God crucifying His own Son, the Passover Lamb dying, shedding His blood that God’s justice would Passover him. He sees a price being paid, a purchase being made. And this man sinks to his knees in repentance, turning from his wicked ways, because the cross breaks the power of cancelled sin, it sets the captives free.
The man gets rid of the old yeast of wickedness for Christ His Passover Lamb was slain. He flees immorality because He was bought with a price. Charles Spurgeon said, "Set before your mind’s eye the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion; and, as you do this, He who was the bearer of all this grief will look at you, and with that look He will do for you what He did for Peter, so that you also will go out and weep bitterly. He who died for you can, by His gracious Spirit, make you die to sin; and He who has gone into glory on your behalf can draw your soul after Him, away from evil, and toward holiness."
The regulation is get rid of the old yeast, turn from our wicked ways.
The motivation is the cross.
And then there is celebration. Verse 8 says, “Therefore let us keep the festival.” Exodus 12:17 says “let us celebrate the festival.” Let’s enjoy the festivities. Or in other words let’s party! I mean after all, Jesus took all our guilt and shame, we’ve been redeemed from slavery, and we’ve gotten rid of all wickedness and malice, therefore we can rejoice in the Lord.
It is important that we not miss the connection between the Israelites celebrating their release from slavery, and the commandment to the Corinthians that they, likewise, are to celebrate. The connection is simply this: just as the Israelites were protected from death and released from slavery through the death of the Passover lamb, so Christians are saved from eternal death and released from habitual sin through the death of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb.
So let’s apply this today. Having an encounter with God requires that we turn from our wicked ways, that we rid our lives of all malice and wickedness. If we humble ourselves and pray, seek His face and turn from sin, He will meet with us. So I’ve prepared a handout for you again, just like I did Friday night. And I would like to encourage you to just take 10-15 minutes and get alone with God somewhere again, and fill out the questions, and we will come back and pray and seek God’s face together.