Summary: What is the only motivation that will really release us from the grip of sin? The cross!
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.