Summary: How and when do we "turn someone over to Satan?"

The Immorality Imperative

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI

November 16, 2008

Series: The Church in Crisis

A couple of years ago, Rachel and I had a tree removed from our front yard – it was a Chinese elm with a split trunk. The previous winter the trunk had started to separate – an ice storm had left the tree encased in ice and the weight was literally dragging the two sides of the trunk apart. I figured the stump would make a good anger management tool – whenever life got to me, I could go out front and bludgeon the stump with an axe until the anger was gone or the stump was, whichever came first.

One Saturday, I grew ambitious and decided that I would remove the stump. At first, I seemed to be gaining ground – I quickly removed two large roots and began working on a third when all progress came to a screeching halt. As I began working on the third root I ran into a dense knot of interlocked roots that surrounded the stump about 2-3 inches below the surface. I removed one more major root, but the stump stayed. I hoped I’d done enough damage to kill off the stump.

When the next spring came, I had my answer – shoots grew out of the stump to form a thick bush in our front yard. It was healthy enough that I was able to hang Christmas lights in it that winter. The stump was still alive and sending up shoots and the following spring it got worse; not only were shoots coming out of the stump, but shooting up from the remaining roots that spidered out across the yard. Little Chinese elm trees were everywhere.

Now, let me admit right now, I’m not a big spender – so the idea of paying someone to come out with one of these monstrous-looking machines and grind the stump out did not appeal to me. Instead, I went to Meijer and bought a product called “Stump-Out.”

“Stump-Out” is a chemical compound that accelerates decomposition by breaking down the cellulous layers of the stump, making it porous. Essentially, the compound makes the stump soft and absorbent in about 4 to 6 weeks. Once the stump is soft and absorbent, you pour kerosene on the stump, let the kerosene soak in for 4 to 6 weeks, then you set the stump on fire. It is then supposed to smolder its way into a pile of ash you can then remove.

There is something about the way this stuff works that reminds me of our text today – the breaking down of protective barriers, the compromise of structures meant to maintain integrity, so that when kerosene is added it infiltrates every fiber of the stump making it susceptible to destruction by the fire.

In our series on 1 Corinthians, we have been talking about Paul’s travails with the church at Corinth. We began, as Paul does, by talking about the centrality of the Gospel. Put simply, the Corinthians were beginning to mix the Gospel Paul preached with other things. They thought they were being wise – wiser even than Paul, who first preached the Gospel to them. And each new teacher that came along with a unique twist was gaining a following among them, leading to divisions in the church. The only way to fix it, says Paul, is to return to the Gospel I preached – the true Gospel message, with Jesus at the center. Build your life and faith on that foundation alone – anything else is going to lead to loss at best, destruction at worst.

Unfortunately, division and a muddled gospel were not the only problems facing the Corinthian church – though the corrupted Gospel was certainly a contributor to rest of the problems. So in our text for this morning Paul takes up the next pressing issue – immorality in the church.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been filled with grief and have put out of your fellowship the man who did this…? Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are.

Can I ask you a question? Paul – the Apostle who gave us such gems as “You were dead in your trespass…” and “while we were yet enemies of God…” and “the things of the flesh are opposed to the things of the Spirit…” – the apostle who had the most comprehensive view of sin. What could anyone possibly do that Paul would shake his head and say, “it is actually reported…”? Do you hear the tone of incredulity – the total disbelief in Paul’s question? It’s like Paul is saying, “I can’t believe I have to address this – it is simply beyond the pale of reason that 1) this should happen in the first place and 2) that I should have to tell you it’s wrong. I mean even the most savage barbarian would consider this an abomination.”

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