What Does My Behavior Say About Me?

What Does My Behavior Say About Me?

Apr 15, 2018

Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: 1 Corinthians

Category: Christian Living

Detail:

 

Introduction

So I want to begin this morning with a question. What does your behavior say about who you are? Our actions are always saying something about us. And while we must admit that they say something about us, what can we with absolute certainty conclude based on them?

  • If you miss a meeting because you forgot to put it on your calendar, what does that say about you? It says something but is it fair to conclude that you don't care, that you are unloving, that you are disrespectful of other people.

or conversely

  • If you successfully remember your spouses anniversary what does that say about you? It says something but can we conclude that you are an amazing spouse with perfect love and undying affection.

What does your behavior say about you? And this is a question that Paul is asking the Corinthians to think about. Corinthians, what does your behavior say about you?

The behavior Paul is witnessing is not very flattering. He's seen personality cults, sexual sin, lawsuits, and later on in the book we are going to see the flaunting wealth, flaunting of spiritual gifts and more sexual sin.

So what does all this behavior say about you, Corinthians? Go beyond the surface. Look at your life. What are you actually doing? Just add it all up? Based on your behavior who are you really? Not just Sunday morning.

  • Take all your thoughts,
  • all the words you speak in a day,
  • what you say at home to your spouse,
  • what you say to your family members,
  • your coworkers,
  • what you joke about,
  • what you do in private
  • what you enjoy watching,

What do your actions say about who you are? So as Christians we are called to examine ourselves generally speaking. But there is specific context in mind here. Last week Nate talked about this issue of lawsuits. Paul said, what does this suing of one another and infighting and defrauding of one another say about who you are? Paul says, what it says is disturbing.

The right attitude is to be willing to be defrauded for the sake of Christ. But that's not what's going on. Paul says this kind of begrudging stabbing and defrauding of one another is unrighteous. And there is a big problem with unrighteousness.

Now when you read that passage, I'm guessing it probably brings up a question in your mind. Even if it's not a conscience thought right now, the second I say it, it will resonate, "Oh, yes, I've always wrestled with that tension."

Here's how to illustrate it. If you were just reading along in your Bible and you started into this passage, here's how you might think. The passage says, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. And so into your mind pops the Hitlers of the world. And you say to yourself, 'That's right, those unrighteous people will not get in.' And then it starts listing what it means by unrighteous. And maybe your eye catches certain phrases. Yeah those drunkards, yeah those male prostitutes, makes sense. But there are others in the list that cause you to kind of get a lump in your throat.

  1. The Sexually Immoral - Well, that's not as clear cut as I'd like it to be. What constitutes sexual immorality? Jesus says Adultery and Lust are the same sin of differing degrees. There's not a lot of definition there. Mmm.
  2. Idolatry. Well what constitutes idolatry? According to the Bible, we have idols in our life if there is anything more important to you than God. Pretty sure I've done that.
  3. Thieves. I'm not a Kleptomaniac but I've stollen things in my life. How recent does this have to be? And are we just talking items in a store? I mean have I ever stollen anyone's ideas? Have I every stolen credit for something I wasn't entirely entitled to? Have I ever stole company time by being lazy or idle or not working by best?
  4. Greedy. Whao. That's hitting close to home. Greedy with what? I'm pretty sure I was greedy with the last bowl of ice cream. Greed is simply wanting more than I need. Do I want more money than I need. Check. More house than I need. Check. More tools than I need. Check. Kind of sounds like that applies.
  5. Do I revile? Do I criticize in an angry manner. Yes. I do that way more often than I want to admit.

And pretty soon, I'm having to confess that I'm part of that list. He's talking to me. And all of the sudden I find myself less judgmental. Well, you know, nobodies perfect. We are all sinners.

But then you read the next sentence a little more closely. "Don't be deceived. Neither the sexually, immoral, nor the greedy, nor the revilers..." It makes a long list of all sorts of sins. He says, "These people will not inherit the kingdom of God"

Have I been deceiving myself? Maybe I am among those who are self-deceived. And for those of you who are spiritually sensitive you find yourself just twisted in knots. What does this behavior say about me?

Paul is asking the Corinthians and he is asking us, what does my behavior say not just about who I am but about the state of my soul? About my eternal destiny?

So that is the setup for the first two points. I'm going to give the first two points together because they must always be together. If you separate these two points together you get error. And I think a lot of damage my stating either of these two points without the other.

Here' what we mean by that. Obviously it says something about the state of your soul since that's the most obvious reading of the text. If your behavior falls into the category of drunkard, or idolator or swindler or being greedy, you won't enter into heaven.

What else do those words mean? Of course there is some link. Of course our behavior says something about our eternal destiny.

There are many other verses in the Bible that make this same point. Jesus is comparing people's behavior to fruit on a tree.

Jesus is saying, if you are a believer, there will be changed behavior. You will have a different kind of fruit. Later on Jesus talks about taking these thornbushes and throwing them into the fire. That's judgment. Why? Because they don't produce fruit. So behavior is linked to eternal destiny.

Here' John is talking about the link between believers and their behavior.

How do you know if someone is a Christian according to this passage? By his behavior! Perhaps you've seen the billboard on Chinden that says, Real Christians Obey Jesus' Teaching.

Now I'm sure whoever made that Billboard was thinking about this verse. And it is true. But there is another side to this. Our behavior says something about us but it does not say everything. That's why we always have to keep these two points together. It is absolutely crucial.

I really, really dislike that billboard because it is being very selective. Because just a five verses earlier and in the exact same flow of thought John says,

So you are being liar if you say you never sin and you are being a liar if you only sin. So what does that leave? That means you are being truthful if you sometimes sin.

So if you put these two verses together (which is what we should always do) a more accurate billboard would say, "Real Christians obey Jesus sometimes." The reason that billboard doesn't exist is because it's not very impressive or newsworthy. But it's true. It's kind of sobering to think that the best we can ever hope to do is obey Jesus sometimes. But as we will see shortly that's actually very meaningful.

Christians Change

The Gospel is this strange thing. You see, on the one hand you have the passage like 1 Corinthians 6, that says if you say you’re a Christian and yet you persist in wicked behavior, you do not have any right to assume you’re a Christian.

  • It doesn't matter if you signed a card or raised your hand at a camp
  • It doesn't matter if you prayed a magic prayer
  • It doesn't matter if you got baptized
  • It doesn't matter how much money you gave.

The gospel says real Christians change. This is why unbelievers can legitimately say, "Christians are hypocrites." Isn't your God supposed to change you in some way? The answer is yes.

On the last day, what is the judge going to look at to determine if your claims to be a Christian are true? The Judge is going to look at your works.

Why will the judge look at your works? Because even though you’re not saved by your works (you’re saved by faith) real faith will always produce works. This is the argument of James. Faith without works is dead.

Therefore, on your last day, he will look at your works, your fruit. And the logic of this text is since HE will look at them, YOU'D better look at them.

What does your behavior say about who you are? It says something. You'd better look. What does it say? Is there fruit? If you are a Christian then the Spirit of God should be in you producing his FRUIT. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control.

Are those changes happening? Are wicked patterns being pushed out over time or not? If they’re not, you have to begin to question your root. Are you really connected to to the vine. That’s what the Bible says.

If you insist on persisting in sin, you have no right in assuming you are a Christian. Your behavior says something about you. That’s the one side.

Christians Sin

But on the other hand Paul all through this book and all through his letter assuming that Christians, real Christians, committed Christians, still can fall into very serious sin. Paul is not telling UNBELIEVERS to stop sinning. He's appealing to them as believers. You who have been washed and redeemed and sanctified, stop what you are doing. Half the NT would have no meaning if Christians didn't sin.

And this assertion that real Christians can fall into serious sin is borne out all through the entire Bible.

Consider David, a man after God's own heart, a strong man of God, more than a committed believer, king of Israel, writer of a giant chunk of your Bible that you regularly use for worship, who killed Uriah and many other men in order to marry the woman he was having an adulterous affair with. That’s David!

We just looked at Peter, who’s warned he’s going to deny Jesus publically and, in the full light of everybody watching him, denies Jesus publically three times.

Think about Abraham a guy who twice was going to allow another man to have relations with his wife because he was a coward. Twice.

Here you have David. Here you have Peter. Here you have Abraham. Here you have Job cursing the day he was born, in deep depression. Here you have Noah drunk and naked in his tent. These are the parts of the Bible you are embarrassed to read.

  • Do Christians get depressed?
  • Do Christians have affairs?
  • Do Christians murder?
  • Do Christians get drunk?
  • Do Christians chicken out?
  • Do Christians lie?
  • Do Christians steal?

Yes, Christians do lapse and real Christians do fall down and real Christians do steal and fail.

The Tension

The Scriptures make two points and lay them annoyingly, frustratingly side by side in the Bible. Yes. 1 John 2:4 is true. Whoever says "I know him" but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him." So on the one hand you have these verses that say all Christians must change. But 1 John 1:8 is also true. 1 John 1:8, If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. And then you have verses like this that say all Christians will continue to sin. Real Christians Obey Jesus Sometimes.

So our behavior certainly says something. But does our behavior say everything? The answer is clearly no. There is more going on inside than meets the eye. What is happening in the heart is not immediately born out in the behavior.

Here's an analogy that may help. Now is the time of year for tulips. It's pretty much my favorite time of year. The soil is heating up and the trees are just getting their leaves and we have three months of summer ahead to enjoy. It's wonderful. Suppose I took a little clump of tulips and dug them up at the base, right when it is about to flower. I completely severed the blub from the step and leaves. But then suppose further that I stuck that plant back into the ground right next to another tulip so that it's leaves and stem were sticking out but it had no root or bulb. Two flowers in the ground one with and one without roots. There could not be a greater difference between these two flowers and yet from an outward appearance, they look almost identical. And yet their futures are determined. In fact, from the outward appearance you might conclude the exact opposite of what is actually the case. If you watered the cut flower and starved the rooted flower, it's conceivable that the symptoms say that the more healthy of the two is the cut flower. It may even bloom quicker and larger. But it's an illusion. One is dead. And one is alive.

In the short term, you won't be able to tell which one is truly healthy and alive. Why? Because tulips wilt. Both are going to wilt. Tulips wilt. But one is destined to die forever. One has already died forever.

  • Time will tell you which one has life and is waiting to flourish and next spring it will multiply into more tulips and will continue to grow and become more vigorous.
  • And time will also tell you which one is already dead and simply waiting for death to run its course.

And the difference between the two is one is connected to the source of life and the other is severed from it.

And so from this analogy and from these passages we can make these six statements which if you put them together give you the full picture.

Remember I said previously that it's kind of pathetic that the best we can say is that Christians can obey God sometimes. Well these six statements shows you why that is significant. An unbeliever cannot truly grow because he is not connected to the source of life. And that leads us to this third point which is by far the most important.

You see even the smallest amount of growth means something huge. It means that transformational life is coming. If there has been a really hard winter, and spring comes and you see the smallest little bud, the smallest little sprig of life you're heart rejoices! Yes! It made it through the winter. Life is coming. It's just the smallest little thing, but it means that LIFE is on it's way and soon the entire plant will be flooded with life and every dead leaf will fall off and every branch will be filled with leaves. When we say real Christians obey Jesus sometimes, that sometimes is very meaningful. It's the bud in the spring. It's the tinest curl of a leaf. But it means you're connected to the well-spring of life.

Now look at how Paul makes that point. Paul lists out this giant long list of sins. And then he says something astounding. "And such were some of you."

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Now all those verbs are passive. You were washed. You were justified. You were sanctified. A passive verb is a verb that describes an action that happened to an object. The carpet was cleaned by the janitor. The carpet did nothing. It was acted upon by a force outside of itself. That's what a passive verb is.

And so when it says, "You were washed. You were sanctified. You were justified." Those are verbs that describe a force outside of us, acting on us, and changing us in some way. Paul is saying, once you have been connected back to the root, life begins flowing back into you and organic, fresh growth begins to happen. Why would you want those dead branches hanging off you. You've been reconnected to life. Don't hang on to that dead material. Don't cling to those dead leaves. Let the new life flow into you! Pinch off that dead material.

The new life will eventually produce entirely new behavior. Entirely. In fact, when we get to 1 Corinthians 15 which is all about the resurrection and our new bodies and the heavenly state, he's going to start that section by saying, "Flesh and Blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven" which is another way of saying, none of that old wood or dead leaves or rotting branches can enter the kingdom of heaven. You have to let that life that comes from the root completely remake you. Completely. That's what the resurrection is all about. It finishes the process.

Do you see the power in being connected to the root. Being connected to the root is not just a way to change, it's the only way. How can this dead flower restore itself? It can't. So when we say an unbeliever can't grow, we of course are not saying an unbeliever can't be nice and kind. Of course he can.
But if Jesus is who he says he is, which is God, creator, ultimate source of satisfaction. How can anybody be truly happy and fulfilled and restored without being connected to the person from which all that happiness flows?

It's like trying to be a millionaire without using money.

Do you see how hopeless that is? Do you see how impossible that is.

But conversely, do you see the power that is available if you surrender to Jesus. Yes, this passage is a warning. It is that but it's so much more than that. But it also offers unbelievable hope. The gospel is a power.

The gospel is not just for nice people. The gospel is not just for functional families and well-adjusted children.

  • The gospel is for kleptomaniacs.
  • The gospel is for cowards like Abraham.
  • The gospel is for sexually deviant people like David.
  • The gospel is for those have destroyed their marriage with harshness
  • The gospel is for those who are addicted to drugs or alcohol
  • The gospel is for anyone. No one is hopeless. The gospel is a power.

When sin entered the world it cut the human race like a flower from the root. And so all of us are experiencing the effects of being cut off from the author of life. All of us. Every one of us is suffering because of that.

  • Our desires are warped.
  • Our perspective is horribly self-centered.
  • We are autistic in our self-absorption.
  • Where we go to be fulfilled is broken.

Paul in this passage says to us “Don’t you know homosexuality, adultery, addiction, thievery, extortion” He lists all these amazing, life-dominating kinds of patterns. He says, “Don’t you know if you persist in this you will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Which is simply a way of saying, "Don't you know that if you continue as a cut flower you will wilt and die?"

But then he turns around and says, “But such were some of you, but you were washed, you were justified, you were sanctified.” You can be restored back to the root. And that life-restoring, life-giving nourishment will be begin to flow.

But it takes a while for health to really be restored fully. Restoration of health is always slow. If you start eating good foods and exercising you might not really see the full benefits of that for years. But they are coming because you are now being fed the way you were designed to be fed.

And that is exactly what Paul is saying. What you have to realize about the gospel is that the gospel does not modify us. The gospel does not shape us. The gospel remakes us. It's a complete transformation at the spiritual DNA level. It connects us back to the root. That's why the Bible uses the word reborn. Born again Christian. That's what that means. We need new juice in us.

Have you ever heard the old joke, “When is a door not a door?” When it’s ajar. That's about as cheesy as it gets. But it's actually a great gospel parallel.

When is a thief not a thief. When he stops stealing? No. That’s not what Paul says. He's got the same juice in him. He's got thief juice. He needs reconnected to the root of life. Until he's reconnected all you've done is taken the dead tulip and turn it in a different direction. It's still dying. If you want profound change, it’s not good enough for you to simply stop doing the wrong thing. You’re doing the wrong thing because you’re trying to fulfill needs in ways that don’t really fulfill you. Thievery is a way of getting money without work. When is a thief not a thief? When he finds more satisfaction in earning money than stealing it. When he becomes a generous person. Not only just not stealing, not only when he puts off theft, but when he puts on the right attitude toward money.

Let’s just say you’re locked in a pattern of sexual sin. Maybe it's pornography. Maybe it's an affair. Maybe its homosexuality. When is a sexually immoral person no longer sexually immoral? When he stops doing these things? No. When he starts loving God's design for sexuality. When he understands God's pattern and loves not the corrupted form of it, but the gospel form of it.

Listen, I just want to tell you right now, that there is nothing and nobody in this room that can't be redeemed. Listen, let's not pretend for a moment. We are all sinners. If you find yourself ashamed you are in good company. Welcome to my friends to the assembly of the bankrupt. Welcome to the assembly of beggars.

There is hope and transformative power in the gospel. But in order to be redeemed you have to be connected to the root. You have to be connected to Jesus Christ. You have to surrender to him completely and let all those passive verbs we talked about nourish you. Let him wash you, let him sanctify you, let him cleanse you which is another way of saying, let the life from the root restore your desires and your loves and let it retrain your affections. Clip off that old dead wood and let life be restored.

Closing Prayer