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Life Matters

Part3: Defeated, Wronged, & Cheated. Why not?

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(2/24) We’ve been looking at 1 Corinthians and learning different ways to mess up a perfectly good church. Last week we learned that making out with your mom isn’t good. I pray that if there was one thing you remember from last week that’s it… it’s still true. Right? If there is one woman whom you call Mom and you take her to the prom we need to talk… seriously!

In the coming weeks we’re going to deal with just all kinds of craziness. These are the things that matter in life. These are things the Church needs to be addressing. And one of the things we’ll learn is that Corinthians is a very realistic letter. It acknowledges that the church, Christians living, working, and worshiping together in community are going to occasionally have some bumps and scrapes.

And so the question is: when you have a conflict with a fellow Christian, particularly in the church, how do you deal with it? How do you resolve it?

So we’re going to read this text, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11: "If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!

The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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" (NIV).

1. Contesting Trivial Matters

The first point the Apostle Paul makes, is if you and another Christian have got some sort of disagreement… before you run off to the courthouse… before you stand in front of a non-Christian judge and ask him to render a holy judgment… and I assure you he doesn’t have a clue… then the two of you should try and bring it before a saint. That’s what Paul says in verse one: "…dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints?" Now, some of you may be thinking, "Aren’t all the saints dead guys?" Well If you were raised Catholic like me, the saints are all dead guys, but when the Bible uses the word "saint" it just means somebody who loves Jesus!

So let’s just say there’s a guy named Joe in the church, he’s a carpenter, and he loves Jesus. So he’s saint Joe and we don’t need a judge cause we’ve got saint Joe. And Paul says, "Don’t worry… "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" How about that? In the end, you and I are going to work with Jesus to judge the world. That’ll be cool, wont it? We’re going to judge angels and demons... so "How much more the things of this life!

Therefore, if we have disputes about civil matters, trivial matters, why not appoint as judges even men of little account in the church!" You see they don’t need to be a professional attorney. They just need to love the Lord, be filled with the Holy Spirit, having biblical knowledge, and a sense of justice and impartiality.

Part of the problem in Corinth is that they were a bunch of arrogant people, who thought they were really wise. But Paul says, "If you’re all so smart and wise why can’t you work it out? I mean, you are going to judge angels why can’t you settle a case between brothers and sisters in Christ?"

So here’s what he’s saying to us… as much as possible when we feel Defeated, Wronged, & Cheated… we should try and work things out... But let me give some clarifying points. There are life matters that are fit for the secular court. The church can deal with sins and offenses, but not crimes, so we need to see the distinction. If a crime is committed, call 911. But if you call 911, and say "I caught my brother looking at pornography. Hurry over!" Guess what? They’re not coming... you’re on your own!

But if there’s a murder, a case of child abuse, or rape… a crime’s been committed, call 911, and notify the authorities. So in the church we need to see a distinction between sins and crimes. You call the cops if it’s a crime. You call the church to mediate if it’s a sin. And it is unfortunate that I need to say this, but this doesn’t give the church the right to cover up crimes. The church doesn’t have that authority. And that is an injustice especially when it comes to crimes committed against children. And let me just state this… our God is a God of justice. He watches over Christians; but He’s all about protecting victims. He doesn’t want us to cover crimes, because criminals need to serve their time, victims need our help, and others need to be protected.

2. Considering Our Witness

So what the Word of God is telling us, is first try to work it out, and as a last resort… if absolutely necessary… take it to court. So if you’ve been ripped you off, and taken advantage of, this doesn’t mean that you can’t defend yourself. But when you’re working out those life matters… when you’re deciding whether to pursue arbitration, mediation or the court system, Paul says, first consider what kind of witness are you being for the Gospel, and how this will reflect on Jesus and the church.

Verse 6 says: "But instead, one brother goes to law against another — and this in front of unbelievers!" Paul is talking about being a good witness, right? He is thinking about Deacon Dan and worship leader Sally in court, cussing each other out, fighting, pulling hair, going totally Jerry Springer.

And the non-Christian’s up there going, "Would you Christians just knock it off?" That’s a bad witness; when the non-Christian has to get in and sort out the mess. Paul says that’s not a good witness… "The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers" (1 Co 6:7-8) and your sisters in Christ!

Here’s what he’s saying: before you pursue arbitration, mediation, or you pursue legal means in the courts, the first thing you need to consider is, "At what cost will I pursue this?" Not just financially, but your friendship with this Christian, and the witness of your church? What will this do to the name of Jesus? How will this appear outside of the church to the non-Christian friends, family, and media? And you look at it, and you have to ask, "Is it worth it?"

And there may be times when you say, "Crimes have been committed. Justice needs to come. And God’s people need to stand up for that which is right." The best illustration historically is slavery, where Christians stood up and said legally slavery is wrong. And we’re willing to fight. We’re going to fight legally. And we’re going to see change. And that is good. That was a good demonstration of the love of Jesus. So sometimes going to court is the best way to show the loving justice of Jesus Christ.

Other times you look at it… you consider it… and your like, "You know, this just isn’t worth it, because if I go to court, even if I win, its going to do harm to the church… to the name of Jesus… to the reputation of the Gospel, and it’s not just about me. It’s about Jesus and His Church and it’s just not worth it."

Maybe you could make a little more money on the deal… could get a little more favor in your direction, but at what cost? If this is a Christian, and a friend, and they’re in your church… I mean that’s really going to affect that relationship pretty substantially. So it’s like, you know what, just eat it. That’s okay, because at the end of the day the friendship, the reputation of Jesus, and the well-being of the church, that’s more important. Not all cases… but on some.

3. Getting Perfect Justice

The third point Paul makes here is that you’re not going to get perfect justice. We need to accept the fact that in this fallen, sinful world, things are wrong, things go bad, and you’re just not going to get perfect justice. Whether you are in mediation or standing before the judge nobody’s omniscient. They don’t know everything like God. Nobody’s completely impartial, like God. Nobody’s fully just, like God. So whether it’s an arbitrator, mediator, secular court, unfortunately there will be occasions of injustice. So what do you do?

You wait for that last judgment… you wait for that day at the end where Jesus calls it like it is, straightens out all that’s been made crooked, and you finally get your day in court.

Paul continues in verse 9: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?" Here’s what he’s saying: if somebody keeps on sinning, don’t worry, they’ll go to hell. If you’re feeling beat up, ripped off, and just short changed… it may look like they’re getting away with it, but Paul inspired by the Holy Spirit says they’re not getting away with anything! They’re just building up a case, stacking up all the reasons for their condemnation, when there will be that final sentencing before Jesus in the end. So he says, "Do not be deceived" and I pray that none of you here are deceived. That none of you say, "I’m a Christian" but practice a life of habitual unrepentant sin.

Paul gives a summary a short list of examples of sinful behavior that is contrary to Christian living. And his point is that you can’t be both; you must be one or the other. What he’s saying is this: It’s like how do you know that’s an apple tree? It’s got apples. How do you know that’s a cherry tree? It’s got cherries. How do you know that’s a duck? It floats. And if it doesn’t float. Well then, it’s not a duck.

There are a lot of people who say they’re Christians, and they’re not. That’s why a lot of people are saying, "You’re all hypocrites." I know because I used to be one of them. I was deceived. I went to church on Sunday with my family. I served in the church. But when I wasn’t in church I was living like the devil. I was two faced. I was living a double life. And then I read this Scripture among a few others that totally changed my life.

You see, we’re not all Christians. Some of us are lying, or deceived. Just like when you look at Jesus and his 12 disciples, there was Judas, he looked like he was on the team but he was ripping off Jesus and he didn’t love Jesus. There will always be a few Judases in the bunch, but you can’t dismiss the whole church because of one Judas. There are people who love God and are living new lives and there are people who aren’t living new lives… people who refuse to change… But in the end, God will judge and God will sort it all out, and there will be perfect justice, because there is a Heaven and Hell at the end.

4. Experiencing Life Change

In the middle, right here where we are, what Paul is saying is this: you and I need to think about our witness. That’s what he’s saying. Because the world is watching, the town is watching, and the non-Christians are watching. And if we can’t even manage our own lives, how in the world would we walk up to somebody and say, "Hey, do you want to come to my church?" You know what I mean? They’d be like, "Well, I thought you all were suing each other. I’ve heard about the slanderous accusations, I’ve heard of the sexual immorality, and how so-and-so is ripping everybody off.

And I am going to wrap it up with this last point, you can’t say, "Well, I had this sin, and then I met Jesus." "Oh yeah, and what happened?" "Nothing." Paul says then you didn’t meet Jesus, because Jesus changes people. That’s his next and my last point.

How do you know that’s a Christian? Because they’re Experiencing Change! They live a holy life, repentant of sin. They’ve changed. So what if you’ve never changed? Well, then you never knew Jesus, and you’ve never changed your eternal address, because Jesus changes people. Here’s what Paul says in verse 9: "Do not be deceived... and he goes through a long list of people who are going to hell… people who are continually, habitually living in sin… refusing to repent… and refusing to change… He says "Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

None of them, he says, "will inherit the kingdom of God." So if you’re here today, and you haven’t experienced real life change, you must ask yourself, "Am I self-deceived?" And you’ve got to wonder if you really know Jesus? You see, because if you know Jesus is God who lived without sin as your example, who died for your sin as your substitute, and rose to be Lord over your life, to oversee your money, your sex, your friendships, your mouth, and everything, and you don’t honor him, obey him, or listen to him, but you do what whatever you please, do you really think he wants you in his kingdom?"

I think you and I would be bummed out, if we died and woke up in Pittsburgh. We’d be like, "Come on Jesus!" And maybe he’d be like, "Well, I want everyone to come." So your like, "I just had a black Range Rover taking shots at me in Heaven. Somebody just jacked my car in Heaven. Lord Jesus, this isn’t Heaven… This is Pittsburgh… I was hoping for so much more... I’m disappointed."

You see but Paul tells us those who obey Jesus get to be in the kingdom. Those who don’t obey Jesus don’t get to be in the kingdom. Are you saved by your good works? No, but if Jesus has saved you, your life reflects the love of Jesus as highest priority. So Paul’s last point, is that Christians experience real-life transformation. And he says, in verse 11, "And that is what some of you" – what’s the word? "Were!" That’s right? So let’s say it again. That’s what you… were!

That’s all of us, right? We all sinned, and then we meet Jesus. And Paul continues, "But you were washed" …you were cleaned up. Jesus took away all the filth… "and you were sanctified…" there was a relationship with Jesus developed… he keeps working on us, because we’re all a work in process. And "you were justified…" you were declared righteous in the eyes of God… Righteous by the substitutionary death and bodily resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We were made friends with God "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."

This all happens through Jesus, who sends the Holy Spirit to dwell in us and empower and enable us to say "no" to sin, and "yes" to God; to live a life of repentance, transformed, and changed, so that we know we’re not perfect, but we are day by day being made to be more like Jesus. We’re being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). Amen?

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