May 23, 2021 How We as Christians Offend Others
30th May 2021
Today is Pentecost.
I’d like to start this morning by reading a tweet from Rich Villodas: “I love that on the first Pentecost Sunday, it is the apostle Peter who preaches. This same Peter had just denied Jesus a few weeks earlier...
"The Holy Spirit is not a reward for good behavior and unwavering faith. The Holy Spirit is a gift to those who turn to Jesus and wait on Him."
So, all of us – God gave all of us the Holy Spirit who turn to Him in faith. His power is with us, abides in us, and even when we fail, His power, all the more, comes through that failure.
Lord, thank You for this opportunity to come before You, to be with You, to know Your love for us. You can be our desire. Help us to long for you, as the deer longs for the stream of water – that we would understand our deep need for you – and that in our hearts, we would allow that to transform us – that You would free us – by Your grace and mercy accomplished at the cross.
Last week, we looked at our freedom in Christ. In this verse here:
1 Corinthians 10:23 23 "All things are lawful," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up.
Paul was talking about freedom in Christ – and maybe some misunderstandings of our freedoms. Do not seek your own advantage, but the advantage of others.
The freedoms we have in Christ, we are to never use in seeking our own advantage, way, or self-interest, but for the benefit of others.
So we will jump back into 1 Corinthians – 10:31 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.
What do we do? How might we seek the advantage of others? First, do everything for the glory of God – to honor God and grow His kingdom. Every act, speech, word – hard to comprehend that everything we do – brushing my teeth, for the glory of God! I don’t think that is where he is going with this – but that every action would be for God’s glory.
32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
This is everyone – 3 categories – Jews, Gentiles, the church of God – that included everyone.
No one – no offense to anyone.
We have looked a lot at relationships in the church – and we will begin focusing on those outside of the church.
Let’s put these in context:
1 Corinthians 10:33 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.
So here is the context – Salvation for those who do not know Christ – we should be living our lives to bring others to Christ – to bring them into this relationship with the God who loved them so much He wants to be with them for eternity.
To introduce them to the Jesus who loved the woman at the well, who had five husbands. The Jesus who loved the woman caught in adultery.
Here is a question: How do we engage in our world for the purpose of bringing people to faith in Jesus without being conformed to the world.
You are free, but don’t go back to idolatry…
Reengaging with God, with each other, and the outside world. “for the purpose of bringing people to faith in Jesus” – NOT – to our particular form of Christianity! There is a difference, believe it or not! Not traditional/contemporary, reformed or anabaptist… how many of these would you like me to list?
Too often, we tie our form of faith to the gospel – and we believe our form of faith IS the gospel – but it is not synonymous with faith in Jesus – it is simply an expression – one particular kind of expression of that faith. That is fine – there are all kinds of expression of faith in Jesus in this world and they vary significantly – and all of us have a lot to learn from other forms of expression of faith! And it is critical to do!
Back to 33
1 Corinthians 10:33 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do
Paul is not talking about being a people-pleaser – but building God’s kingdom, not his own platform.
To build God’s kingdom, we can’t seek our own advantage – our own self-interest. Paul is imitating Jesus in the incarnation.
Gospel ministry is incarnational – relating back to what God did in sending His son into the world.
Giving no offense will beg a question: What about the offense of the gospel. The bible is clear that the Bible is offensive to some. So we say – no, how do we put these two things together.
Go back and read what Paul says – it will explain everything! Here is what is simple and clear that you will see: whenever it talks about the offense of the gospel – it always talks about the cross.
Is the gospel offensive? Yes, because the cross is offensive.
Some think of the cross as cool – as a badge of honor – but the Old Testament proclaims – one who hangs on a tree is accursed. Messiah can’t be accursed of God! For the people of the first century – the cross was a sign of weakness, shame, and humiliation. But it was through that – the shame – the foolishness, that God’s power is seen and comes to bear on all of us.
We want a powerful God to defeat our enemies – and God says – you are getting a different God – one who comes in weakness – and it is through that weakness that the power of sin is defeated.
Too often, we think it is our zeal and convictions that people will change – because of you, I come to Jesus! If we are honest, that is what we say we would want -but it doesn’t work that way – it is only by revealing the foolishness of the cross – and that is what the Bible really says.
We are so far away from it – that we hardly get it.
When we make the cross a badge of honor, we pull the power out of the gospel.
So – maybe the question then – How might we offend outsiders today? That is a fun question to think about?!
I will tell on one person who offended an outsider
First – how are outsiders offended? There are too many hypocrites in the church. For some, I think that is an excuse to say, I’m not interested in talking to you. Other times, it is people who have been hurt by church people – people they thought were good – and were not.
We think they are thinking that Christians should be perfect. No one is thinking that. That is not the concept of hypocrisy. The issue is this: Self-righteous hypocrisy – people who act like they do everything right – but they are people
What is a reality – in Men’s Group – there are certain guys who are really open about their lives – and the dirt, and the tough stuff – and they are so effective at reaching out to those outside the church.
I think it is the ability that some people have – to apologize – to outsiders when they offend – when they do or say something wrong. It is shocking to outsiders because they don’t often hear that.
Cindy has a coworker who is a good bit younger… she was in her 20s – and they had many conversations – she was your typical “None” – when you get a form that says, “Religious affiliation” – this person would check, “None” – the fastest growing demographic – “Nones” – it is growing exponentially.
She had some negative impressions of Christians because of her past. So Cindy would often talk to her. Let me also say – this person was also very conscious of social issues – very concerned. And they would talk about these things – and in conversation about one particular social issue – Cindy got caught up in the moment and said something – that as the words were coming out of her mouth – I can’t believe I am saying – and just said – that!
If you have never had that experience, you need therapy! Go get as much as you can because we all do it!
When she did it – she immediately said – I am so sorry – I was trying to be cool – and act young – and that was offensive!
And the young woman was silent – and then said, Thank you – you’re the only Christian I know who ever apologizes.
The big lesson – As Jesus followers – our words mean things – and they are scrutinized by those who are not believers. For those who do not yet know Jesus – our words and opinions too often confirm all the worst stuff they have come to associate with Christians. We err when we think everyone agrees with us – or should agree with us – even on matters not essential to the gospel.
Yes, we want everyone to agree with us – with the biblical understanding of the gospel – but beyond that, not so much.
That leads us to the second and third ways we offend.
Second – we offend the outsiders when we fight with one another in public. They see it and say, yep – that’s what they’re like.
The problem – everything is now in public! People are constantly filming – the world is watching – so we need to be careful.
There are times we may need to have a private conversation – where we need to correct someone. Do you know how much privacy is on social media? Zero. None.
Yes, we need to have private conversations – and so many issues we may need to have private conversations on – and there are 4-5 words that keep coming up –
When we have those private conversations – first – with gentleness. Second – Patience – then kindness – humility – then without arguing!
Just follow that! That’s all we need to do!
If those words are not how you are doing it – there is a simple answer! STOP! Don’t even start until those words reflect your heart.
The mouth speaks that which fills the heart.
Then the third way we offend – when we attach non-essential issues to the gospel –
In the New Testament – they did it with foods – kosher – washing – circumcision.
There are all kinds of things we raise to the level of gospel, and it distracts from the gospel – be it political, social, economic – or whatever – issue – it takes away from the gospel.
Yes, there are many important issues we should act upon – but if they are not the gospel, they should not be raised to the level of the gospel.
Last week, I mentioned – in 1 Cor. - I am determined to know nothing among you but Christ, and Him crucified.
I set my mind – to only talk about Jesus on the cross.
That is astonishing!
Now, he wasn’t like a robot or broken record – “Christ crucified, Christ crucified, Christ crucified” – no, he did not want ANYTHING to get in the way of people understanding the simple message of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection.
Believing He was who He claimed to be.
Today, I think Christians and Christianity have become associated with so many things that distract from the gospel – it is just a reality.
A Christian is a follower of Jesus – it is that simple – that is all we are.
Jesus gave us all kinds of teachings – but there are three chapters in Matthew 5-7 – the Sermon on the Mount – and when we look at our own following of Jesus, and then look at the Sermon on the Mount – asking – is that what I am doing? Is that what I am becoming?! If he doesn’t say it – should we emphasize it? No!
To close off – I’ll introduce us to part 3 –
1 Corinthians 9:19 For though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to all, to win as many as possible.
We’ll look at how Paul engaged the world to bring people to faith in Christ without being conformed to the world.
Paul is talking about – in their world – for someone who would be on mission, he would have a patron, someone in the city who was wealthy who would support Paul on his mission. Paul said – he did not take money from anyone – so he could be free to proclaim the gospel.
He has made himself a slave to everyone.
Back in the 60s and 70s, there were musicians who did not want their music to become commercialized. Solution: Don’t sign with a record company! But some, like Bob Dylan, couldn’t be stopped. Most capitulated.
He became free from all – so he could be a slave to all – free from everyone so he could be truly free from everybody – so that – He could win everyone to Christ!
Lord, May we be people who are free in every way to win those who don’t know You – that we might show them – speak to them of this Jesus – this God who is so amazing – how could one not want the One who came in weakness, who hung on a cross, that the power of God might be demonstrated in Him?