Standing Tall During Sinful Times

Bible Book: 1 Corinthians  16 : 13-14
Subject: Christian Living

Paul is writing to what was without dispute the most wicked city of his day. Corinth was so evil that to be called a Corinthian was a slander and insult unprecedented during that time. The make matters worse, the Church at Corinth was marked with worldly problems. The congregation was divided, sin was rampant, order was lacking, selfishness was visible and the doctrinal stand of the believers in that church was problematic. To put in bluntly, the place was a mess. Paul sent the letter before us into that place of sin , selfishness and spiritual confusion.

As Paul came to the close of his letter, he gave the church five imperatives for remaining faithful while living in a sinful company. This five imperatives actually translate into three major areas of responsibility for people dwelling in a depraved day.

No right thinking Christian would deny that we, in our own day, are living in a very sinful era. Right is called wrong in our day and wrong is declared to be right. Evil is called good and good is called evil. We must remember what the Lord said in Isaiah’s day, as recorded in Isaiah 5:20, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” Because the people reversed His truth, the Lord raised His hand against them. We must resolve as God’s people to live and witness as faithfully as possible in our generation. If we carry out the three commands before us in this Scripture, we will fulfill our duty and bring glory to our Lord.

Note with me the three categories of conduct which must be a part of our lives for us to continue Standing Tall During Sinful Times.

I. Watching 16:13a

The word used to describe being watchful and on guard means to be roused from inactivity, obscurity or sickness. It expands to project the idea of being fully alert. It can, in essence, mean to be revived! It is a very important word in the New Testament and is used 23 times to express the need for being alert, awake and revived.

Paul is commanding the Corinthians and all concerned and dedicated Christians to take seriously the task of being alert and awake at our post. In the New Testament, the idea of being watchful addresses several areas of Christian responsibility.

A. It Speaks of the Danger of Satan

Satan knows that he can trick us if he can get us to become careless, even if we are careless abut the smallest matters. One example of this is a stuntman named Bobby Leach. In 1911, he went over Niagara Falls in a specially designed steel drum and lived to tell about it. Although he suffered minor injuries, he survived because he recognized the tremendous dangers involved in the feat, and because he had done everything he could to protect himself from harm.

Several years after that incident, while walking down a street in New Zealand, Bobby Leach slipped on an orange peeling, fell, and badly fractured his leg. He was taken to a hospital where he later died of complications from the fall. He received a greater injury walking down the street than he sustained in going over Niagara. He was not prepared for danger in what he assumed to be a safe situation.

Some great temptations that roar around us like the foaming cataract of Niagara will leave us unharmed, while a small, insignificant incident causes our downfall. That is why we must remain alert.

1 Peter 5:8 reads, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Galatians 6:1 tells us about restoring a person who has fallen into sin, but note the warning attached. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.”

Satan will try to take advantage of us as stated in 2 Corinthians 2:11. Jesus told Peter that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat. He desires to do the same to you. We must be alert by remaining steadfast in our faith. We must measure our decisions, not by our feelings or environment but, by His holy truth found in Scripture.

B. It Speaks of the Disappointment of the Savior

Revelation 3:2 states, “Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God.”

Matthew 26:40 reads, “Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter.”

Peter failed the Lord by failing to be watchful. Actually, if you and I follow Peter to the moment when he denied the Lord just before the crucifixion, we will see that his mistake was one of not being watchful from the very beginning. Peter was like the frog who is placed in a pan of water which is slowly heated. Since the body temperature of this little cold-blooded creature changes to correspond with the temperature of his surroundings, he is unaware of his danger. Before he realizes he's in boiling hot water, death overtakes him.

In much the same way, Peter's failure of our Lord didn't just happen; it was the result of a gradual decline. The apostle yielded to circumstances that contributed to his downfall. In the upper room he was overconfident. Then, in the garden, he slept when he should have been praying. Failing to understand his Master's redemptive purpose, he resisted the idea that Jesus would have to suffer and die. As the Lord was being taken by the soldiers, the apostle impulsively drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant. Finally, gripped by fear when identified by a maid, he denied the Lord he loved.

You and I will fail our Savior again and again unless we are watchful. We must be alert, awake and active for Him at all times!

C. It Speaks of the Doom of the Sinner

Hebrews 12:15 reads, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

If we are not watchful, our behavior can lead to the downfall of unbelievers. We must be careful, lest someone misses the grace of God because of us and is doomed. this is a most sobering thought, that someone might actually refuse Christ because of me!

D. It Speaks of the Destiny of the Saint

Matthew 24:42 records that Jesus said, "Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

Jesus taught us to be ready, for we do not know when He may return. We must be ready at all times. This does not mean that we put on white robes, sell our property, quit our jobs and go sit on the hillside waiting for Him to return. It means the very opposite, since He is coming, we must be about the business of living faithfully for Him. We should put aside our worries and live in the reality that our destiny is with the King of Kings! This should prompt us to be alert and active!

II. Growing 16:13b

A. We should be Growing Up -Fullness

We are to ever be growing into a more mature and complete Christian. It is said of Jesus when He was a child, that he grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:52).” We should continue to grow throughout our Christian lives, growing up. Paul puts it like this in Ephesians 4:14-15 reads, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Furthermore he writes, “(as found in 1 Peter 2:2) “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”

We are to grow up, lest we act like children rather than mature, Christian adults. A mother was having a hard time getting her son to leave for school one morning. "Nobody likes me at school," said the son. "The teachers don't and the kids don't. The superintendent wants to transfer me, the bus drivers hate me, the school board wants me to drop out, and the custodians have it in for me. I don't want to go." "You've got to go," insisted the mother. "You're healthy. You've a lot to learn. You've got something to offer others. You're a leader. Besides, you're forty-five years old and you're the principal at the school!" If we do not grow up, we will shirk our Christian responsibilities.

B. We should be Growing Down - Faith

In 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4 Paul wrote, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”

Plutarch, in writing about the king of Sparta, tells how an ambassador on a diplomatic mission visited the famous city. Knowing that its strength was acclaimed throughout all of Greece, he had expected to see massive fortresses surrounding the town, but he found nothing of the kind. Surprised, he exclaimed to the ruler, "Sir, you have no fortifications for defense. Why is this?" "Ah, But we are well protected," he replied. "Come with me tomorrow and I will show you the walls of Sparta." The next day he led his guest to the plain where the army was drawn up in full battle array. Pointing proudly to his soldiers who stood fearlessly in place, he said, "Behold the walls of Sparta--10,000 men and every man a’ brick'!"

We are to grow in our faith, till we become like a brick in the wall of God’s Church, standing bold and tall in a wicked generation. This requires continual growth in our faith! If we do not grow in our trust of Christ, we will run when the battle begins. During a practical exercise at a military police base, the instructor was giving the class instruction in unarmed self-defense. After presenting a number of different situations in which they might find themselves, he asked one student, "What steps would you take if someone were coming at you with a sharp knife?" The student replied, "Big ones!"

Courage is not the absence of fear. Someone has said, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” Indeed, we talk to the Lord, trust Him completely, we can be faithful in every situation.

C. We should be Growing Out - Fruit

Colossians 1:10-11 reads, “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully.”

III. Loving 16:14

A. Loving God

B. Loving the Saved

C. Loving the Lost

We reach the supreme responsibility when we come to love. Paul wrote so masterfully about this subject in 1 Corinthians 13. As he closes his letter, he commands once more than love be preeminent among believers. Just what does he mean when he says that we should do all in love? It means that love is the only attribute which can help us to fulfill our duty. For example, we might be bold, but if we lack love, of what value is our boldness? We might give great gifts, but if we lack love, our gifts mean nothing. We must love, that is what will help us to watch and to grow. Love will cause us to remain close to our Lord and will help us keep our eyes on Him in this wicked world. Love will cause us to love one another. Love will cause us to love the lost and our enemies. Love will remind us that our fight is not with people but with the devil himself!

Ephesians 3:16-21 covers this entire idea better than any passage in the New Testament. It reads, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Extra illustrations:

A man was driving along a narrow winding road up in rural New England when he saw a barn with five bull's-eyes painted on the side of it, and right in the middle of each one was an arrow, a perfect bull's-eye. The man's curiosity got the best of him. He pulled over, got out of the car, and went to the house near the barn, hoping to meet whoever was such a good marksman.

The farmer was surprised that anyone would take such interest in his marksmanship and invited him outside for an exhibition of his shooting skill with the bow and arrow. He carefully loaded the bow and swiftly shot the arrow into the side of the barn. Then he went inside the barn, came out with a paint brush and a bucket of paint, and carefully and meticulously painted around the arrow a target, making sure that the arrow was right in the middle of the bull's-eye.

Now that's one way to never miss the mark. Do what you want to do, and then decide that what you did was right. Act any way you want to act, and then agree that any behavior is acceptable.

Writing in "Moody Monthly," Carl Armerding recounted his experience of watching a wildcat in a zoo. "As I stood there," he said, "an attendant entered the cage through a door on the opposite side. He had nothing in his hands but a broom. Carefully closing the door, he proceeded to sweep the floor of the cage." He observed that the worker had no weapon to ward off an attack by the beast. In fact, when he got to the corner of the cage where the wildcat was lying, he poked the animal with the broom. The wildcat hissed at him and then lay down in another corner of the enclosure. Armerding remarked to the attendant, "You certainly are a brave man." "No I ain't brave," he replied as he continued to sweep. "Well, then, that cat must be tame." "No," came the reply, "he ain't tame." "If you aren't brave and the wildcat isn't tame, then I can't understand why he doesn't attack you." Armerding said the man chuckled, then replied with an air of confidence, "Mister, he's old--and he ain't got no teeth."

Where was it that Jesus' sweat was like great drops of blood? Not in Pilate's hall, not on His way to Golgotha. It was in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He "offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death" (Heb. 5:7).

If we had witnessed His struggle that night, we night have said, "If He is so broken up when all He is doing is praying, what will He do when He faces a real crisis? Why can't He approach this ordeal with the calm confidence of His three sleeping friends?" Yet when the test came, Jesus walked to the cross with courage, and His three friends fell apart and ran away.

A man attending a major league baseball game caused a bit of commotion with the people around him. No matter which team made a hit or a run, the man would cheer. Finally, someone asked him, "Why are you rooting for both teams?" The man explained, "Well, I live way out in the country, and I don't get to many games, so I pull for both sides. That way, no matter who wins, I go home happy."

You don't have to be a sports fan to know that if you have a strong loyalty for a team you won't root for both sides. Yet that's what we do if we talk and act like Christians when we are around fellow believers but act as if we don't know Jesus when we are with unbelievers. This kind of behavior may indicate that we really aren't sure which side is right, or that we lack the courage to be identified with Christ.

The world will usually forgive you for being blue, sometimes for being green, but never for being yellow.