Passage: 1 Corinthians 6:11
No one has a story beyond the reach of God to rewrite.
I spent a lot of time in the woods with my dad growing up. My dad always had projects, so on the weekend if my mom was working, he’d take us with him to just play while he worked or we’d help him if we were able. We’d ride with him in his truck back into the woods. And one thing my dad would always notice and comment on were ruts. He didn’t like them. He wanted to get rid of them. He wanted other people driving on these woods roads to vary where they drove so ruts weren’t created.
This whole idea of “ruts” has become an image we use to talk about our lives. We might say, “I’m stuck in a rut” or “I fell into a rut.” It means we keep doing the same thing over and over again. We keep driving the exact same path and can’t seem to get out.
How do ruts get made? When the dirt is soft, you make ruts. Then those ruts are easy to slip into later. As much as you avoid them, you can easily get pulled into them. Even when the dirt is dry, a rut can be created by driving the same path over and over again. You kill the grass where you drive and compact the dirt and the grass in the middle of the road stays and grows.
When each of us was young, we were easily shaped and molded. We were learning how the world works, how relationships work, who we are, and so forth. The dirt of our lives was soft. This means that ruts could easily be made. We learned ways of doing things, relating to people, and navigating the world that created a rut. Even when we are older, we typically continue in these ruts. When we are older, it’s harder to create a new rut but they can still be created as we do something over and over again.
Relationships can get into ruts: we follow the same patterns and styles of relating to one another. There have been times in our marriage where Katie and I recognized we were in a rut. We were stuck in an unhealthy pattern of relating to one another that we couldn’t seem to get out of. So we sought out marriage counseling to help us get out of that pattern, that rut. A lot of times, the ruts we fall into were made a long time ago when we were growing up.
What habits do you have in your life, bad or good, that are a rut you continually drive down or fall into? Do you have any styles or patterns of relating to people that you do over and over again whether they are good or bad?
Today we are in our third and final message of a three week sermon series called “Bad News, Good News”. Each week, we are looking at a verse that tells both the bad news without Christ and the good news with Christ. My prayer is that these verses would restore the joy of our salvation found in Christ and that they would get us excited to share this good news with others.
Just like the other messages, this one will have a simple outline. First, the bad news and the good news for those who know Jesus. Second, the bad news and the good news for those who don’t yet know Jesus.
The verse we are focusing on today is 1 Corinthians 6:11. The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church in Corinth and this church was a mess. They had relational issues, fighting with each other and taking one another to court (6:1-8). There’s a guy in this church sleeping with his father’s wife and they aren’t doing anything about it (5:1) but are even arrogant about it (5:2, 6). They are creating divisions where each party is loyal to a different teacher (3:1-4). There is jealousy and strife (3:3). They are aligning themselves with the world’s wisdom and the world’s way of doing things (3:18-19), even acting in ways that those outside the church wouldn’t tolerate (5:1). Some think they are better than others because of their gifts and talents (4:6-7). The poor are being ignored at their meals together (11:17–34). They are having theological arguments with each other (8:1–12). They were divided over spiritual gifts (2:13; 13:1–3; 14:1–5). They are arrogant (4:18-19, 5:2) and boastful (6:6).
You could say the people in this church had fallen into ruts from their former life before they knew Christ. Yes, they had surrendered to Jesus but the ruts of their former life didn’t magically go away. They are falling back into old ways of doing life and old patterns of relating to other people. They had believed the gospel and are now the people of God, but in many ways they aren’t living like God’s people or people who believe the gospel. They still have the ruts of a worldly life.
The same is true of us. When we trusted in Jesus, the ruts that were developed through childhood, adolescence and then adulthood came with us. We brought with us into the church our old ways and our old patterns of doing things. While it’s true that God is doing a restorative work in us to get us out of those ruts, they don’t go away instantly. There is a process of growth.
Bad News for Those Who Know Jesus
Throughout chapters 3 through 9, Paul asks ten times: “Do you not know?” “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (3:16) “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?” (6:15) “[D]o you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” (6:19) These are rhetorical questions, meaning the answer is obvious. Paul knows they know the answer. But he is asking the question because they aren’t living like it. Their lives are out of alignment with what they know.
This is true for all of us. Most of the time, our knowledge goes beyond our obedience. We know more than we are obeying. That’s why we might say things like, “I should follow my own advice” or “do as I say not as I do”. If we obeyed and put into practice 100% of what we know, we’d be living very differently. Consider the simple example of diet. We might say, “I know eating sweets is bad for me, but I can’t stop at just one of Laurel’s brownies.” We all know that flossing is good for us, but does that mean you do it every day like our dentist tells us every appointment? The same thing is true for our Christians lives. We know God has forgiven us, but we still live like God is mad at us and doesn’t like us. We know that God is always good, but we complain about how bad our lives are. We know we are God’s children, but we keep acting like orphans. We know we need to rely on God, but we keep relying on ourselves. Paul is pointing out how their lives are out of alignment with the gospel. Growth as God’s children is about bringing what we do into alignment with what we know - into alignment with the gospel, what’s true of God and what’s true of us because of Christ.
In chapter 6 verses 1 through 8, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for taking one another to court and he uses these questions to show them why this action doesn’t make sense. Verse 2 says: “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (6:2) His point in asking this question is to show how absurd it is that they are bringing issues between Christians before non-Christian judges and courts. If Christians will be put in charge of judging the world, then why are you bringing your cases to worldly courts and worldly judges, the very people whom you will judge? He also asks, “Do you not know that we are to judge angels?” (6:3) And if this is the case, how much more are they able to judge matters pertaining to this life! [Illustration] It’s kind of like a carpenter who builds houses for a living. Then he buys a dog and needs to build a dog house. But he goes and asks his neighbor who is a banker to come build the dog house for him. If he is capable of building entire houses, shouldn’t he be capable of building a dog house? And why is he asking someone who is so much less skilled at building houses than him to build the house for him? Paul wonders how there can’t be someone among them who can settle a dispute between them so that they aren’t laying their cases before those who have no standing in the church and who will be judged by the church.
But he also adds that even if they were to judge these cases within the church community, the very fact that they have lawsuits with one another is a problem. Whether they win or lose the lawsuit in court, they’ve already lost by the fact that they have a lawsuit against another brother in Christ! Why are they fighting in this way? Wouldn’t they rather suffer wrong than take a fellow Christian to court? Wouldn’t they rather be defrauded and lose money than have a lawsuit with another brother or sister in Christ? But it’s even worse than this. Not only are they not willing to suffer wrong or be defrauded, he says in verse 8: “But you yourselves wrong and defraud - even your own brothers!”
Paul’s concern with this church is that they are acting like the world and look no different than the world. What they know should be leading them to act differently, but it isn’t. Their lives are out of alignment with the gospel. They are stuck in the ruts of their former life without Christ.
The point is: do we look like God’s people who are in the world but not of it? Is the way we live and act as individuals and as a church in alignment with the gospel or with worldly values and priorities? When it comes to conflict, differences, and disagreements, do we fight like the rest of the world or do we have an attitude of grace, love, and humility toward one another where we’d rather suffer loss or wrong than get our way? Sadly, many times our solution to relational conflict, disagreements, or differences of opinion in the church is to leave that church and start over somewhere else.
Paul asks in verse 9: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” The point is: why are you having unrighteous people judge your cases when they won’t even inherit the kingdom of God? The way they are living disqualifies them from the kingdom, so why do you think they are qualified to judge lawsuits between you as believers?
Then he lists ten different types of wrongdoers. He says in verse 9:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, no adulterers, nor men who practce homosexuality, nor theives, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
The point of these words is first to question why they are bringing their issues to be judged by “the unrighteous” or “wrongdoers” who will not inherit the kingdom of God and whom the Corinthian believers will one day judge. How can these wrongdoers be qualified to judge a matter of wrongdoing? Why are you bringing your relational issues to be solved by people behaving in this way who aren’t even part of the kingdom of God?
Secondly, it’s a warning that if the Corinthians are acting in these ways, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. This is not a theoretical list: these activities are actually going on in this church. He’s already mentioned in verse 8 that some are wronging and defrauding. He has already said in 5:1 that there is sexual immorality among them and will go on to address it further in chapter 6. And in chapters 8 through 11, he addresses their continued involvement in the religious practices of worshiping idols. Even if they weren’t going on in this church, they are happening in the city around them and the people in this church were engaged in some of these activities before surrendering their lives to Jesus.
Right before this list, Paul says, “Do not be deceived.” Paul is saying, “If this is how you are living, don’t be deceived. You will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He’s saying, “If this describes you, you are in danger of not inheriting the kingdom of God.” He isn’t talking about one-time sinful acts. He’s talking about a deliberate lifestyle of sin without remorse. Don’t be deceived into thinking you can live an unrighteous life as a wrongdoer with no remorse and inherit the kingdom of God. Our behavior does not get us into the kingdom, but it is an indicator of whether we are in the kingdom. Fruit makes faith visible. Actions make allegiance visible. Some in this church are looking so worldly, that it’s questionable whether they will inherit the kingdom of God.
Sometimes you see those signs that say, “In this family we…” then it lists some behaviors and practices. Larry has one in his house I’ve been looking at for two weeks. It says, “In our Home we...Put God first, Count our Blessings, Have Faith, Sa Please and Thank You, Trust, Believe in Miracles, Pray Always, Forgive as we have been forgiven, Make a difference, Give Thanks, Work hard and Dream Big, Give Second Chances, Love One Another.” Is anyone going to do this perfectly? No. The point is that this is how people in this household or family act. Paul is saying, “In God’s kingdom, in God’s family, we don’t do these things.” Are those characteristics and behaviors always followed perfectly? No, of course not. But those are the marks of this family. A break from our past is required. Some of the people in this church were stuck in the ruts of their old, worldly life. They didn’t leave it behind. And they weren’t feeling bad about it and repenting. They were arrogant about it.
Good News for Those Who Know Jesus
So what’s the good news? Paul lists out these lifestyles then he says in verse 11:
11 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. (1 Corinthians 6:11)
“Such were some of you.” Some of you were sexually immoral, doing whatever you wanted with your bodies. Some of you were worshiping false gods, looking to created things to satisfy you and protect you. Some of you were adulterers; you cheated on your spouse. Some of you practiced homosexuality, engaging in sexual practices with the same sex. Some of you were thieves, taking what belongs to others. Some of you were greedy, taking as much as you could and always wanting more. Some of you were drunkards, wasting your lives by drinking yourselves into foolishness. Some of you were revilers, abusing and tearing people down with your words. Some of you were swindlers, deceiving in order to take. That’s what some of you were. You had no chance of being part of God’s kingdom. You were disqualified from inheriting the kingdom of God.
That’s what some of you were, but you were washed. Jesus washed you clean of all your filth, all your sin. He was the bleach to your stained life. That’s what some of you were, but you were sanctified. God set you apart as someone special. He set you apart for you to be his and for him to be yours. He took you out of your kingdom-rejecting, kingdom-forfeiting life and made you his. He picked you out of the garbage heap you were in and made you his special, treasured possession. He cleaned you up, he polished you, and he will polish you until he can see his reflection in you. That’s what some of you were, but you were justified. In spite of all you did that was wrong and unrighteous and in spite of all the condemnation you deserved, God instead declared you righteous, innocent. Your death sentence for your crimes has been erased.
This was all done in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ because he’s the one who made it all possible. You are washed clean by his blood. You are set apart just like he was. You are declared righteous because he took your penalty in your place. And the Spirit of God took what Jesus did and brought it down into your life. What the Father planned, Jesus accomplished, and the Spirit applied.
Whoever we once were - whatever wrong we had done that made us unable to inherit the kingdom of God - that’s no longer true of us. We are no longer disqualified from kingdom inheritance because of it, even if we slip back into those old ways at times. That’s not who you are anymore! That’s no longer your story. But even after God does his work in our lives, our past can haunt us and hold onto us. There can be ruts that we slip into. So we need to be reminded, “That’s who you were, but this is who you are now. That ‘you’ is gone. Jesus has made a new ‘you’.”
Paul is making an identity statement. He is creating a contrast between who the Corinthians once were and who they are now. He is reminding them how God has broken them from their past so that they break from their current behavior. “Don’t go into those old ruts. That’s not you anymore.”
Bad News for Those Who Don’t Know Jesus
As we consider the bad news for those who don’t yet know Jesus, I want to make it personal. I don’t want us to think about it theoretically. I want us to have names and faces. At the beginning of this series two weeks ago, we wrote a list of people God has placed in our lives. We are going to make that list again today. Some people call it a FRANC list: Friends, Relatives, Acquaintances, Neighbors, Coworkers. Of these people in your life, who doesn’t know God? Or which ones aren’t you sure about? Take a moment to make your own FRANC list. Even if you did it before, do it again today. [Give 1 minute] Now take a moment and ask God, “Who on this list do you want me to be intentional with?” Then circle those names.
The reality for people on our lists who are without Christ is that they are living in a way that disqualifies them from inheritance of God’s kingdom. Here’s how Article 10 of our Statement of Faith puts this:
We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
For the rest of time, those who reject Jesus will live with the penalty for their sins. God does not save everyone. God saves those who turn to Jesus.
Good News for Those Who Don’t Know Jesus
The people on our lists who don’t know Jesus are living lifestyles that put them outside of God’s kingdom. But that was true of all of us. Though they are currently outside of God’s kingdom, it does not mean they are outside of God’s ability to wash them clean, to sanctify them, to justify them. There is no one too sinful, too bad, too far off that Jesus cannot rescue. No one has a story beyond the reach of God to rewrite. No matter your past, no matter where you’ve been, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what’s been done to you, Jesus can make you new. All you have to do is say “yes” to him. Verse 11 could be their story: “That’s who you once were! You were sexually immoral! You were worshiping everything but God! You were an adulterer! You were practicing homosexuality! You were greedy and stealing from others! You were a crook! You were a drunkard! You were an abuser of others with your foul mouth! That’s who you were, but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. That’s no longer true of you. You belong to Jesus now and everything has changed.”
Don’t we sometimes think there’s no hope for some people? Do you have people in your life who sleep around with whoever they want? Do you have people in your life cheating on their spouse? Do you have people in your life who are greedy workaholics, only focused on their career and making more money, getting more stuff, and going on bigger and better vacations? Do you have people in your life who are drinking their life away, half-living in bars, drinking day and night? Or doing the same thing with a different addictive substance? For some of us, that was our story. That was the story of many of the Corinthians. But no one is beyond God’s power to pull them out of whatever deep and terrible rut they are in to make them his.
Maybe you are thinking, “I have those people in my life but we don’t really know each other.” Or maybe you are thinking, “I don’t know any people who don’t know Jesus.” BLESS wherever you live, work, and play. Do things you enjoy with people who don’t know Jesus.
Now, I want to give some extra attention to the most controversial and offensive item on this list to our modern culture: homosexuality. The first thing I want you to notice is that homosexuality is put right next to other sins like greed and tearing others down through reviling. We too often elevate sexual sins above other sins, giving some sins a free pass while being harsher on others.
That being said, some people today, even some Christians, try to argue that when the Bible talks about homosexuality, it is talking about a different type of homosexuality than we see today. Therefore, they say, the Bible does not prohibit the type of homosexuality of our culture: monogamous, consenting adults. But this isn’t true. Homosexuality with monogamous, consenting adults was known in the 1st century, even if there were other situations of homosexual behavior that are less common today. There are scholars who are pro-homosexuality who say there is no way to erase the Bible’s prohibitions against homosexuality. There’s no way around: the Bible prohibits sexual relations with the same-sex. So if we want to align our sexual ethics with the Bible, we cannot affirm homosexual behavior.
Another hot button issue that the Bible addresses is transgenderism. The Bible teaches that God makes us male or female. This does not mean we deny the reality of same-sex attraction or the psychological reality of gender dysphoria. We ought to have the deepest compassion for people in these situations.
The Bible’s teaching on sexuality and gender are the most difficult biblical teachings to hold today because everything in our culture is against it. You can be called a bigot and a hater for holding this view. It will not win us popularity points. We need to understand that both of these issues have been elevated to a civil rights issue. So if we say, “I think homosexuality is wrong” or “transgenderisim is wrong”, people see that as equivalent to saying, “I think being black is wrong” or “black people should have less rights than white people.” That’s how they see it. It’s much more complicated than saying to someone, “Well, you have your opinion and I have mine. We have different points of view.” To them, that’s like a white supremacist saying, “Well, you have your opinion that people of all skin colors are equal and I have my opinion that people with white skin are better. We have different points of view.” That’s why it’s such a heated topic.
For us, though, we want to accept and affirm our Creator’s design for human flourishing. Those who affirm homosexuality and transgenderism are rejecting our Creator’s design for human flourishing. They want to define right and wrong, good and bad on their own terms rather than God’s.
So what should be our attitude toward people who are living these lifestyles or any other lifestyle in this list? How are we to treat people in our lives or who enter into our church community that have stuff like this going on in their lives? It’s very simple: we focus on Jesus, not their behavior. Our mission is to invite people to surrender all of life to Jesus and that means they need to hear about and meet Jesus. That’s our number one priority. Once they have surrendered their life to him, then they have opened the door for Jesus to enter their life and he will begin renovating the different rooms of sin in it. We care first about their relationship with Jesus, not their behavior. Whatever people have done or are currently doing, our attitude should be to welcome them so that they can find Jesus and find healing and freedom.
“Such were some of you” - Paul recognizes that not all of us have a story exactly like this. Some of our stories are less dramatic from a human perspective. But the fact is that the Bible tells us anyone who has surrendered to Jesus is a walking miracle because it is only by God’s intervention that we would ever do such a thing. So if you are sitting here today and you call yourself a follower of Jesus, God has done a miracle in your life. He has in fact done the greatest miracle because he has brought you from death to life, from far off to near, from unrighteous to washed. You had a heart of stone that he changed to a soft and responsive heart to him.
It’s important that we are able to tell this story - the story of our conversion and surrender to Jesus. Another type of story are our transformation stories about how God has worked in specific situations in our lives. Many people live in guilt and shame. They live with the psychological, emotional, spiritual, mental, and physical consequences of their sin. And you can share with them: “I once was right where you were, but now…” I like this quote from a book on evangelism:
“Your struggles, sufferings, needs and longings are the best bridge into the lives of others. And your transformation stories are your greatest personal asset for sharing your faith." (Reimagining Evangelism, 95-96)
Think about the ruts you were in before you met Jesus. Those didn’t instantly go away. How has God worked in your life to transform you? How is he continuing to work on those ruts that are difficult to get out of?
Others have these same ruts in their lives. And just like us, they were seeking to meet a deep inner need with these lifestyles. Your story about how God is working in your life regarding those same ruts is a great connection point to tell them about Jesus. If they are sharing about a struggle and you aren’t sure if they’d be open to hearing your story, you can simply ask, “Could I share with you my experience in this same thing?”
We are Good News Church. We are people who show and tell the good news about how God stepped into our lives and totally changed the direction of it. Our story is that God has done in our lives what we could not do for ourselves. We are people of the good news with good news to share.