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SEPTEMBER 6 2015

Stewardship

 

Our Scripture reading this morning is I Cor 6: 18-20. The city of Corinth was a rather wicked place. It was known for its idolatry, with several temples to various gods, and its sexual promiscuity. Paul, with the help of Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, and Timothy established the church in Corinth three years or less before writing this letter (see Acts 18). In thos short years the church should have been influencing the culture of that city. Instead, what appears to have happened is that the culture influenced the church.  Paul had heard that some of the Corinthian church members were guilty of fornication so this is one of the issues he addresses in his letter.

 

This is like America today. It has become a rather wicked place. It is full of idolatry. We do not have temples as Corinth did – full of statues of false gods. But we nevertheless have idols. Corinth had Aphrodite, Apollos, Asklepios, and Jupiter. We have more subtle idols though even more real: Pleasure, Entertainment, Greed, and Convenience. Corinth has sexual wantonness. America has sexual license and if you dare speak out against it outside the walls of a church building they will put you in jail.

 

In verse 18 Paul writes, “Flee fornication!” It is not something to even get near. We must flee from it as you would flee a dangerous animal that has the power and disposition to cause you great harm. “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body…” When the other commandments are broken a person may or may not use their body. If they do the body is not directly affected. But the sin of fornication directly involves the body and the body is directly affected. The heart is as well, and the mind. But Paul is making the point that only in fornication does a person sin against their own body. The results can be tragic – syphillus, gonorrhea, or AIDS. Even death can result as the book of Proverbs makes plain.

 

In this passage Paul is concerned about the human body. He is concerned about the bodies of the Corinthian believers.

 

He goes on in verse 19: “Or, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” In Paul’s mind the mere knowledge of this glorious fact – that the Holy Spirit dwells within the true disciple of Christ – should be enough to cause them to keep their bodies pure, because it is a temple!

 

What is an even greater disgrace it is for someone to know that the Holy Spirit is in them and yet to commit sexual immorality!

 

[I.] We ought to care for our bodies because they are a temple of the Holy Spirit.

 

I wish to draw attention to the last sentence in verse 19: “You are not your own.”

 

One reason why the Corinthians should not be touching fornication is because they have the Holy Spirit living in them and their bodies are temples. Another reason is that their bodies are not their own.

 

This idea of having something that does not belong to you but that you use has a name. It is called stewardship.

 

We are stewards of all that we are because God owns us. We were “bought with a price.” (verse 20) God already has rights over every created thing by virtue of the fact that he is the Creator.

 

   The earth is Yahweh’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those

   who dwell therein. (Psalm 24:1)

 

Then Psalm 24 goes on to link this ownership to Him as Creator. Who belongs to God? Those who dwell on the earth! Let me ask you, do you dwell on the earth? Then you belong to God! There is no escaping it. You can deny it. You can run away from it, but you still belong to God. Even if the devil has stolen you, you still belong to God!

 

Some have been bought back. The biblical expression for being bought back is redeemed. Some have been redeemed. I have been redeemed! If you have been redeemed then you are twice the property of God. You belong to God through creation. And you belong even more to God through redemption! Oh, this is glorious!

 

Now, the idea of stewardship is that we must be faithful to take care of what God has entrusted to us. And we must use what God has entrusted us with to glorify Him. Paul says as much at the end of verse 20: “So…” That means “because our bodies belong to God” “glorify God in your body.”

 

The immediate context, and what we have been seeing, is that we glorify God in our bodies by not engaging in fornication, by fleeing sexual acts except for those which God promotes, which is only those between a husband and a wife. We glorify God in our bodies by being sexually pure.

 

But the truth of stewardship goes beyond this. It means we glorify God in our bodies in all ways. We glorify God in our bodies by being good stewards of our bodies.

 

[II.] We must be good stewards of our bodies because they are not fully ours.

 

We are to be good stewards of all that we are. We must be a good steward of our mind. We must be a good steward of our emotions. We must be a good steward of our human spirit. We even must be a good steward of the material possessions that we have. We must be a good steward of our money.

 

In this passage Paul is talking about bodies. So we will focus on being a good steward of our bodies.

 

The first notion that must be done away with, which still holds sway in some Christian circles, is that the only pursuits that are worthy are those that are “spiritual” and things physical are somehow unimportant or a distraction from what really matters. Such an idea does not have its origin in Scripture but, rather, from Plato to whom we in the West owe much of our intellectual heritage. When God created all physical things we read: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) Not just good, but very good! Timothy Keller has well said,

 

We acknowledge that the world is good. It is not the temporary theater for our individual salvation stories, after which we go to live disembodied lives in a different dimension. According to the Bible, this world is a forerunner of the new heavens and the new earth, which will be purified, restored, and enhanced at the “renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:28; Romans 8:19-25). No other religion envisions matter and spirit living together in integrity forever. And so birds flying and oceans roaring and people eating, walking, and loving are permanently good things.[1]

 

The proper functioning and appreciation for the beauty of things physical is part of God’s good design. Hence, physical-spiritual dichotomies should be rejected.

 

God is concerned about physical things because He made physical things.

 

Now, Adam was given the charge to tend and care for the garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), a garden that evidently was large enough to hold all the different kinds of created animals! This was quite a task for only two people, even considering that it would have been easier without the thorns, thistles, and weeds that came as a result of the curse. In order for this task to be completed well our original forebearers would have to have been necessarily fit, their bodies in good working order, and possessing a level of energy that is often lacking among people today.

 

Today, as we look around we see that people are not fit, their bodies are not in good working order, and energy is lacking (otherwise the sales of coffee and energy drinks would not be outstandingly good!). Yes, it is because of the fall. But so is fornication. Never let the fall be an excuse for what should be but isn’t in you. Sometimes you may use it, under the right circumstances, for others. But not for yourself.

 

God desires that we flourish. Many passages of Scripture could be read to show that this is indeed his desire for you. But let us look at one: Deut. 7:12-15. 

 

In order for us to flourish our bodies must be in good working order, fit, and possess energy. To ensure that our bodies are working right, that they are fit, that we have energy and vigor we must be good stewards of them.

 

[III.] Therefore, we must be good stewards of our bodies because God desires that we flourish.

 

[IV.] How do we become good stewards? Those outside the Christian faith either deny the reality of sin altogether or greatly underestimate the comprehensive nature of its corrupting power. By and large, Christians also underestimate its pervasiveness. The biblical view, however, casts man’s condition as forlorn.

 

Man in his raw, natural state as he comes from the womb is morally and spiritually corrupt in disposition and character. Every part of his being – his mind, his will, his emotions, his affections, his conscience, his body – has been affected by sin. His understanding is darkened, his mind is at enmity with God, his will to act is slave to his darkened understanding and rebellious mind, his heart is corrupt, his emotions are perverted, his affections naturally gravitate to that which is evil and ungodly, his conscience is untrustworthy, and his body is subject to mortality. The Scriptures are replete with such representations of the condition of fallen man, as the following verses verify: Genesis 6:5-6; 8:21; I Kings 8:46; Psalm 14:1-3; 51:5; 58:3; 130:3; 143:2; Eccl 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9; Luke 11:13; John 5:42; Romans 1:29-32; 3:9-23; Galatians 3:22; Eph 2:1-3; 4:17-19; I John 1:8,10; 5:19.[2]

 

Casual observation, especially here in the Midwest, shows what is plain with respect to how people steward their own bodies. For many, if not most, do not value the integrity of their physicality. This is due to sin. The mind is affected by sin and so laziness can be a pernicious trouble that leads to inactivity. The affections are corrupted so that an inordinate desire for food predominates in those cultures where food is abundant. This manifests itself in both a qualitative as well as a quantitative misuse in consumption (i.e., eating nutritionally deficient foods or excessive eating). This is commonly called gluttony. Our bodies themselves are damaged by sin so that even those who both labor and eat reasonably well sometimes find that they have difficulty either gaining weight, losing weight, or staying fit.

 

Negative cultural influences, such as the nearly constant pursuits of pleasure and entertainment, and the ubiquitous presence and promotion of foods with either low nutritional value or high caloric content (or both), have made the task of improving physical development and health one which must also overcome these ever-present temptations.

So, how can we become better stewards?

 

[A.] First, we take the privilege seriously. We recognize what we have just seen: that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, that they belong to God, and that they are a means to help us flourish as God desires our good.

 

[B.] Then, we must begin making choices that reflect good stewardship. These choices must overcome the tendencies of the fall and resist the negative influences of our culture. They will be mainly in two areas.

 

[1.] We ought to make choices that contribute to the health and strength of our bodies. This includes being physically active as opposed to physically inactive. Some have been inactive for so long that they think that cannot be active. However, means are available, such as low-impact progressive training, to reverse that process. Get off the coach! Get out of your chairs! Deny your slothfulness and either work or exercise. Embrace physical culture.

 

[2.] We ought to make wise choices in what we eat. There is a great deal of truth to the old adage, “You are what you eat.” If you are not happy with the way you look it may very well be what you are eating. Do not choose to eat something solely because it tastes good. That is simply unwise. I don’t mean to say that you can never eat something because it tastes good. If we are wise in our food choices all along then we can occasionally eat something for the mere pleasure of it. But some of us have reversed this pattern. We habitually eat things for their taste and only occasionally eat things for their nutritional value. That’s why we look the way that we do.

 

Experts say that at least half, and probably more than half, of the diseases and physical problems that we have is because of what we are eating. Put down that pastry and pick up a piece of fruit, vegetable or something that God made instead of what man has made. It is not that hard. If you weigh more than what is deemed healthy then you eat less. If you weigh less than what you ought to weigh then you eat more healthy foods.

 

When it comes to what we are putting in our bodies, stop making choices based on pleasure and make them based on rationality.

 

[V.] What will happen when we begin making choices that reflect good stewardship? We will begin feeling better. We will begin looking better. We will experience fewer health problems. Do those sound like things that you would like to experience?

 

Then let us resolve to either to become good stewards of the bodies that God has given us or to become better stewards. I think I have been a good steward with what God has given me, but I know that I can be a better one. Today, I am resolving to be a better one. Would you join me?

 

When we lived on the West Coast we noticed that people there, by-and-large, were health minded. Most people were physically fit. They took good care of their bodies. But we also observed that they neglected their souls. What a tragedy it would be for someone to go through their whole life taking care of their body and lose their soul!

 

Jesus Christ came to redeem all of who we are: our spirit, our soul, and our body. Because of sin we are separated from God. All of our self-improvement efforts will be meaningless if we die and stand before God with unforgiven sin. But the Lord has made a way to get right with Him, to have our sins forgiven, and to have a new beginning in life. That is through His Son, Jesus Christ. By believing in His sacrifice on the cross that takes away our sin, and his resurrection, and by turning away from our sin (that is called repentance) God brings us into His family!

 

If you have not made those choices, today is the day to do that. Do not tarry.

 

[1] Timothy J. Keller, Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work, Redeemer. (New York: Dutton, ©2012), 39.

[2] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: T. Nelson, ©1998), 450-51.