A Culture-Impacting Lifestyle

Sunday PM
1 Corinthians #16: An exposition of 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday evening, March 13, 2011.

It seems to me it is pretty clear from even a casual reading of the Scripture that we, as the church, are not called to live in isolation.  We are not called to cower in a “holy huddle” and bide our time until the Lord takes us home.  Our Lord commanded that we be “salt” and “light.”  Both images demand that we understand our role as one that impacts the world.  Light illumines and gives understanding.  Salt acts as a preservative – not overturning decay but slowing it. The call is to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel” not “get your stuff and go set in the corner!”  But how do we go about it?  How do we accomplish the task assigned?  What is to be our attitude toward the culture?  Are we to battle the culture?  Are we to transform the culture?  Are we to ignore it?  Should the church in China look like the church in Turley?  Should believers in the Sudan worship the same as those in West Tulsa?  The new word is “missional.”  We are to be “missional Christians.”  There’s even a workshop this month sponsored by our state convention on being a missional church.  What does that mean?  To be missional means to think and act like a missionary.  When a missionary goes to a different country they spend time learning the language and observing the culture.  If they are going to effectively communicate the message of the Gospel they have to know how the people of that region think.  They have to be able to speak their language.  They must build a bridge of understanding before they can bring the Gospel to them.  We no longer live in a monolithic culture.  The world has gotten much “smaller.”  The world has come to us.  I don’t know if you know this but Tulsa is a very multicultural city.  We’ve got a large number of identifiable people groups from around the world right here.  That’s one of the reasons why Tulsa is a “test city” for many new products.  Because a marketing company can get a great cross-section of people from a concentrated sampling right here.  Just look around you every day.  Take note at school, in the grocery store, the mall wherever you are you will find a mosaic of people.  Mosaic is the proper word.  America used to be called a “melting pot.”  People came from all over the world and they became “Americans.”  There was a blending of people.  Now we have hyphenated Americans.  They do not lose their ethic identity.  Whether you like that or not is not the point.  It’s fact.  It’s the way things are today.  Here is what is sad – the most segregated place in Tulsa on a Sunday is the average church.

We are segregated not just along racial lines but economic and cultural lines as well.  The fact is we are just more comfortable with folks who look like, think like and act like us.  But is that indicative of the Gospel?  Is that in keeping with the power of the Gospel or the Gospel mandate?  I don’t think so.  Further such thinking has little or no affect the community.  So how do we change that?  The apostle Paul gives us some good advice in chapter 9 of his first letter to the church at Corinth.

Text: 1 Corinthians 9:19-27

The subject of chapters 8-10 is Christian liberty.
Our freedom in Christ.
Paul points out the fact that this freedom is not absolute.
It is limited by love.
Love for Christ, love for fellow believers, and love for the lost.
In the first 18 verses of chapter 9 Paul show this “love principle” in action.
Though he is entitled to material support from the churches – he does not accept it.
It was a matter of conscience for Paul – others were not wrong for receiving support.
He chose not to for fear that as a trailblazer the advance of the Gospel may be hindered.

Now in our text this evening he applies the principle in another way.  What is clear is that Paul’s lifestyle of self-denial is fueled by a profound love and driven by a supreme allegiance.  It is fueled by his love for Christ and driven by his allegiance to the Gospel above all else.

New Testament scholar D.A. Carson, in dealing with this text, outlined 4 characteristics of a “world Christian.”  By world Christian he means a follower of Christ who is not held captive by his own cultural context.  The 4 characteristics are:

Allegiance to Jesus Christ and His kingdom above all national, cultural, linguistic and racial allegiances.
Commitment to the Church, Jesus’ messianic community, not just his local turf (tribe, body).
See themselves first and foremost as citizens of the heavenly kingdom.
Single-minded and sacrificial in evangelizing and making disciples.

The apostle Paul is a great example of this kind of believer and that is what our text is all about.  As we work our way through 9:19-27 we are going to discover that…

Thesis: Impacting the culture demands a Gospel-oriented lifestyle.

I want to point out three things from this text.

  1. Such a lifestyle demands a profound understanding of Gospel truth.  (9:19-22a)
  2. Such a lifestyle requires a worthy goal.  (9:22b-23)
  3. Such a lifestyle demands dedicated discipline.  (9:24-27)
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