Beth Moore - Taking Aim - Part 1
All right, our text is toward the very end of 1 Corinthians chapter 9, but I wanna give you just a little bit of context so you know what we're going into. I want you to glance at the headings that most of your formal translations will have over chapter 8, 1 Corinthians chapter 8, and then I want you to look at the one that is over 1 Corinthians chapter 9. And it will give you a little bit of background so that when we head into the middle of chapter 9 you'll know what gets us there.
So, Paul, the apostle Paul, is writing to the church in Corinth, the very gifted church in Corinth, who also just has a lot of flesh going that is working in opposition to what the Spirit is doing. Now, I just think we can understand that. In the church, in our present day, there are a lot of things that build up our flesh, but God is wanting to do a work of the Spirit. And those two things are opposed to one another. And so, Paul is trying to get this message across to them, so if you look at the caption, your caption will say, any of your major translations, something similar to this: food offered to idols. What in the world does that mean? He starts out the chapter... because this has been a problem where they are.
There's a lot of idolatry in Corinth, and so what he is addressing is, okay, he begins it by saying, "You and I both know that because there is no other God, anything that has been offered to any kind of other god, any kind of idol, means absolutely nothing. It means nothing because there is no other God, so, I mean, if you can eat that and you're fine with it and it does nothing to your conscience, good". But what he says is, "You need to be sure that you know that there are other people that had such a background in idolatry". And I'm paraphrasing all this, but read it and see for yourself. There are people that have a weaker conscience toward it, somebody understand what I'm saying?
That the example seems so foreign to us, because it's food offered to idols. But we can understand, when we've had a background in something, that for whatever reason when people in Christ do that same kinda thing, even though it might be all right, there's something about it that troubles us. Say, for instance, that you used to go to a church that was completely out of control. I mean, completely. There was no sound Word whatsoever. People would run all over the place during worship. There was nothing, nothing of any kind of clarity going on. It was just completely out of control. Say you went to a new church that might have been completely sound in Word, but all it would take is for some people to be a little bit demonstrative and suddenly that's bothering you because it's reminding you of where you've been. Anybody know what I'm talking about?
It wouldn't be because anything was wrong with them holding up holy hands or clapping. There is even dancing that's, the appropriate kind of dancing in the Word of God. There was shouting that would go on, at times, in worship. There were times that the psalmist, by the inspiration of God, commanded them to shout and sing loudly and with joyful praise to the Lord. But because it's such a reminder of something that makes your skin crawl, it's made the conscience weaker. Does anybody know what I'm talking about?
Okay, let me throw out an example that goes with this just a little bit. Some years ago, I was teaching at a church in the D.C. area, and we had worship for the whole 30 minutes before I taught, just like we do here. But I was on their turf. I didn't have my team with me. I was there with their worship team and in their environment, and then I was going up to teach afterwards. Well, the worship was like what we experienced tonight, and that it was so full of the Spirit and so powerful. And I was on the very front row. Well, you know, I'm, sort of, demonstrative, and so it was I looked around me, 'cause I thought, "Before I lift up my hands, I need to see if anybody, if this is something that's okay here".
Listen to me carefully. It was thousands of people. Not one. Not one. Not one. And it had been so long since I'd been that, and listen, it would have been fine with me, except that it was fabulous. Does anybody know what I'm talking about? It was like, "You know what? If we could have had just, like, really, really dry worship, I'd have been better off tonight, because I would not be as... it's instigating something inside of me". I had to stand during worship and hold my wrist just exactly like this. I held them as tight as I could, because I thought, "Don't you dare do it. Don't you dare do it". Why? Because then I was gonna stick out them, and then I was gonna get up and teach, and I was gonna be the only one in there.
And then, it was gonna be like, "What is she? What's she like"? It's the kinda thing that's going on here in this just wonderful passage. Look at 1 Corinthians 8:8. "Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do". Verse 9: "But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak". Does that make sense to anybody? He said, "Listen, it doesn't make any difference". But if it becomes a big stumbling block to somebody, now watch it.
Now, before I go any further, I think it's extremely important to say to somebody we can get so caught up into not letting somebody stumble or not making somebody stumble that we use it as an excuse not to teach the truth boldly and not to share the gospel. That is not what he's talking about. This is in the context of exercising our liberties, and what he's saying is be careful in exercising your liberties. I'd be at liberty to just dance before the Lord, but right up here might not be the place to do it if I were in a group where that was never done. Does anybody understand what I'm saying to you? Well, that's what's going on here. He said, "Watch how you exercise your freedom in case that kinda freedom is bondage to somebody else".
So, keeping that in mind, he goes on to make examples from his own life, and so he uses a couple of different examples in chapter 9. This is when we head in here. If you have a caption there, it says, "Paul surrenders his rights," so here's what he's saying. He's saying, "Listen, do I not have the rights of the other apostles"? He said, "For instance, some of them get to take a wife along with them. I go on my own. I've not pursued that. This is what I do". And he talks about it. He said, "Doesn't the person that ministers and works hard for the Lord, wouldn't they get to get paid instead of the fact that they're going to have to work another job and do that, do double-double work"? Because they're gonna do the other job, like he did tent making, and then they're gonna do a full-time ministry, as well. But he's saying, "Listen, I'm not gonna take a dime".
In some sort of ways I love this about Paul. He's saying, "I won't take a dime so that I can stand up for somebody else's right to be paid, so that you won't think that I'm doing this so that I can get paid," he says. "I want you to know I'm not taking a dime. I'm gonna do my work, and then I'm gonna do ministry on top of it, but wouldn't I have had the right"? Does that make sense to everybody?
So, pick up with me, as that is the context here, when it says in verse 18, "What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel". Verse 19: "For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law". Verse 22: "To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings".
Okay, this is gonna be the thrust of where we're going. That when we begin to live life for the sake of the gospel, that in this situation, in what I choose to do before people, what would I do for the sake of the gospel? If I'm trying to figure out, "Is this the right place for this, or is this the right place for that"? what would be best for the sake of the gospel? It's a whole perspective change on what life is heading toward. Now we begin with our focal verses in 24 through 27. "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified".
I love what scholar Anthony C. Thiselton says, a couple of sentences that sum this up. He says, "To sum up chapter 9 briefly: Paul has addressed the misuse of Christian knowledge and freedom undisciplined by Christian love. The Corinthians were abusing their freedom and damaging other believers". So, the basic premise of where we're going is that there are times when, for the sake of the gospel, we exercise our rights. You would see Paul do that when he exercised his right to be taken to Rome, before Roman governors, so that he could then make it there with the gospel. He very much exercised his right as a Roman citizen, but right here he's going for the sake of the gospel. "I'm gonna lay down my right".
And so, look at the context of it, and I want you to see something. And I want to pitch out a very fast disclaimer. I'm gonna tell you something right now. Do not think for a moment that I have lived as a woman for six decades and served women for four decades and I am not very familiar with the way women think. At this point, I mean, this is my whole life. I saw a young woman yesterday who said, "I am so sorry I even came over and talked to you. I was picking up some to-go food on my way to the airport". And she said, "But I just wanted to say hi". I said, "Let me tell you something. You guys are my whole life. This day in, day out, I serve Jesus by serving women. You're what I think about every single day, every single day. This is my calling. This is my love".
And so, I'm gonna tell you something. I don't know everything about us, but I know some things about us. And I know exactly what some of these metaphors bring about when we start talking about any kind of self-discipline, and then we hear him say, "I discipline my body". In this visual, screen-driven culture, it is so brutal on women. Anybody agreeing with me on that? It is so terribly brutal on women. That the first indication that we're talking about anything that has any bearing that we perceive is gonna be about the physical body, we start spinning into a downward spiral. Anybody?
I mean, we start heading down this way, because all of a sudden anything that's gonna be what we perceive, "This is gonna be about the body," listen. None of us, none of us can keep pushing off the self-loathing and self-condemnation for very long, because it is so born into us, in a culture that says, "You are never good enough. You will never look good enough. You will never be good enough. You are never enough". And we have got to get over this, because this self-loathing is such a toxic thing to us. And I wanna say two things to you. And both of them are very important, but the first one you've got to get in order for the second one to land. This lesson is not about the physical body. Paul was not running a physical race. He was running a race in Christ. He did not have on boxing gloves. He was using them as metaphors. He was talking about being fierce in the spirit. This is about spiritual athleticism. It's not about the physical body.
Can you imagine that you're 80 years old, and you've gone, "You know what? I've never taken any of this seriously. I've always believed it was always for somebody else. I mean, there's nothing special about me. I've never even thought that would be something that I wanna even wrap my mind around". What if you spent the last eight years of your life a fierce warrior, an athlete, an athlete for the kingdom of the living God? What if your spirit became the kind of fit that you became a warrior of faith? And this is what takes you on from just devotion to that push of discipline, that little bit of push of discipline. Not as asceticism, not as the works of the law, because that means nothing to us. But as a way to position ourselves in Christ to where we are fierce in his name, and we know what the true battle is and our punches count.
Do you know how exhausted we are from throwing punches that make no difference whatsoever? Do you know how many black eyes we're giving people that need to be given to the darkness? What if we took this seriously this weekend? Because it would become a game changer for us. Told you I wanted to say two things, so this is the second thing: we, women, have got to get over this self-loathing and the self-condemnation, because listen carefully. This culture we live in will trigger us constantly. If we don't get this thing overcome in the power of the Spirit, and if we don't start believing that who Jesus says we are is who we are, that we are beloved of God...
Listen, all you need to be gorgeous is the Spirit of the living God. That is it. Jesus is gorgeous, and he's gorgeous on you. You are beloved and accepted by Jesus Christ, beautiful to him, beautiful to him. He adorns you with his Spirit and, man, it doesn't matter what anybody else tries to put on you. You may have somebody really close to you that makes you feel like you are never enough, that makes you feel like you are unattractive and that you are not worthy of love. And you're gonna have to reject it. Whether or not, you are in the position to say, "Listen, I'm gonna tell you something. I can't receive that".
Listen, if I'm living with him, I'm probably gonna have to. Maybe if I just pass 'em by three or four times a month, I might be able to live with it with my mouth shut. If I'm living with that, I'm probably gonna have to say, "You know what? I love you so much, but, actually, mm, I cannot let that into my heart". You know, life is hard enough without me believing I will never be enough and I'm unacceptable like this. I want you to look at one another and say, "You're plenty acceptable". Okay, I want you to do something this time. And everybody in this room, I can tell whether you're looking at one another up there. I can.
I want you to look at one another and say, "You are gorgeous exactly how you are". Gorgeous exactly how you are. Gorgeous exactly how you are. Somebody right here, your hand right here, I just want you to go ahead and say, "I'm gorgeous exactly like I am". You gotta know that. That in Christ, with the Spirit adorning you, that the King is enthralled with your beauty, Psalm 45. Here's what happens. I brought this little illustration in case it helps, because, I mean, there are too many triggers. If this is how we're gonna live, it will be constant, because if the enemy can do it, I mean, he'll just do it constantly, all day long. There'll be every conceivable opportunity, because this culture has one trigger after another. Here's what I wanna illustrate as what I think the enemy is after with our self-loathing.
See, we have the capacity to be fierce and, like, we're talking about building spiritual muscle this weekend, spiritual muscle. I want you to picture that this is muscle. This is muscle right here. I mean, this is what you and I are talking about, building muscle in the spiritual realm. That we're getting athletic in the spirit. Am I losing anybody? Because if you're back there going like, "No, I'm still not good enough for this," then you have missed the first ten minutes of the message, because we're getting over that. That every single one of us is capable and called of being muscular and athletic in the spirit, in what God has called us to do. So, this muscle, here's what the enemy is after. He knows all it takes to start undoing that muscle is for him to get you self-loathing and all self-conscious, all he has to do, because, see, the more self-focused we are, the less Spirit-filled we are.
We cannot be filled with ourselves and filled with the Spirit. Either the Spirit is filling us, or the self is filling us. We are not gonna be filled by both of 'em at the same time. Also, the Spirit doesn't particularly like to share with the flesh. You can't say, like, "You know what? I'm half and half". It just really does not work that way, because the one quenches the other. But here's what he's after. If he can get you all self-conscious, so, suddenly, there's somebody, listen, there will always be somebody cuter than us. There will always be somebody smarter. Let me tell you there will always be somebody younger. I mean, you can be five minutes old and somebody gets born three minutes later. They're younger than you already. Already you're old. This is what happens.
We get self-conscious and all self-focused and there it goes, and it just declines that muscle and declines that muscle and declines that muscle, until we're just wimps, because now we believe ourselves and we believe them over the power of God in us. And now it's just like this is it, just deflated muscles. What if we were onto him? What if we knew that when he started all that, started triggering all the self-loathing, all the self-consciousness, all the self, self, self, self, self, it was like, "Uh-uh. Oh, no. No, no"? I've gotta be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. "Finally," Ephesians chapter 6, "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might". We're talking about muscle, muscle in the spirit. That's what we have come to develop.
Now, the name of our event is Taking Aim. Everything we talk about will be in regard to taking aim, but I found it interesting that every single time, now in our English translation, I'm gonna be reading to you out of the ESV, that the word "aim" is used it's always the apostle Paul. I just found that fascinating. He truly was fascinated with the games, with the Olympic Games, that the metaphors that he uses for running. Running is over and over and over again. I mean, it was one of the last things he talked about in 2 Timothy chapter 4, is that he had run his race, so he was very conscious of it. And he must have seen numerous parallels. So, he's the one that's using, at least in our English translation, that this word is being found over and over again is coming from his own pen translated into English, at least for us.
So, listen to this. We've got 1 Corinthians 9:26. "So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air". 2 Corinthians 5:9: "So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him". 2 Corinthians 8:21: "For we aim at what is honorable not only in the Lord's sight but in the sight of man". 2 Corinthians 13:11: "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you". 1 Timothy 1:5, we'll see it later on, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith". 2 Timothy 2:4: "No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him". Paul is about taking aim. What is it in your few moments, I think he would challenge us to say, that you're aiming your life toward? What is your aim?