1 Samuel 15:35
“And The Lord regretted that He made Saul king over Israel.”
We will now continue through 1 Corinthians 15. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul is dealing with a false teaching which had crept into the church of Corinth regarding the resurrection—they were teaching that the dead are not raised. In vss. 29-34 Paul seeks to dismantle the faulty foundations of this false teaching by demonstrating how everything done in the Christian life contradicts this theology. Last week’s sermon was really an application of the sermon I preached two weeks ago, “Beliefs Have Consequences.” In that first sermon I gave many illustrations from everyday life to demonstrate that what you believe effects what you do. Every decision you make is determined to one degree or another by a belief that you have. I gave the illustration of a log in a fire. Why is it that you don’t pick up a burning log out of a fire? Because of what you know to be true about burning logs, they are hot and burn your hands. What you know to be true about the log affects how you treat the log. This is the way we live our lives. This is true in everyday life and it is true in the Christian life. Your mind plays a central role not just in Christian thinking, but also in Christian living. Why? Because the Christian life flows out of the Christian mind. I ran across this quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:
“If you only realized who and what you are, you would have gone eighty per cent of the way to being a complete victor over everything that assails you.”
I must admit that I would be prone to reject this statement if it came out of virtually any one else’s mouth. However, I have read enough of Lloyd-Jones to know that he is not talking about some mere intellectual assent to theological truths about who this Christian is as a child of God. I know that Lloyd-Jones is never content with mere intellectual knowledge. Rather, when he says “if you only realize” he certainly mean something like this; if you would only embrace by Spirit-empowered faith the fullness of who you are as a child of God, you would get victory over 80% of the spiritual struggles in your life. I think he is right. It starts with knowing something. All of Christianity flows out of what you know. Not just intellectually—but truth that you embrace with Spirit-empowered faith.
Just think of what I mentioned last week from Romans 8:31. Imagine if you really believed and embraced fully the reality that God is for you. That one truth is so powerful for life. To believe that God is not the great antagonist of your life. To believe that God does not merely put up with you. To believe (and embrace with Spirit empowered faith) that God cares and that He is for you. Many Christians, though, don’t really believe that God is for them. They know that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ—they know that they aren’t going to be judged by God in hell. However, they don’t go far enough. They say, “Well… He ain’t gonna destroy me, but that doesn’t mean that He likes me.” No, my friend. God is for you. God has so much for you. He wants you to live in fellowship with Him. He wants you to live in the blessing of all that He has promised you. I believe He looks on us and says, “Look at all that I have for you. Take it. Take hold of my promises. I want so much more for you.” No… not houses and cars and salaries, but joy and peace and freedom. What you believe effects what you do. I think Lloyd-Jones is right. If you were to realize who and what you are as a new creature, most of your problems in the Christian life would be solved. Our problem is that we don’t really believe He is for us. We basically believe that He puts up with us. Not true. He loves you. He is for you.
Let me give you another illustration.
How much differently would you live if you truly believed that you are no longer a slave to sin? I had a good friend in college. We would often times get together and talk about the things God was teaching us and the different things we were struggling with in our walk with Christ. One day my friend rebuked me in a friendly way. He scolded me. I was telling him about my struggles with a particular sin (laziness, lust, pride… I can’t remember what sin it was at the time). In the middle of telling him my woes he said, “Jimmy, it sounds like you don’t really believe what God has said about you.” I said, “What do you mean?” He took me to different verses in Romans 6 (vss. 2, 6, 17-18).
2 How can we who died to sin still live in it?… 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin… 17 Thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
My friend pointed me to these verses and said, “You have died to sin. Sin is no longer your master. You have a new master, Jesus Christ. When you talk about your relation to sin you sound like you don’t believe what God has said. You sound like you are still alive to sin. You speak of sin as if it were still your master. You speak as if your struggle against sin were a lost cause.” He exhorted me, “Jimmy, you have a new master. His name is Jesus. You don’t have to obey sin. You don’t have to submit to it. You can get victory.” At one point he said, “Jimmy, play dead, because that is what you are—you are dead to sin.” Do you believe what God says about you? Do you believe what God says about your relation to sin? My friend, you are free! You are freed from slavery to sin. You aren’t free to do whatever you want. No. You are free to obey. You have a new master.
I can say that this conversation with my friend was one of the most important conversations that I have ever had. What I want you to see is that my friend was exhorting me to belief. What you believe effects what you do. If you believe that you are still a slave of sin, you aren’t going to make strides in your battle against sin. If you believe that your struggle against sin is a lost cause—an exercise in futility—you are aren’t going to wage war against it with any hope of victory. You will not resist the Devil for long. Why would you persist in fighting sin if you believe it is a losing battle anyway? You see, it is a battle for belief. What you believe effects what you do. What you believe about your relation to sin massively effects the way you fight against it. This is why so many Christians live in a haze of spiritual depression. They are depressed because they don’t believe what God has said about them. What you believe effects what you do. I agree, more or less, with Lloyd-Jones when he says, “If you only realized who and what you are, you would have gone eighty per cent of the way to being a complete victor over everything that assails you.” The Christian life is first and foremost a battle for belief (not just intellectual assent but true biblical belief) in the truth of God’s word.
Now this is exactly what Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15:30-32.
He basically says, I would never live the sort of life I live if there were no resurrection of the dead. In other words, the life of daily death that he lived was one that naturally flowed out of a belief in the resurrection. The life he lived, the decisions he made screamed, “I believe in the resurrection!” Paul’s belief in the resurrection expressed itself in real, concrete actions. I will put it in the form of a principle: good doctrine produces righteous living. Paul’s belief in the resurrection produced radical self-sacrificial living. Radical self-sacrificial living flows out of a belief in the resurrection.
Think here about the tight connection between the Christian mind and the Christian life. What you believe effects what you do. If you believe that God is for you, it is going to effect the way you live the Christian life. If you believe that you are no longer a slave to sin, and that you have died to sin and that Jesus is your new master, it is going to effect the way you go to war against the sin in your life. If you believe in the resurrection it is going to shape the decisions you make, the way you relate to the world and the things of this world. Now here is the point I want to drive home this morning, and I think this point is clear in the text. I want to make the point by asking a question: If godliness (righteousness, right living) flows out of good doctrine, would it not follow that ungodliness (unrighteousness, wicked living) flows out of bad doctrine? The obvious answer is, Yes! Of course it is true. The fact is that what you believe effects what you do; and that cuts both ways. On the one hand, godliness flows out of good doctrine. On the other hand, ungodliness flows out of bad doctrine.
I hope you see here the importance of the mind in the Christian life.
It is why the sermon this morning is titled, “Protect Your Mind.” Why protect your mind? Because the mind determines the actions. Many people think that bad doctrine is bad for the Christian simply because it is wrong. That is one reason that bad doctrine is bad for us. Of course we want to think thoughts that are true and accurate and in accord with reality. Of course we want to think God’s thoughts after Him. But that is not the only reason why bad doctrine is bad for the Christian. Bad doctrine is bad because it results in bad living—ungodliness.
Let me give you an illustration of why bad doctrine is so dangerous. Back in the 1800’s doctors would practice bloodletting. Before modern day advancements in medicine and a greater understanding of how the circulatory system works, doctors believed that you could remove harmful and deadly viruses and infections by lancing the skin and letting the blood flow out of your body. They had wrong information. They thought you could get rid of an infection just by ridding your body of a small amount of blood. So they would cut you and let blood flow out of your body until they thought the infection or virus was out of your bloodstream. Many patients died because of this practice. Hudson Taylor, the great British missionary to China, worked as an assistant surgeon before going to China on the mission field. He got infected with a nasty virus while performing surgery through a small cut he had on his hand. He decided to operate on himself and lanced his finger. He passed out on the floor, and by the grace of God was found and nursed back to health. He almost killed himself unintentionally. Now we say, “Why would someone do something like that? Why would someone lance their hand in order to let more blood out of their body?” Well… that’s my point. They had bad information.
What you believe affects what you do. If your beliefs are based on bad information, you are going to make poor decisions. Once scientists came to an understanding of how the circulatory system works and of how infections infect, they stopped the practice of blood letter. This is the same with bad doctrine. Bad information results in bad decisions. This is why the mind of the Christian is so important. This is why we must be careful to have pure doctrine. This is why we must guard our minds from false teaching. False teaching affects more than your abstract thoughts. False teaching eventually affects the decisions you make. This is why we have to be in our bibles, devouring the truth.
1 Corinthians 15:32b
Just consider what Paul says in vs. 32.
32 If the dead are not raised ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’
Paul is here quoting a common statement from the Epicurean philosophers. They saw no meaning to life, because they believe that there was no life after death. They argued that since life had no ultimate or grand purpose you might as well live it up, because this is all there is. It was a call to live a life of absolute reckless pleasure. The youth tell me that young people now say YOLO, which apparently means You Only Live Once. Youth nowadays (I am getting so old I can only speak of it like someone completely detached) say this before they make stupid decisions. The point of the phrase is that you need to make life as interesting and thrilling as possible because you only live once. So go ahead and take a bite of that big man’s burger without asking, YOLO! So go ahead and dump your ice cream sundae on your head, YOLO! It is a childish attempt to look at life in a thoughtful way while justifying bad manners and stupid behavior. Just as the Christian must reject Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Now” the Christian must also reject YOLO.
The Christian is told that the best life is yet to come. We are told not to store up treasures here on earth but in heaven. The fact is that our best life is to come and once you die you will actually step up into eternal life. It just isn’t true that you only live once. The Biblical message is that you live forever and that your decision matter because of that fact. And what Paul is saying is that if you reject the resurrection, there is absolutely no ground or basis for morality. Who cares how you live, it is all meaningless anyway. This is what the rejection of the resurrection of the dead leads to—a life of careless immorality. Do you see what Paul is saying here? What you believe effects what you do. False teaching has a corrosive effect not just on your mind but on your life as a whole.
1 Corinthians 15:33-34
In vss. 33-34 Paul tells us that we need to protect our minds. And this is good counsel. If our beliefs affect the way we live—the decisions we make and the priorities of our lives—we should protect our beliefs. Consider what he says.
33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
This saying, “Bad company ruins good morals” reminds me of a saying my mom always used to tell me and my two brothers, “Show me your friends and I will show your future.” Paul is saying that it does matter who you fellowship with. He is not saying that you can’t befriend unbelievers or anything like that. Rather, he is speaking about fellowship. The “Bad company” that Paul is referring to is most certainly the false teachers who were rejecting the resurrection of the dead. But here is the thing that we have to notice. Paul is telling the Corinthians to not fellowship with these false teachers. But why? Because false teaching “ruins good morals.” Isn’t that an interesting point. We tend to separate the two. You have your Christian mind over here and your Christian walk over here. God simply won’t let us think this way.
False teaching is serious business not just because it is wrong on an intellectual level, but because wrong beliefs produce sinful actions (ruins good morals) just as much as right beliefs produce righteous actions. And this is one of the great reasons why we are zealous to protect the purity of our doctrine; not just because we want to be right, but because false doctrine has consequences. What you believe effects what you do. And it appears from vs. 34 that this false teaching had already begun to corrupt the lives of those in Corinth. How long can you go on rejecting the resurrection without feeling a sense of meaninglessness? This is why we are exhorted to protect the purity of our doctrine all throughout the New Testament.
2 Corinthians 10:5; We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
Titus 1:9; He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
Jude 1:3-4; Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Think about the Judaizers in Galatia. Think about the Pharisees. Think about the false teachers that Timothy faced in Ephesus in 1 and 2 Timothy. Think about the false teachers that Jude was combating in Jude. There is one common thread that is evident in each of these false teachers—they were evil people. They were prideful, arrogant, self-centered people—most of them were driven by dishonest gain. Why? Because what you believe affects what you do. False teaching is dangerous because what you believe affects what you do. Notice how often bad morals accompanies false teaching.
1 Timothy 6:2b-5; 2 Teach and urge these things. 3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, 4 he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
Titus 3:9-11; 9 Avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. 10 As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
I could go on and on with references which make a direct link between false teaching and ungodly living. Protect your mind. Paul actually tells us to warn a divisive false teacher twice of his error and if he does not heed your warning, have nothing to do with him. This is a near perfect parallel with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15, “Bad company ruins good morals.” Don’t fellowship with false teachers. And we see that the negative effects of the false teaching were already having their effects on the Corinthians—their disbelief in the resurrection was already resulting in sinful actions. Paul then closes by exposing these false teachers for who they are. Paul was not afraid to say that these false teachers did not know God. It is imperative that we call false teachers for what they are. They are mutilators of the flesh. God hates false teaching and despises false teachers because they lead His people astray—not just in regard to their thinking, but also in regard to their living. The point. Guard your mind. Protect your mind. If what you belief effects what you do, you must see that the mind in the Christian life is of paramount importance. I don’t care how well meaning a false teacher may seem; have nothing to do with him or her. You have no business, for example listening to Joyce Meyer or TD Jakes or Benny Hinn or Joel Osteen or John Hagee. Stay away! Why? Because what you believe effects what you do.
 Lloyd-Jones, The Assurance of Salvation, 208.