Series Theme

Good relationships are possible, but they are not probable.

 

Series Theme Verse

Romans 12:2 (MSG)

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

 

Message Title

Spiritually Mismatched

 

Message Key Verse

2 Corinthians 6:14 – Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

 

Introduction

When it comes to relationships, we’ve been told all of our lives this romantic notion that opposites attract, but oftentimes those differences – which were so attractive in the initial stage of a relationship – start to drive you crazy in the reality stage.

And perhaps there is no difference that has potential for greater pain and frustration and hurt in a relationship, than when two people are spiritually mismatched, when you don’t share the most important thing in your life with the most important person(s) in your life.

  • Have you ever been in a close relationship where you were spiritually mismatched?  It doesn’t have to be with a spouse, it could be a good friend, sibling, parent, child, or boyfriend/girlfriend.  What effect did/does that mismatch have on your relationship?

 

Understanding

Have a volunteer read 1 Corinthians 7:12-14.

As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 5:9, we’re not supposed to withdraw from the world but rather, as Jesus commands in Matthew 5:13-14, we are to be salt and light, to make an impact on the world for Jesus.

When you have a marriage where one person is a follower of Jesus and the other is not, the person who knows Jesus has the ability to be a blessing to the entire family. 

But this isn’t just true in marital relationships, it’s true in any kind of relationship.   The person who knows Jesus can show His love to the person who does not. Gene gave us some insight on how we can best HELP those in our lives who aren’t followers of Christ.

Harness the Support of Others

Have a volunteer read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

When you’re seeking to be a blessing to the people in your life who don’t know Jesus, you need people in your life who do know Jesus to support and encourage you.

  • Who do you have in your life, other than your spouse, who you can rely on as a support?
  • What kinds of things do you do to support each other?
  • If you don’t have anyone like that currently, who could potentially become that person?
  • How can we as a group support one another?  (Think practically.   Prayer is an important component of this, but if the only answer is prayer, that’s a cop out.  Real friends pray for each other but also serve one another in tangible ways.)

Exercise Restraint

Have a volunteer read 1 Peter 3:13-17.

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

  • Do you tend to exercise restraint towards the people in your life who don’t know Jesus?  Or do you find yourself doing things to try to convince them of your faith that may end up pushing them further away?

Live your Faith

Have a volunteer read 1 Peter 2:11-3:7.

The integrity of your life will speak far more powerfully than any sermon you could ever preach to someone who doesn’t know Jesus.

  • What tangible, practical thing can you do to show someone who Jesus is without saying a word?  Be specific about both what you are going to do and who you want it to impact.

Pray, Pray, Pray

Have a volunteer read Ezekiel 36:26.

  • Who in your life has a “heart of stone” that needs to be replaced with a “heart of flesh”?  Spend some time as a group praying for these people.  If you have a larger group, break off in groups of 2-4 to pray.
    • Ask God to give this person a heart transplant.
    • Ask God to give you wisdom on what to say, how far to push, when to back off.
    • Pray for God to give you patience when you’re boiling over with frustration.
    • Pray for God to help you love them when they are so hard to love.
    • And pray for God to transform you and change you in ways that never would have happened in any other way.
  • How can you make praying for this person a part of your regular routine?

The Other Side

It can be hard for those who are followers of Jesus to remember that it’s difficult for the people on the other side.  Those who are not followers of Jesus may be concerned that they’re being looked down on, that their kids will think less of them if they’re raised as Christians, that their values are suddenly at odds with their spouse’s values, that their good friend or family member is going to turn into a religious nutjob.  Maybe you are someone who doesn’t follow Jesus who feels this way.

  • How can both those of us who are followers of Jesus and those of us who are not be sensitive to the people on the other side?

 

Application

  • How can we as a group move past being acquaintances and be friends who truly support one another?
  • What tangible, practical thing can you do to show someone who Jesus is without saying a word?  Be specific about both what you are going to do and who you want it to impact.
  • How can you make praying for the people closest to you who don’t know Jesus a part of your regular routine?

 

Commentary

2 Corinthians 6:14

6:14a. Paul’s difficult instruction was that believers should not be yoked together with unbelievers. The NIV translation obscures the meaning of the original language. Paul insisted that believers should not be “unequally yoked” (NKJV) or “mismatched” (NRSV). Paul probably alluded to Deuteronomy 22:10, which prohibited the yoking together of oxen and donkeys. Like many other Mosaic laws which may seem odd to us today, this prohibition taught Israel through symbolism that they were to remain pure by separating themselves from the surrounding Gentile nations. Paul used this law in much the same way here.

It is common for Christians to apply Paul’s instruction here to marriages and close business associations between believers and unbelievers. Paul taught against marrying outside the faith, and wisdom should be exercised in all business relationships. Yet, in this passage Paul focused on all associations with unbelievers that led to infidelity to Christ, particularly by involvement with pagan rituals and idol worship. Paul wanted the Corinthian believers to separate themselves from these practices.

6:14b. The first question raised the issue of what righteousness and wickedness have in common. Paul did not speak here of righteous and wicked people, but of righteousness and wickedness as abstract principles. He did this to make the answer to his question as obvious as possible. In abstraction, righteousness and wickedness have nothing in common.

We must be careful not to read our prejudices into Paul’s words here. Although Paul spoke of believers as the “righteousness of God” (5:21) because of Christ’s substitutionary death, he knew that believers did not demonstrate this righteousness in their lives in a perfect way.

6:14c. Paul’s second question focused on fellowship between light and darkness. In Paul’s writings “fellowship” (koinonia) frequently describes believers’ spiritual union with Christ and the consequent union that believers share with one another in Christ. It is clear from this expression that Paul had in mind religious and spiritual connections between believers and unbelievers, not natural or social connections.

The New Testament frequently speaks of believers in association with the light of Christ. By contrast, unbelievers remain in the darkness of sin. Here Paul argues from an analogy in nature that just as light and darkness are opposites, so Christians and non-Christians are spiritual opposites.

 

1 Corinthians 7:12-14

7:12-13. The phrase to the rest is a reference to mixed marriages—a believer married to an unbeliever. Christians were only to marry “in the Lord” (v. 39). The situation Paul addresses here assumes that both spouses were unbelievers when they married but that one of them thereafter converted to Christianity. Since Jesus did not comment on this situation, Paul gave an apostolic ruling: the believing spouse must not leave the unbelieving spouse. One can easily conceive of the self-sacrifice entailed by this ethic. The passage also assumes that the unbeliever agrees that there are benefits to continuing the marital relationship ( is willing to live with him or her).

7:14. A Christian spouse who remains faithful to his or her unbelieving spouse has a “sanctifying effect” on unbelieving family members. Paul is referring not just to the possible future salvation of unbelievers in the household, but to their present protection from pagan values through the influence of the Christian member’s exemplary morals.

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

4:9-12. The need for someone with whom to share the good things of life (vv. 7-8) prompts a discussion on friendship. Several benefits of friendship are enumerated (cf. Gen 2:18). First, two can work better than one and so have a larger profit. Note the proverbial form. Second, they can help each other in time of need. Third, they give emotional comfort to each other. The warmth of lying beside each other does not refer to sexual activity, nor are the two necessarily husband and wife. It is an image derived from that of travelers who must lie beside each other to stay warm on cold desert nights. But the usage is here metaphorical for emotional comfort against the coldness of the world. Fourth, they give each other protection; for that, in fact, a third friend is even better! This verse also appears to be a proverb (note the numerical pattern).

 

1 Corinthians 3:13-17

3:13. Even in the ancient world, large buildings were required to be tested and approved. Stipulations within the building contract stated when the inspection day would take place. Paul used the exact words commonly used to refer to this inspection—the day will disclose it. Paul was speaking of the eschatological inspection day when God will examine how builders have built the building of God, the body of Christ, on the foundation of the “foolish message” (1:18,23; 2:2,5).

3:14-17. In this section Paul gives three different scenarios describing three different types of subcontractors who were constructing the building of God. He begins each scenario with the expression if anyone’ s work ... if anyone (14-15,17).

3:14. In the ancient world, a reward was granted to those who constructed the building on time, within budget, and according to specifications.

3:15. Paul warned those who built carelessly that they would suffer loss.

3:16. Paul called on the Corinthians to have self-awareness about the ultimate identity of their corporate body. They were a temple built by God, and the Spirit of God resided among them.

3:17. Paul gave stern notice to those who corrupted the church (chap. 15; 2 Co 11). In a wordplay on the verb destroy, Paul warned that anyone who “destroys” God’s temple will, as recompense, be destroyed by God. The word “destroy” was used in construction contracts to describe building a structure with the intent to defraud. Thus the image here is of a church leader (builder, v. 12) who is willfully negligent.

 

1 Peter 2:11-25

Peter wrote this letter to several congregations in what is now Turkey. These believers were undergoing persecution. This persecution probably did not come from the authorities but from their neighbors who misunderstood the nature of the Christian faith.

2:11-12. Many false rumors circulated about Christians. They sometimes were accused of weakening families. After all, family stresses did arise when one family member trusted Jesus as Savior and others did not. This stress was particularly acute when a wife trusted Christ and not her husband. Christians in some places were accused of cannibalism. Did they not meet weekly to eat the flesh of a man (misunderstanding of the Lord’s Supper)? And others claimed Christians participated in immoral and even incestuous activities (misunderstanding of the “love feast” or fellowship meal that often accompanied the Lord’s Supper).

Peter reminded these believers they were called to live as those set apart to God’s service. Their lives were to exhibit a total transformation from the pagan lifestyle they had known prior to meeting Jesus Christ. If they simply lived so as to reflect the holiness of their Savior and God, they would put all such slanders to rest.

2:13-14. The verb “submit” also can be translated “be subject to” or “rank yourselves under,” and normally includes the idea of obedience. Believers are commanded to submit to government at all levels. Christians are not permitted the freedom to choose the regulations or officials to which they will submit. Believers are to respect human authorities even if they don’t agree with them. Of course, such submission does not include obeying commands that are sinful or contrary to Scripture. The king to whom Peter referred was most likely Nero (A.D. 54-68), the degenerate emperor who cruelly persecuted Christians. In stating that Christians should submit to the king, Peter was focusing on the authority of the office rather than on the character of the officeholder.

2:15-20. Peter first offers an evangelistic reason to respect authorities. Unbelievers are always watching believers to see whether their behaviors match what they profess. Thus, when Christians are “caught” doing good, the government may commend them. When Christians live as good citizens, their actions will counter false accusations made against them. Such behavior may result in unbelievers being more receptive to the gospel.

But if Christians are mandated to submit to the governing authorities, in what sense have they been “set free” by the gospel? Peter says that Christian liberty is always a responsible freedom—the freedom to choose what is right and good. Believers are to live as free persons, delivered from bondage to sin. Christian liberty is never to be used as a cover-up for evil. Therefore, there is a sense in which Christians are not free at all. They always live as servants of God. The word translated “servants” means “bondslaves,” those owned by a master. Here is one of the great paradoxes of Christianity: Only those who have become God’s slaves enjoy true freedom. Christian liberty does not mean being free to do only what we want; it means being free to do what we ought to do.

2:21-25. Peter identifies with his suffering audience, reminding them they, like Jesus, have been called to suffer. Suffering because of one’s faith is not a probable or possible: It is certain. Just as Christ’s suffering led unbelievers to repentance and faith in Jesus, so may the suffering of Christians. Identifying with Jesus’ suffering gives purpose and solace to suffering Christians.