Title: Confronting the Peter Pan Syndrome

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TITLE: Confronting the Peter Pan Syndrome

TEXT: I Corinthians: An Overview

THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.

SENTENCE: Imagine for a moment a church that is wracked by divisions.

INTRODUCTION: In that church we find influential leaders who vie for power against each other, each with his band of loyal followers. One of them is having an affair with his stepmother, and, instead of disciplining him, many in the church boast of his freedom in Christ to behave in such a way. Believers sue each other in secular courts; some like to visit prostitutes. In direct contrast to this rampant immorality, another faction in the church is promoting celibacy- complete sexual abstinence even for married people- as the Christian ideal.
Then others in that same church debate about what it means for new Christians to break from their godless past. Disagreements about men's and women's roles in the church add to the confusion. As if all this were not enough, alleged prophecies and speaking in tongues occur regularly, but not always in constructive fashion. A significant number of these professing Christians do not even believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ! (Craig Bloomberg, NIVAC).

SENTENCE: Does this sound like anything you have ever heard of?

TRANSITION: Though it may sound like a church you may know this real life description does not describe any contemporary church but of the first-century church in Corinth. If we can understand the nature of their problems, and the nature of Paul's divinely inspired instruction in response to them, I believe we will gain great insights into numerous debates that threaten to divide today's church and keep it from having the world-transforming impact God intends it to have. Paul identifies the heart of the problem for the Corinthian church as willful spiritual immaturity that is due to willful ignorance, pride and cultural influences- all problems we continue to face today. It seems then, like now, there are many who do not want to grow up.
We all know the story of Peter Pan- the boy who never wanted to grow up. It makes for a great kids story but when it happens in real life it is in not so great. The same is true in the spiritual realm. It seems like some believers never grow up. They remain spiritually stunted and because of it they produce the division, immorality and self-centeredness in the church that Paul cites.
Paul’s letter has much to say to this. In the coming months we will study of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians and look at what he said to prod them toward spiritual maturity and consider how we too can confront the Peter Pan Syndrome that we find in many our own churches.
SAY WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO SAY: This morning we will see what it means to grow up by looking at an overview of the book and observing seven qualities that Paul indicates that lead to spiritual maturity.
TEXT: I Corinthians: An Overview

THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.

What does I Corinthians teach us about the need and nature of spiritual maturity?
I. In Regard to reports about the conduct of the Corinthian church. (1-6)
To help us understand what this book we must understand the context in which it is written. Corinth during Roman Times was a place of prominence and was the wealthiest city in Greece because of its location near an isthmus, which enabled sailors to time by dragging boats across a small strip of land, it. Every two years Corinth played host in its massive stadium to the Isthmian games, competition which was second only to the Olympics in prominence. A large theater seating eighteen thousand and a concert hall which could hold three thousand regularly brought drama and musical entertainment of many forms. There was massive hill overlooking the town housed on its summit a temple to Aphrodite, goddess of love, that earlier had housed one thousand cult prostitutes making the term "Corinthian girl" come to be a slang for a loose woman.
The few wealthy patrons of the Corinthian congregation seemed to exercise an influence all out of proportion to their numbers. There is also evidence to suggest that divisions in the Corinthian church had a lot to do with these patrons' reluctance to break from the social conventions of their community which served their own interests and reputations.
Paul, who wrote the letters to Corinth, started the church during his second missionary journey. As was his custom, he started the church by preaching Christ to local Jews in their synagogue. Paul remained a year and a half, much longer than he had in any of the other communities he had evangelized to date (vv. 9-11).
I Corinthians 5:9 makes reference to a previous letter from Paul which the Corinthians had misunderstood. All we know of that letter is that Paul told the church not to associate with immoral people which the Corinthians misunderstood. This, and the fact that Paul received an oral report from which learned of several distressing aspects of life in that church is why he writes the book. The first major issue is division in the church.
A. Spiritual Maturity leads to unity in the church. (1-4)
The church was in chaos and their disunity was marked by recurring arrogance and immaturity. As is often the case, the most immature often think they are quite mature. In that light Paul addresses three matters.

  1. Rival Factions in the church lead to division (1:10-17). They were following different leaders who lead them in opposite directions and it was causing an unhealthy split that kept them from agreeing on the most basic issues of faith and conduct.

  1. The central message of cross should unify us. (1:18-2:5)

Paul summarizes this point in 2 COR. 5: 14B–18A, “We are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh…. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”

In his excellent book, “The Moral Vision of the New Testament, “In sum, Paul sees the community of faith being caught up into the story of God’s remaking of the world through Jesus Christ. Thus, to make ethical discernments is, for Paul, simply to recognize our place within the epic story of redemption. There is no meaningful distinction between theology and ethics in Paul’s thought, because Paul’s theology is fundamentally an account of God’s work of transforming his people into the image of Christ. Within the story, everything points to the death and resurrection of Jesus as the pivot-point of the ages; the old cosmos has met its end, and God’s eschatological righteousness/ justice has broken in upon the present, making everything new.” (Hays, Richard (2013-07-30). The Moral Vision of the New Testament: pp. 45-46).

  1. Spiritual Wisdom is necessary for unity and spiritual growth (2:6-3:23). The Spirit of God unifies us by giving us truth so that we might have the mind of Christ. If we have the mind of Christ we will be unified. If we are not unified then it is apparent we are therefore, not spiritually mature, but carnal. When we have the mind of Christ we will also have the Right Attitude toward the Apostles (4:1-21)

ILLUSTRATE: A story is told of a man from Colorado who came to northern Minnesota one autumn for deer hunting. The Mid-westerners who hosted him planned to "drive the woods" the afternoon of the opening day of the season. They instructed their friend to walk down the road until he reached the ridge, and then stand on it in order to get a shot at any deer running out of the woods. After giving him a head start, they fanned out in a straight line and began walking slowly through the woods in his direction.

When they finally emerged from the woods, however, they were surprised to find no one standing on the ridge. In fact, the Colorado hunter was nowhere to be seen. They drove down the road looking for him, and eventually found him several miles away, still walking, still looking for the ridge. For a man who lived in the Rockies, the hump of earth pushed up on the far edge of the open field just beyond the woods simply didn't qualify in his mind as a "ridge." But in northern Minnesota, which is utterly flat as far as the eye can see, it is called a "ridge" to this day. And it is the only ridge around; if he had walked a mile or so further, he would have crossed the border into Canada.
APPLY: The problem arose because the hunter from Colorado had a different mental image or model of "ridge" than the hunters from Minnesota. The image we have of something—the way we picture it in our mind—can make a real difference in how we communicate in the church. That was the problem in the Corinthian church- the cross is the ridge we need to agree on.
THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.

  1. Spiritual Maturity leads to avoiding and confronting sinful conduct. (5-6)

Sexual immorality is the next major issue Paul addresses in his letter. Here we find three areas to be confronted.

  1. A case of incest (5:1-13): It appears that one of the wealthy patrons of the church was having an incestual relationship with his stepmother. Something even the sexually liberated Greeks would have found abhorrent. Yet the church welcomed it and prided themselves in their understanding of freedom in Christ. .

  1. Lawsuits between Believers (6:1-11): The hostility that drove the divisions in the church was also bleeding over into their public lives and members of the church were suing each other. That is how bitter and intense the hostility had become. This was not becoming people in the church who were supposed to represent Jesus and His Kingdom.

  1. The seriousness of sexual and other kinds of immorality. (6:12-20). People were violating other sexual taboos including using prostitutes. This conduct violated God’s design confining human sexuality to a marriage union of one flesh ordained by God for life.

ILLUSTRATE: Paul’s position stands in stark contrast to today’s standards of tolerance and moral relativity. But, if we accept that Paul’s words are from God they act as absolute guidelines that move us toward spiritual maturity. Let me illustrate the difference this way.

If you go skydiving at the Southwest Florida Skydiving Club in Punta Gorda, Florida, you can count on two things: (1) an exciting experience and (2) the need to follow some basic rules. For instance, before you participate in a dive, your "Jump Master" will give you the following instructions:
Don't curl up into the fetal position. (You can slip out of your harness.) Arch your back and hold your arms out in front of you. (To keep you from slipping out of your harness and to get you flying in the correct position.) Stick your legs out in front when landing. (No explanation necessary.) Do everything your jump master tells you to do. (Immediately.) No pets allowed on your jump. These are not negotiable, especially if you want to live. They are absolutes.
Now let's imagine another skydiving experience. When you arrive a smiling instructor begins strapping a parachute to your back while walking you toward a plane idling just outside. Over the plane's engine noise the instructor yells, "We here at the Relativist Skydiving School believe there are many ways to get from the plane to the ground. We respect everyone's desire to skydive and we don't believe in absolute rules. Just listen to your inner voice, respond honestly to your feelings, and have a memorable experience. We'll see you when you get down!"
APPLY: If that was your experience, would you go skydiving? Most people who go skydiving are glad that there are strict, nonnegotiable rules. You can't be a relativist at skydiving. The rules are there for good reason. When we know why the rules are there it helps us embrace them. Paul is arguing that there are absolute moral laws or that are or vital to our spiritual wellbeing. We dismiss them to our own demise.

THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.

What does I Corinthians teach us about the need and nature of spiritual maturity?
II. In Regard to Questions coming from the Corinthian church. (7-16)

  1. Spiritual Maturity leads to a right view of human sexuality. (7:1-40)

Modern secular thinkers believe they are being open-minded by throwing off what they perceive to be archaic sexual boundaries once dominant in Western Civilization- as though we have made some new profound discoveries about human sexuality that were unknown until recently. Yet, by studying the Greek and Roman views of sexuality that Paul would be familiar with in Corinth, we find there is nothing at all new about our contemporary secular views at. Paul’s message is therefore just as relevant now as it was it this sexual liberated culture.

For instance, in regard to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Thomas Hubbard in his comprehensive work, “Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents” summarizes, “Every kind of homosexual relationship was known in the first century, from lesbianism, to orgiastic behavior, to gender-malleable “marriage,” to lifelong same-sex companionship… The coincidence of such severity on the part of moralistic writers with the flagrant and open display of every form of homosexual behavior by Nero and other practitioners indicates a culture in which attitude about this issue increasingly defined one’s ideological and moral position. In other words, homosexuality in this era may have ceased to be merely another practice of personal pleasure and began to be viewed as an essential and central category of personal identity, exclusive of and antithetical to heterosexual orientation. (Thomas K. Hubbard, ed., Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, 2003, 7– 8). Just as pervasive were the Greek ideals of individualism, equality, freedom, and distrust of authority.
It is in this setting that Paul addresses the issue by providing a contrasting ideal of human sexuality. Richard Hays summarizes Paul’s vision as, “Sexual intercourse in marriage is not merely the satisfaction of individual appetites, as eating is, but it links two persons together— literally and spiritually. It effects what it symbolizes and symbolizes what it effects. Thus, the sexual union of man and woman creates an indissoluble bond. (Hays, p. 351) With this in mind Paul will address three audiences:

  1. To Those Currently or Previously Married (7:1-16). Platonic philosophy had influenced some of the churches members who, as a result, reacted to the sexually liberated believers in the church Paul reprimands. They had become convinced that believers married, or otherwise, should abstain from all sex. He will speak to them on this issue and encourage them continue in their marriage and continue in the sexual union it entails.

  1. Analogies With Circumcision and Slavery (7:17-24)

  1. To Those Never Married or Contemplating Marriage (7:25-40). Paul suggests that singleness is an honorable status. In fact, it has some benefits and he encourages those who are single to remain that way if they control their sexual desires.

I Corinthians 6:20 summarizes his position well, “You have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body”.

  1. Spiritual Maturity leads to a right view of freedom. (8:1-11:1). Paul will give five characteristics of a spiritually mature believer in regard to freedom.

  1. It Tempers Knowledge With Love (8:1-13)

  2. It gives freely and generously (9:1-18)

  3. It seeks to saving as many as possible (9:19-27)

  4. It avoids the danger of License:(10:1-22)

  5. It balances freedom and restraint (10:23-11:1)

  1. Spiritual Maturity leads to meaningful and orderly worship. (11:2-14:40)

Worship services in the Corinthian church had become chaotic events. They were loud, disorderly with everyone talking and trying to outdo one another. Love was lacking and few benefited. In fact it was so chaotic Paul suggests it would disturb an unbeliever who may wander into the church. To instruct them toward a proper approach to worship he directs them in five areas. We will address them as we come to them.

  1. Head-coverings (11:2-16)

  2. The Lord's Supper (11:17-34)

  3. Spiritual Gifts (12:1-14:40)

  4. Diversity within Unity (12:1-31a)

  5. The Pre-eminence of Love (12:31b-13:13)

Prophecy and Tongues: Prefer Intelligibility (14:1-25)

Prophecy and Tongues: Prefer Order (14:26-40)

  1. Spiritual Maturity is grounded in the certainty and nature of the Resurrection. (15:1-58)

Paul argues that the truth of Christianity is confirmed through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. If it did not happen our faith is absolutely useless. Therefore we need to be clear about two things.

  1. The Certainty of the Resurrection (15:1-34). The most well-documented event of ancient his..

  2. The Nature of the Resurrection (15:35-58) It assures of our own resurrection.

  1. Spiritual Maturity leads to valuing community. (16) Chapter 16 will close the book with some final comments that show his love for them- in spite of their immaturity.

Concerning the Collection for Jerusalem (16:1-4)

Conclusion: (16:5-24)

ILLUSTRATE: There's a story that has been told from Civil War days before America's slaves were freed, about a northerner who went to a slave auction and purchased a young slave girl. As they walked away from the auction, the man turned to the girl and told her, "You're free."
With amazement she responded, "You mean, I'm free to do whatever I want?" "Yes," he said. "And to say whatever I want to say?" "Yes, anything." "And to be whatever I want to be?" "Yep." "And even go wherever I want to go?" "Yes," he answered with a smile. "You're free to go wherever you'd like." She looked at him intently and replied, "Then I will go with you." (Tullian Tchividjian, Surprised by Grace (Crossway, 2014), page 182)
APPLY: That is how a spiritually mature person approaches freedoom. We are free but we use our freedom to follow Jesus.
THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.
SAY WHAT YOU HAVE SAID: This morning we will saw what it means to grow up by looking at an overview of the book of I Corinthians and observing seven qualities that Paul indicates that lead to spiritual maturity.
TIE INTO OPENING SENTENCE: The heart of the problem for the Corinthian believers was spiritual immaturity due to willful ignorance, pride and cultural influences- all problems we continue to face today. It seems then, like now, there are many who do not want to grow up. Like Peter Pan they refuse to grow because they refuse to accept they were bought with a price.

  1. Spiritual growth should be the norm for every believer. Don’t get stunted because of false believes and unethical conduct. We should not try to emulate Peter Pan.

  2. We need each other. In Ephesians Paul says grow in the context of community as by serving others and allow others to serve us.

  3. The cross of Christ should humble and unite us by making us new Creations.

HAYMAKER: Speaking about the power of Christ to redeem sinners and build his church, Russell Moore recently (2015) wrote:

The next Billy Graham might be drunk right now. The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might currently be a misogynistic, profanity-spewing hip-hop artist. The next Charles Spurgeon might be managing an abortion clinic today. The next Mother Teresa might be a heroin-addicted porn star this week. The next Augustine of Hippo might be a sexually promiscuous cult member right now, just like, come to think of it, the first Augustine of Hippo was.
But the Spirit of God can turn all that around. And seems to delight to do so. The new birth doesn't just transform lives, creating repentance and faith; it also provides new leadership to the church, and fulfills Jesus' promise to gift his church with everything needed for her onward march through space and time. But we must be willing to grow up and let the Spirit of God work in us. (Russell Moore, "Could the Next Billy Graham Be Drunk Right Now?" Russell Moore blog (10-1-15)
THEME: Every believer should move to maturity by sharing the mind of Christ.

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