St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Hindsight is 2020

New Year’s Eve Sermon on 1 Corinthians 6:8-11, 19-20

Text: Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers and sisters. 9 Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

You may have heard the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20.” As we close out the year 2020, there are, no doubt many who are looking forward to have 2020 in their rear view mirror. It is a year that is unlike most of us have ever experienced. I don’t need to go into all of the details of this past year. You know them all, well enough. Of course, the phrase “Hindsight is 20/20” has nothing to do with this year. It means that it’s easy to be knowledgeable about an event after it happened. For example, if I would have known that we would have to print off so many pages for our bulletins each week, I might have suggested that we get more of a heavy duty copier. This is not to say that the one that we have now isn’t working or doing what we need it to do. Perhaps, the increased volume will shorten its life. It’s easy to look back and see why you are where you are today. It also helps you plan for your future. This 2020 New Year’s Eve, we are going to use some hindsight so that we might better plan for our future.

Paul did his initial missionary work in the city of Corinth during his second missionary journey. Corinth was the richest port and the largest city of ancient Greece, with a population of 300,000. It had a bustling economy. Just about every religion was practiced in Corinth. Unfortunately, Corinth was also known for its licentious lifestyle. You could find just about anything your sinful heart could desire there. As a matter of fact, the term “to Corinthianize” was coined. It meant to live in gross immorality and drunken debauchery. This is the place that Paul spent a great deal of time, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When you read the list of what some of the members of the Corinthian congregation were engaged in doing, before they had been brought to faith, you might be shocked. You definitely wouldn’t call them “church people,” that is to say those “nice” people that you build a congregation around. The list of the sins that some of them were committing stands out. It’s no wonder that Paul, not once, but twice, says that those who practice such things “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Verses 9&10)

It may be easy for us to respond with a gigantic “Amen” when we hear that such people will not inherit the kingdom of God. However, let’s take a look at some of the sins that Paul mentions. Paul mentions those who cheat and do wrong. Have we ever been guilty of this? Have we ever taken advantage of someone for our gain? What about theft? Have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you? We may count that it was only a little thing. Yet, it still counts as theft. Paul speaks of those who are greedy? Are we always content with what God has given us or do we find ourselves dissatisfied and wanting more and better? Another group that is mentioned is slanderers? How many times haven’t we said something about someone else, whether true or not, which harms someone else’s reputation? As we do some hindsight into 2020, we can all find instances of times when we have fallen into these sins, as well as, a myriad of others. We, too, need to be reminded that “wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Each of us has sinned and rightly deserved to hear these words. Hindsight into 2020 reminds us that we are sinners, just like those members of the Corinthian congregation.

With that in mind, we take note of Paul’s words to the Corinthian Christians: “That is what some of you were.” (Verse 11) Something had changed for these people. What was it? What brought them from their sinful lifestyles to what they were today? It is the same thing that has changed us, as well. “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (Verse 11) “You were washed.” This refers to our baptism. There is more to baptism than just the simple application of water. As Paul addressed his countrymen in Jerusalem, he encouraged them, “Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away.” (Acts 22:16) Baptism is more than just a symbolic act. Something real happens. As you are brought to faith, your sins are washed away.

“You were sanctified.” The word “sanctify” means to be set aside or to be made holy. The day that you were brought to faith, an amazing thing happened. Now, when God looks at you, he doesn’t see a single sin. He only sees holiness, the holiness that is required to inherit the kingdom of God. The apostle Peter describes our sanctification in this way, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Finally, Paul notes “You were justified.” This word takes us to a courtroom. You and I, indeed the entire world, is on trial. What are the charges that are brought against us? They are very single sin that we have ever committed. When asked how we plead, if we are honest, we would have to plead guilty. However, Jesus Christ comes forward on our behalf. He speaks to his Father. Jesus points out that he has done everything necessary for our salvation. He came to this earth to live a perfect life in our place. Because our God is a just God, sins must be punished. Jesus says that he stepped in and took our punishment while on the cross. There God’s punishment of hell was meted out on Jesus. He took the punishment that we deserved. His resurrection announces to all that the payment was accepted. As a result, God declares us “Not Guilty!” That is what the word “justify” means: to declare not guilty. As a result of the justification accomplished by our Savior, God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34) As a result of the fact that we have been washed, sanctified, and justified, we know that we will inherit the kingdom of God.

Normally, at this time of year, people will make resolutions for the upcoming year. They see something in their past that they don’t like about themselves and they want to change for the future. As Christians, we want to resolve to make changes in our lives, as well. We have noted the places where we have fallen short of the perfection that God demanded. We rejoice in the fact that we have been saved from our sins and want to show thankfulness by living in such a way that will bring glory to our God.

To help us in this endeavor, Paul reminds us of several things. First of all, he notes, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” (Verse 19) The day that we were brought to faith, the Holy Spirit came and took up residence in us. He strengthens us in our daily walk with God. He is there to help us pray, even when we don’t know exactly what to pray. Now, imagine, if you will, coming into our church building and it had been vandalized. Things were torn and broken. The vilest graffiti was spray painted on the walls. The smelliest garbage was scattered throughout the building. Think for a moment how you would feel. We would be upset, to say the least. If that is how we would react to someone trashing this house of God, why would we ever want to desecrate the temple of our body, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, by allowing filth to enter? Out of love for God, we ask his help in keeping our bodies to be worthy of the dwelling place of God.

Paul also reminds us, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” (Verses 19&20) Since Christ has purchased us at the cost of his perfect life and his sin-bearing death, we belong to him. The explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed puts it this way, “[Jesus] He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” What is the result? Why did Jesus do this? “All this he did that I should be his own, and live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.” The result of Jesus purchasing me is that I live for him in thanksgiving for all that he has done for me.

Since we are the temples of the Holy Spirit and since we have been purchased by our Savior, Paul says, “Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (Verse 20) We no longer want to serve ourselves and our sinful natures. Rather, in gratitude, we want to give ourselves, completely, to him. This is the joy that only the Christian has. We do not serve God out of fear. Rather, we are thrilled at the prospect of being able to thank him with our entire lives.

Winston Churchill once noted, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So, this evening, we pause for a little hindsight. We look at our past and see the many places where we have failed to live the type of life that God demands. We confess them, knowing that in Jesus, they have been forgiven. We, also, want to take note of them so that we can be aware of the places that we have fallen, so that we might become vigilant in looking out for them. As we begin this new year, we ask that God would help us to live more and more for him, as we look forward to that time when we will be able to serve him perfectly in heaven. May God help all of us to that end. Amen.