Biblical Community

INDEPENDENCE IS NOT A BIBLICAL WORD

“How do you respond when God sends someone your way to correct or confront you?”

Paul Tripp, who is one of my favorite authors and speakers, gives and answers this question in this article “We’re Not Independent”.

Independence is a very American and current culture concept. But as Christians, we are to consider whether it is biblical as a personal value or pursuit.

Every Christian is meant to be an active part of The Church, which was created by Christ through the payment of his blood! 

The Church is not to operate like any other organization on earth, because it is unlike any human organization. It is a divine and supernatural gathering of God’s people to accomplish specific purposes in the world and in each other.

Vigorously held independence just doesn’t fit in God’s framework for his people.

The word “independent” is only in the English Standard Version of the Bible once, and it says we are “not” independent of each other.

Consider these word pictures God’s Word gives us concerning our lives and the church:

Servants

Body of Christ

Stones in a Temple

Branches of a Vine

Family of God

Brothers and Sisters in Christ

The Church (which means the gathering)

How can we fulfill these roles and images if we are clinging to independence?

Are you connected and committed to a local church and the people who are that church?

Brush aside the empty excuses about their faults and failures, because you have a bountiful supply of your own. The Bible doesn’t give leeway to pull away from the Church because you perceive it has failed you.

If your church fails to be faithful to the gospel, or has practices which you are unable to share, then be part of a church that is faithful. The point is being connected and committed somewhere!

When we practice independence, we practice unbiblical living.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.08.17

‘Do You Fully Know Your Rights?’

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

 

This may sound like a chapter to pass over quickly; who has a problem with food sacrificed to idols? The issue is how should a gospel-shaped community exercise our rights and freedoms?

Exercising freedom is a 2-edged sword:  as we cast off restrictions, we may also cast off responsibility

What rights and consequences were at stake in Corinth?

Controversy about eating food sacrificed in pagan temples

A portion of an animal sacrificed was sold in market; and part was used in temple dining rooms. These rooms were used for feasts or private functions

Some Corinthians knew the ‘gods’ of idols are not real. Their knowledge gave them freedom to eat temple food v4

Other Corinthians still struggled with their old association with idols v7, and some fell into giving old respect to idols

Apostle Paul had two concerns about how this issue was affecting the church

1. Pride in the hearts of those with a fuller knowledge vs 1-2

Yes, we have knowledge about idols, ‘but’ what about love?

Their concern stopped with the correctness of their position

Paul reminds them that God requires more than correctness

2. Paul was concerned about harm to those with weaker faith v9-10

Your freedoms have consequences for fellow-believers

Some will follow your lead to places that are unhealthy for them

 

The Corinthians were looking at their own rights and knowledge

Paul introduces a God-centered perspective that guides us just as well

1. Truth does not equal love; truth needs love v1

The Corinthians were lifting up truth, without the responsibility of love

Knowledge by itself ‘puffs up’; it builds us up in pride and selfishness

Love uses knowledge to ‘build up’ others

But they were using knowledge to ‘destroy’ i.e. to tear down

Don’t miss the significance of v3:  What does it mean to be known by God?

For God, ‘knowing’ is not detached from his intentional care

If God was only interested in truth, we would remain condemned

We saw in chapters 1-2, the Corinthians thought themselves wise, v2 this is proof you’re not

True wisdom is like a rope made with strands of knowledge, love and humility

2. Our rights and freedoms are to be used for the glory of Christ

v4-5 Paul affirms their correct theology about empty idols

Then he adds a declaration about the true God v6

Just as you know idols are nothing – realize that God is everything

God gives us freedoms, but we are use them on our knees

We are free to enjoy life in food, music, film, art; but these are not life giving

Colossians 3:4 ‘Christ is your life’ – let nothing diminish that

Beware false freedoms: the “freedom” to live unguarded, to be unaccountable, or to live for ourselves

3. When we misuse a fellow-believer, we misuse Christ v12

How we treat fellow-believers is a prominent way we reveal empty knowledge

‘Know’ this: God is displeased when we misuse one-another

If we refuse to participate in the responsibilities of our church – the rest have to carry it all

If we harbor negative attitudes and bitterness

When we come to our own negative conclusions, that is slander in our heart

When we refuse to pursue the gospel’s agenda of reconciliation

Principles to keep in mind when you struggle with fellow-believers

Your eternity will be shared with them

Christ formed the church, our covenant together is his idea

Jesus shed his blood for them and God is for them

CHURCH HUNTERS

This tongue-in-cheek video cleverly exposes many of the casual and self-centered attitudes our culture has toward church life.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.13.17

How Should We Respond to Sin in Others?   

 

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

“Don’t judge me” . . “Be more tolerant” . . “Coexist” . . “You’re an extremist”.

These are common allegations that Christians often struggle to answer. As Paul corrects the Corinthians lack of response to sin in their midst, he helps us answers those concerns we may not know how to answer.

 

Why is Paul Upset?

A church member is sexually involved with his stepmother, which violated Jewish and Roman law

His father died or is an unbeliever, and the stepmother is apparently not in church

Paul was offended by this sin, and their lack of response

Paul accuses them of ‘arrogance’ v2 and ‘boasting’ v6

They were taking pride in their tolerance, or more likely, this is further proof that their sense of maturity is empty

Either way, pride has led them to a perspective of inaction

This scene is a strong example for why pride is dangerous

Instead of holding a perspective that exalts God, pride holds to our own thinking

If we love God, we will hate sin (anything that rebels against God)

v2 humility would not only ‘mourn’ the sin, it would act to ‘remove’ it. This is because humility submits to and fully embraces God’s ways

 

Paul guides them in ways we may need clarity

1.  Paul Addresses Judging One Another 

The Corinthians failed to correctly assess the situation, Paul didn’t v3

v12 instructs us to ‘judge’ fellow-believers. Yet elsewhere Jesus and Paul say “Don’t judge”. What are we to do?

We saw the answer in 4:6, when Paul told them not to go “beyond what is written”

God is the Judge v13. When we repeat what’s ‘written’, we are not judging – we are faithfully echoing his judgments

We cannot live obedient and discerning lives unless we apply God’s judgments

However, holding people to our standards and opinions is improper judgment

If we love God more than ourselves, we will be grateful for biblical correction from others

2.  Paul Addresses Church Discipline   

Paul gives the church specific action to take vs 4-5. It’s the ultimate action Jesus tells us to take with believers who don’t repent (Matthew 18:15-17)

Notice when there is serious and unrepentant sin, the whole church (believers) is called to participate v4

To “deliver over to Satan” is to put them out of the fellowship and care of the church

They should never be out of our hearts or prayers. Rather church discipline is a time that guides and unites us in prayer for them

“But that’s not loving.” God knows what is loving far better than you. His purpose is greater than for their comfort, it is for their soul’s eternal condition

The ultimate purpose of discipline is always gospel fulfillment v5 (this is also true for discipline of our children)

In the church today, discipline is widely ignored, because it is hard, messy and potentially explosive. But we don’t want to be guilty of v2

3.  Paul Addresses Zeal for Purity vs 6-8

Paul points out the broader context of why the church must respond. The nature of sin is to aggressively spread. A little sin acts like “leaven”

v7-8 Paul refers to the Passover festival to illustrate our new life in Christ

At Passover, all leaven was removed from the house. It symbolized putting away all sin to follow God

We cleanse out the old leaven, so we can have a “new lump” made with new leaven v7

Just as sin spreads so should the “new lump” of zealous purity

Purity and zeal should not be fearful or limiting concepts to us. In truth they are freeing and fulfilling!

4.  Paul Addresses Coexistence vs 9-13

Christ is Lord of all, he has authority over everyone. Matthew 28 says in his “authority’”, he sends us with the gospel to “make disciples”

Unbelievers are not disciples, they are under judgment and outside the church

To them we are ambassadors for Christ

We have authority from Christ to freely offer the gospel to them

Those in the church, claim to be disciples

They are citizens of Christ’s Kingdom

This brings them under the authority of the local church as we exercise the rules and benefits of Scripture for the church

We are to mourn what grieves God, wherever it is found

We are to celebrate what honors God, and spread it wherever we can

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.13.17

 What are we building?                    

 

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

Throughout chapters 1-3, Paul is leading the church to reassess how they are thinking about wisdom and applying it

 

Christ is the only lasting foundation (v11)

1.  There is no other Creator – who invented life and sustains it

‚2.  There is other Savior:  he takes our guilt – by paying full price for it

ƒ3.  There is other Lord:  no one else rules over eternity, he alone judges time

 

Paul wants us to consider how we build on Christ (v10)

The context of what is being built is the Church

But who is doing the work, is communal.

These verses are more than how we live as individuals, v16 affirms that vs 10-15 is speaking about the Church, not just individuals

What are the implications of this word picture?

(1)  Our spiritual health is part of the health of our church  

(2)  We all have responsibility for the health of our church (12:12-25)

(3)  We can be spiritual craftsmen, or we can be poor builders

Paul’s focus is not our abilities, but the materials we use, which is the wisdom we use

Paul describes reward and loss so we will take this matter seriously (vs 14-15)

The “loss” is not wrath or punishment – in Christ we are justified fully and forever

Our work is judged according to how it followed God’s Word

Loss is to stand before Christ knowing we wasted and misused life in half-heartedness

What is the “reward”?  Bible doesn’t teach class distinction in heaven

In Matthew 25:21, the master tells faithful ones, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’

Our motivation is that we love Christ, and want to honor him

As Christians, we need clarity on reward, loss, priorities – and wisdom

If none of this stirs your heart at all, you need to ask, Does God have your heart?

Paul takes his warnings a step further (vs 16-17)

Beware of tearing down the church

Divisiveness is Paul’s immediate concern (we can disagree without disharmony)

The world’s way:  hold offenses, justify our attitudes, and spread them

The biblical responses:  forgive them, pray for them, thank God for them, love and bless them

 

Paul brings a couple of conclusions

1.  Be willing to live foolishly in the eyes of the world (vs 18-20)

v18 asks, are you willing to “become a fool”?  This means to live foolishly in the worlds eyes, because their sense of wisdom is upside down

2.  Be content in a lifestyle of humility (vs 21-23)

v21 and 23 tells us that “All things are ours”. This is because everything is in God’s hands and in Christ, we are ‘heirs’ to the riches of God’s grace

We don’t need to live trying to get ahead – in Christ, we are!

We don’t need to be anxious about being accepted – in Christ, we are!

No one who lives wholeheartedly for God is a fool

WHAT DO PASTORS LOVE TO HEAR?

 

When I saw this article, “10 Things Pastors Would Love to Hear from Their Church Members”, I was obviously interested in seeing what was on the list and comparing it with my own experience.

#1 on the article’s list is undoubtedly first on my list as well (you have to read the list to discover what that is).

#10 “I will never compare you to a previous pastor” has never been an issue for me. The pastor who preceded me had an unusually powerful ministry. I don’t mind that his ministry “shoes” are bigger than mine. Plus I love him too much to worry about comparisons.

#7 “I will make certain your family has an adequate income.” Like everyone else, I could always use more money, but God and our church have always cared for my family.

#6 “I see my role as one who will confront the perpetual critics in the church.” I must admit, that is a nice one.

And #9 is pretty sweet as well.

#8 “I am available to babysit your kids.” This was helpful at one time, but now I have grandkids and you’re not taking any babysitting opportunities away from me!

Items that belong on the list:

“Let me tell you how God is using me in someone’s life”

“What are some helpful books to read?”

“This is how I have been growing lately in my love for God”

“I love my church”

“This is why I am thankful for the people of our church”

“I am interested in going on a mission trip”

“Let’s get some coffee”

“This pie I baked for you is still warm”

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 8.08.16

Jesus’ friends love  

    

John 15:12-17

In Jesus’ Farewell Discourse, he now returns to emphasize and dig into truths he has already told them. This repetition lets us know these are foundational truths for Christ followers

 

Once again, Jesus connects love and obedience

Love among believers is required (vs 12, 17)

Morality and church involvement are necessary – but love is our beacon to the world (John 13:35)

Love best reveals (1) God’s transforming power and (2) the gospel’s agenda

But what does love for one another look like?  1 Corinthians 13:7-8

     “Bears all things” – love shows grace and absorbs people’s shortcomings

     “Believes all things” – love does not draw negative conclusions and assign bad motives to others

     “Hopes all things” – love obligates us to think the best we can of others

     “Endures all things” – love’s agenda for people doesn’t change with how they treat us

Jesus’ redemptive work is our example for how to obey and love (v13)

In the cross we see Jesus’ greatest example of love – sacrifice – humility – commitment

Other believers can be examples, but Jesus is our standard

In chapter 1 Jesus is the ‘Word made flesh’

     Jesus is God’s ultimate expression of himself,

     Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s grand purpose

     Jesus is the manifestation of godliness

     ~ For all these reasons we are to be obsessed with knowing and imitating Jesus

An implied theme of this discourse is that Jesus’ followers will obey him (v14)

Christ has not just set a path before us, he has walked it

God knows our weakness, so don’t beat yourself up with failures, repent if needed and go forward (Psalm 103:13-14)

But God rejects an unwilling heart, so make sure you do repent of sin in every form (Revelation 3:14-16

 

Our obedience is not as slaves (vs 14-15)

Slaves are just given tasks, while God has opened his plans to us, so we can we share in them

1.  We don’t want to abuse the role of “friend” and so neglect having a servant’s heart

         We need to take the phrase ‘I no longer call you servants’ in context

         We are still to view ourselves as servants, for that is how Jesus viewed himself on earth

2.  We don’t want to minimize our relationship with God as “friend”, and fail to embrace it

Being Jesus’ friend is clearly a relational title, but it’s much more; we have been invited into the work that is dearest to his heart

We gain insight by looking at Abraham and Moses, who are the only people previously called “friends” of God

     Both of them experienced unusual interaction with God

     Both of them were given unusual access to God

These two themes are imbedded is what Jesus communicates in v15

We are servants, because we serve Jesus’ kingdom, instead of our own

But we are also beloved friends and heirs of that kingdom

 

Jesus takes our participation further (v16)

We are “chosen” and “appointed” to fruitfully participate in gospel work

1.  This is meant to encourage us, because Christ has initiated our calling (knowing all our junk)

We tend to fall into the false mindset that we initiate plans and then convince God to help

2.  This is meant to make us serious, because we have been given responsibilities

We need to ask ourselves, what we think life is for!

     Is it to build a happy life and if we are open to it, God can have some space

    Or, that life is from and for God!  True joy comes through fulfilling his roles for us

Jesus continues the theme of our being fruitful that he began vs 1-11

God wants you to be fruitful!  Our weaknesses have no impact on this intention

A fruitful life is his purpose, any voice that says otherwise is lying

This doesn’t rest on our smarts or strength. Remember the “Helper” was sent to dwell in us

Our role in the process is to love God – obey him – abide in him – love one another

For the fourth time in the Farewell Discourse, in v16 Jesus tells them to “ask in my name”

“Friends” of God, let’s take him at his word

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.20.16

Jesus understands trouble and betrayal   

 

John 13:21-30

Jesus’ Farewell Discourse comes from the perspective of culmination. Yet, there is also the heartache of betrayal throughout this chapter

There is Anguish In Jesus’ Soul

The burden in Jesus has been growing

Jesus mentions it for the first time in John 6:70-71

Now in chapter 13, it is woven throughout the narrative (vs 2, 10-11, 18)

Jesus turmoil over Judas reaches its culmination in v21

Jesus not only carries the burden of his coming crucifixion, now betrayal is added

Jesus had chosen Judas to be one of the 12 who shared life, ministry and miracles with him

What this friend does is repeatedly described as “betrayal” (Mt 26:14-16)

Jesus declares Judas’ act as a fulfillment of Psalm 41:9

 

Jesus Draws In His Disciples

Jesus wants to strengthen his disciples against the coming blow (v19)

Jesus wants them to know that he is sovereign even over this betrayal

God is good and faithful, even in the difficult, unexplainable and painful

Jesus wants to share his own troubled heart with them (v21)

They cannot do anything, but Jesus wants to share his burden

The disciples fall into awkward silence (v22) ‘looking at one another’

They are weighing their own hearts and each others

Peter wants to find out who is the one and asks the disciple next to Jesus

Jesus identifies his betrayer, but the disciples don’t hear or grasp the significance of it

 

Jesus Engages Judas

Jesus reaches out to Judas, he doesn’t send him away, until after the foot washing and the meal

The foot washing allowed Judas to experience Jesus’ care and humility once more

In the last moment, Jesus fed Judas a ‘morsel’, which culturally was a way to honor a guest

In taking Jesus’ love without repentance, Judas has turned himself over to his sin

Judas had been following a path of sin for some time (Jn 12:3-6)

Why did Jesus pick Judas?

John 6:64 tells us Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray him

v18 tells us this was so prophecy would be fulfilled

Judas wasn’t forced by God to betray Jesus, God used a betrayer

 

Let’s Consider Some Applications

1.  About Burdens

Life is hard at times for everyone, because our world is in rebellion against God

Some Christians mistakenly think ‘If I follow God well enough, he will take my problems away’

No one lived better than Jesus, and he experienced many sorrows

The Bible tells us suffering and struggle will come

Jesus knows what it means to have a ‘troubled’ heart

We are not meant to carry these burdens alone, we are given the church to bear them with us

When everything falls apart, God has not

2.  About Sin

Nothing is more dangerous, deceiving or corrupting than sin

We don’t know what took place in Judas’ mind, but we know the results

v30 ends with what seems obvious “and it was night”; this was a spiritual statement as much as the time of day

3.  About Satan

He is a real person, with motivations and actions that all hate God

We live in the midst of spiritual warfare: “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6)

If our enemy is spiritual, then our daily preparation must be spiritual

Can Satan enter a believer? 

He would have to be able to overcome the Holy Spirit – and that will never happen

We should take Satan seriously – but God is the only one we need to fear

4.  About Where Your Life Is

Who is Jesus to you?

How does your life demonstrate that he is your Lord?

If you are thinking, “I will respond to God sometime in the future”, pushing Jesus off is how we are turned over to our sin

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.16.16

GOSPEL FELLOWSHIP

by Eric Huber

During World War II Americans were galvanized around the mission to defeat the evil of that time. Every citizen had a shared part in the common goal, that common goal united them together.

If that is true of what is called the greatest generation, how much more true should it be for those united to Christ? 

We have been united to Christ.  We are part of Him and so part of one another.  And we have a common purpose in Him.  Jesus told us in Matt 28 to “go and make disciples of all the nations.”  That Great Commission was not just for the original apostles.  If is for the local church.  It is to be our gospel partnership, a shared responsibility given to us by Jesus Himself.

In Philippians 4, Paul rejoices that the church at Philippi is willing to partner with him.  He is thankful, not so much for their gift, but their willingness to be part of what God.  From the beginning they have shared in Paul’s ministry. Paul says in Phil 1:3-5, I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

The word for partnership, Paul uses again in Phil 2:1 where he speaks about participation or fellowship in the Spirit.  And again in Phil 3:10, Paul says he wants to share in or have fellowship in Christ’s sufferings.  This seems to be something deeper than just a partnership. The fellowship the Philippians have with Paul is a fruit of their fellowship with God through Jesus Christ. 

As Christians, we have union with Christ.  And in Him we are brought into the fellowship that He has with the Father and the Spirit. We are one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father.  And so in Him, we are part of each other.  And when we live out that unity, we show the world that the Gospel is true (Jn 17:20-23).

So what are some ways that we can live out our gospel fellowship?  The most basic way is that we can be active members of a local church. Our fellowship with the Triune God is a corporate identity.  The NT assumes a life of committed interdependent relationships in some specific church. When we commit to a local church, we give tangible expression to our fellowship in the gospel. Membership says I am responsible to and for these specific people.

The local church is the place where we use our gifts to serve and edify one another. To each believer is given some spiritual gift for the common good (1 Cor 12:7). Paul writes this to the local church and says gifts are given for the collective benefit of members of the church. 

Now, we can use are gifts in other good ways, but they are given to us first and foremost to edify other believers in our local body.  We each have a part to play in our church, and so we should seek to play our part well.

We give expression to gospel fellowship as our church partners with those outside our local church for gospel mission. To make disciples is bigger than a single local church.  Churches partner with other churches who share their understanding of the gospel and the church for the purpose of gospel ministry – in order to see pastors developed and churches planted.  We all cannot go, but we can all give, pray and help in any way that we can.

We express fellowship in the Gospel as we go to proclaim the gospel in our part of the world. 

We live Christ-centered lives. 

We pray for our friends and neighbors, seeking opportunities to speak gospel truth. 

We show hospitality. 

We invite people to church or our small group so that they can experience the joy of biblical community and come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Finally, we give expression to gospel fellowship by being regularly discipled our self.  We seek to grow in our faith and lead by our example. 

We come to church as an enthusiastic worshiper who wants to hear and apply God’s word. 

We commit ourselves to our church’s process of discipleship. 

We give ourselves to God’s Word and prayer. 

As we do, our hearts grow to love God and neighbor more, and we grow in our understand of the fellowship we share in Christ.

 

HAVE YOU TRIED SHARED EVANGELISM?

I am reading through “Compelling Community” by Mark Dever for the third time (this time it’s with the pastors). Near the end of the book I was struck afresh by his reflections on the corporate witness of the local church.

Dever points out that fruitful evangelism should not be limited to church events or individual witnessing. He offers a third category of “community witness”. When a church practices vibrant biblical community, this is a very compelling witness of gospel truths.

Here are some of the ways Dever suggests we can put Community Witness into practice:

Talk about life at church

We easily talk about what is going on in our life during conversations with friends and acquaintances. Try salting those conversations with what is taking place in our church life. Let people hear about biblical community in action. It should be obvious that sharing complaints about church would be counter-productive to the gospel.

Mix our circles of hospitality

When you have neighborhood or family events, invite church friends. And when you have a gathering with church friends, invite unbelievers you know. When we are in a small group, we have a natural pool of people to include in these social events that are common to life. Over time they will build relationships with our family and friends.

Invite church friends to join you in evangelism

Include a church friend in a spiritual conversation you are having with someone at a coffee shop, or you can invite a believing friend, and an unbelieving friend to read the bible together with you once a week.

Connect church life to your neighborhood

Find ways to impact people in the neighborhood around your church or around your small group. Get together with fellow believers and discuss how you can share life within that community.