Biblical Community

DIFFERENCES DISAPPEAR IN CHRIST

by Debbie Huber

People tend to be drawn to others who are similar to them by the world’s standards. The friends or those that people spend the most time with outside of family tend to be of similar age, or have similar socioeconomic, academic, cultural, or ethnic backgrounds. 

But as Christians we are brought together by something greater. 

The Bible tells us “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:21)

The worldly distinctions that once divided us no longer apply because the gospel is our shared foundation. We are united in Christ with an eternal bond that is not of this world. 

We can form relationships with people that may seem very different than us by the world’s standards because they are our brother or sister in Christ.  We should expect to see differences among us. 

These relationships set us apart from the world and are a testimony that we are united in Christ.

Take a step and seek out fellow believers of all ages and backgrounds.  Be intentional about these relationships because the bond is greater than anything of this world. And the world will take notice and our God will be glorified. 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 7.03.17

‘Rejoice in being a gifted church’

 

1 Corinthians 12:1-11

 

Spiritual Gifts 101

1. Spiritual gifts come from a supernatural change in us (vs 1-3)

The Holy Spirit gives us truth, life, and the capacity to be fruitful for God

This is a reality to celebrate, to lift our heart and to energize our life

2.  Spiritual gifts come from the triune God who is communal (vs 4-6)

God is a triune being who has always existed as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit

God by nature has always lived in and delighted in community; he has always been communicative and interactive

God’s work in the church flows out of his communal nature

This includes his purpose for the gospel and for spiritual gifts

v7 spiritual gifts are given for the common good (the rest of ch 12 illustrates this)

After v6, the focus remains on the Holy Spirit who distributes spiritual gifts

The context of chapters 12-14 is that the gifts were being used selfishly in Corinth

Instead we should view spiritual gifts through God’s communal nature

3.  Spiritual gifts are the activity of the Holy Spirit

A good working definition for spiritual gifts is found in v7

Believer, you are a gifted person; every believer has spiritual gifts (v7 & v11)

Your gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (v7)

The Holy Spirit does dwell in us, he does work in us, and he will use us

Spiritual gifts are an empowerment of the Holy Spirit (v11)

The exercise of our gifts is primarily what he is doing

The Holy Spirit uses our capacities, but he works far beyond them

Our gifts are carefully selected in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit (v11)

We should not demean our gifts or feel discouraged by what we don’t have

God is being good in our gifting – so take joy in it

4.  There is diversity in spiritual gifts (vs 4-6)

This is true in the variety of gifts (there is no exhaustive list) and in how they are used

This point is extensively made throughout chapter 12 – why?

We like to systematize our experience and expect others to fit into it

We like to compare, resulting in arrogance or discouragement

With this diversity, we must maintain the following:

(1)  Unity – chapter 12

(2)  Love – chapter 13

(3)  Order – chapter 14

5.  How do we know discover our gifts?

Don’t try to fit into any specific list

Since gifts are manifestations of the Spirit – focus on having a humble and pure heart

Since they are for the common good – be connected to the people of your church

Since each believer has them – be faithful and they will flow from you

 

Applications for Being a Gifted Church

1.  We have been gifted for life together, so let’s share life together

Pursue biblical community – just being friendly at church is not being in biblical community

Be engaged with one another through meaningful listening and sharing

Look for ways to encourage one another in being Great Commandment people

2.  Look for and identify how God is working in one another

Think about your conversations – is there awareness of God’s activity in them?

God is ever active, yet we often don’t feel as if he is, so we don’t live as if he is

If we are not experiencing his presence, we will worship him less

If we are not seeing his faithfulness, we will be tempted to depend upon him less

3.  We are gifted people, so we should want to be a gifted church

What that looks like is up to God, since he is the one who gives gifts

What he does is good, so we don’t need to fear any true manifestations of the Holy Spirit

We should not try to force his activity, but we can make room in our hearts and gatherings for it

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 6.26.17

Don’t Ruin a Good Meal                  

 

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

 

How did the Corinthians ruin a good meal?

Let’s try to picture the scene Paul describes

They ‘came together’ in homes of the wealthy which had limited dining space, so some people sat in outer courtyards

People were bringing or being served different meals based on status, which was a social norm

The wealthy arrived early and servants would arrive later

Some were gorging themselves and v21 getting ‘drunk’

The ‘division’ described is over economic and social status

The results: God was dishonored, v22 the church was ‘despised’, v22 some were ‘humiliated’ and their witness to the world was corrupted

 

Application #1: Take seriously our fellowship with God

Paul takes the church back to the meaning of the Lord’s Supper

vs23-24 the Bread – represents Jesus’ body and the physical reality that God in flesh took our place

v25 the Cup – the context for the cup in the Old Testament was often wrath. Jesus died taking wrath for us 

Exodus 24:8 describes the Old Covenant: obey God’s law and he will bless you

Jesus’ blood established a New Covenant: trust in Christ’s death and you will receive his life

This New Covenant is between God the Father and God the Son; and we are brought into it (John 17:6-8)

This meal is called a ‘remembrance’ – to live with a cross-centered perspective

Eating this meal v26 is a ‘proclamation’ –  a testimony to one another

 A holy meal (fellowship) requires a holy heart

vs 27-32 tell us to ‘examine’ our hearts and eat this meal in a ‘worthy manner’

The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal which proclaims our relationship with God

If we are careless with this relationship, we are guilty concerning Jesus v27

Carelessness with the Lord’s Supper shows inattention to the death and reign of Jesus

The honor of Christ is so momentous, God judges those misuse him

Those who reject him, are eternally condemned!

Believers who claim to know better, were disciplined for it (v30-32). “Does that mean I will be disciplined like this?”  The better question is should you be?

How do we ‘examine’ ourselves?

It involves careful reflection based upon what our actions reveal

But beware of self-examination that focuses only on our unworthiness 

Stephen Um: “Look for repentance and look for evidences of grace at work”

 

Application #2:  Take seriously our fellowship one another

The Corinthian’s misuse of the Lord’s Supper, was a misuse of one another

They didn’t distinguish fellowship in church from how the world treats one another

Their fellowship was marked by the world’s categories

We use people according to their gifts and maturity, but our fellowship with them is according to the cross

Take this a step further; we should be alert for those who are marginalized 

Their fellowship was ruled by personal selfishness:  Here I am, please me!

Remember how Jesus introduced this meal?  He first washed their feet (John 13)

The Church is not here to serve you; we are the Church to serve Christ and each other

Our fellowship is not in common earthly bonds, it’s in common heavenly bonds

We simply are a supernatural community; so we need to live that way

v33 the command to ‘wait’ – is a command to share the meal as a church. It is a command to look out for and take care of one another

 

What is your response – seek forgiveness, reach out, serve, or find biblical community?

 

EVERY BELIEVER’S RESPONSIBILITY

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by Debbie Huber


We are all a part of the body of Christ. We do not always consider our active role in the body when it comes to reaching out to others. The pastors, greeters, Sunday school teachers are taking care of all of this. We are in a hurry, we have to get home….  isn’t that why the church has ministry programs?

Ministry programs do not lend a listening ear. 

Ministry programs do not spur one another on to love God and His word. Ministry programs cannot give an encouraging smile to a nervous child. 

Ministry programs cannot walk a visiting family to find their child’s new Sunday school class. 

Ministry programs do not notice a worried, sad, or fearful look and offer prayer.

Ministry programs do not rejoice with others. 

Ministry programs do not give encouraging phone calls.

Ministry programs do not spend time with the elderly, or engage the teenager who seems alone.  

Every believer must consciously seek to reach out to others in meaningful ways as ambassadors for Christ. What if every person who is a part of our church prayed and asked God to help us step out of our comfort zone and touch the lives of those around us. Many seemingly small gestures work together to impact the world for Christ. 

If someone asks directions to the bathroom or a Sunday school classroom, instead of pointing them in the right direction walk them there instead.  

Greet others with a smile!  Don’t wait for them to come up to you. 

If you see someone who looks sad and fearful ask if you could help.  Pray for them. 

Speak to one another with biblical encouragement, spurring one another to seek God through His word. 

Pray that God will give you eyes to see the needs of those around you. And go the extra mile to show you care. 

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”