Church Life

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

HOW DO YOU WALK INTO CHURCH?

What Christian needs to read a book entitled, “How to Walk Into Church”?

Tony Payne, who wrote just that book, thinks all of us need to reflect on the topic.

I heartily agree!

I did miss church my first Sunday on this earth, but after that, my track record is pretty good. I estimate that I have attended nearly 5000 Sunday morning services. If the math doesn’t seem to add up, it’s because I have attended multiple services for decades.

Even after my immersion in Sunday church life, I found “How to Walk Into Church” to be helpful.

Payne’s purpose is to help us to approach church life and specifically church attendance, thoughtfully. And at less than 50 pages, “How to Walk Into Church” is a packed book!

Among the stimulating thoughts:

We should walk into church praying about where to sit.

When does church start?

When does church actually finish?

Whether you have attended 6 church services or 6000, “How to Walk Into Church” will not only help you, it will equip you to encourage other Christians in an age when church attendance is increasingly thoughtless and sporadic.

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 2.20.17

 The Judgment That Matters

 

by Pat Tedeschi

 

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

In order to promote unity that reflects the Gospel, we must carefully consider how we regard our church leaders and our evaluations of them. Instead of making unbiblical judgments, we should give our energy and attention to the only judgment that really matters.

 

1.  How we should regard our church leaders? (vv. 1-2)

Church members should regard their leaders as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (that is, the Gospel and the truths of God revealed in the Scripture).

Pastors are responsible to serve as Christ calls them to serve-but those they serve in the church are not to decide how pastors are to serve. Only Jesus does that.

Pastors can sometimes allow themselves to feel unnecessary pressure from their congregation.  

Pastors are not required to do all that people may desire or expect. All we are required to do is what Jesus expects.

Pastors and church members are to serve Christ and the church with the mind or perspective of Jesus and the Gospel. See Philippians 2:2-8

When we love and serve each other as Christ did, we become a living testimony of the power of the Gospel- and God uses it to draw people to Himself.

2.  How should we regard our own judgments? (vv. 3-4)

Paul says if church members use the world’s wisdom to judge a church leader- or anyone for that matter, then their judgment means little when compared to God’s judgment.

Jesus is the only one capable and qualified to do judge.

In fact, Paul says he doesn’t even judge himself. He knows he can’t even trust his own judgment.

Even though he believes he’s been faithful to promote the Gospel in word and deed, that doesn’t mean he is without fault.

Paul clearly wants to be careful in and how he goes about his life and ministry, but he doesn’t want to get caught up in judging himself according to his own standards or even his own conscience.

He simply wants to concentrate on the work God has given him to do as a servant. In the end he will entrust himself to the only judgment that really matters.

3.  Look to the only judgment that really matters

Every one of us is prone to make unbiblical, inaccurate and premature judgments of others.

So Paul says, don’t judge before the appointed time- that is when Jesus returns- at that time Jesus will “bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart”.

The church is responsible to discern of how a person is living out what he says he believes, according to God’s Word. The church is to make judgments about outward works.

But here in verse 5 Paul is speaking about the heart.

God’s ultimate judgment is never flawed. God will expose the motivations and intentions each heart.  

Paul ends verse 5 in a surprising way- there he says, “Then each one will receive his commendation (or praise) from God”.

Maybe you’re not much different than the Corinthians- maybe you really do have your perspectives and priorities mixed up- maybe you really do need the correction that Paul has given.

Paul doesn’t want us to be satisfied with half-hearted service. He wants to spur us on to Christ-like thinking and living.

If you are in Jesus, God’s committed love is at work to complete what He began in you- and as you trust His Word in the power of the Spirit, He will conform you to the image of His Son.

“How wonderful! The king of the universe, the sovereign One one who has endured our endless rebellion and sought us out at the cost of his Son’s death, climaxes our redemption by praising us! He is a wise Father who knows how to encourage even the feeblest efforts of his children” (DA Carson).

Are we people in need of help? Yes we are.

Are we believers who need to be corrected for our inaccurate judgments and self-centered expectations? Yes we are.

But are we people greatly loved by a good father God, who is deeply committed to our good and glory in Jesus? Yes we are.

Then let that move you to live for Him, honor Him, trust Him and desire to hear those precious words from Him, “well done, good and faithful servant”.    

 

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

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.28.16

 Members Care for Their Church

by Eric Huber

The Bible established two offices for the church – elder and deacon. 

Elders are called by God to teach, lead and protect the church and her members through the ministry of the Word. 

Deacons are responsible to ensure proper care is provided to those who are most vulnerable in the church – the sick, the elderly, and the widow.  Deacons are to work alongside the elders to ensure a gospel-centered ministry in the church of both word and deed. 

These are complementary offices in the shepherding of the local church.

Elders and deacons do not do all the work in the church. 

Together, they equip and mobilize the church for ministry.  God calls every believer to commit to some local church in order that we all would experience church life as shared ministry together as we care for one another.

Members of the local church are to be equipped for ministry (Eph. 4:11-16). 

As a church, we build ourselves up in love as Christ works to grow us through our life together.  We grow only as each part is working properly in the context of our shared life together as our leaders equip us for one-another ministry.

We are each gifted for ministry.

God also gives us spiritual gifts for our one-another ministry. 1 Cor. 12:7 tells us, “To each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  God gives spiritual gifts not primarily for our personal benefit, but for the benefit of others. They are given for the common good – our life shared together.

God gifts and empowers each of us to serve one another.  When we do not use our gifts for life in the church, then our shared life together is impoverished.

We are also to be obedient for ministry. 

God calls us to submit to and obey the leaders in whom God has entrusted our spiritual care (Heb 13:17).  Those leaders will give an account to God for how well they cared for us as they lead us to fulfill the biblical picture of life together in the church. 

Now, that does not mean that we cannot disagree on how things should be done.  We can, but God instructs us to follow their leadership as they seek to follow Christ.

We are gifted for ministry, and we are to be equipped and obedient for ministry. 

Finally, we are to be involved for ministry. 

We cannot receive or give the care and encouragement God wants for us if we are not living in community with the other members of our local church.  We are a spiritual family called to love and serve one another, which requires knowing one another. 

It can be scary to be vulnerable with others, but the pay-off is greater because God has promised to work in our shared life together. 

May God’s Spirit enable us to see, understand, and live out the truth of the local church as Christ’s loving Kingdom on earth.

 

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 11.21.16

Deacons Bring Strength to Their Church     

 

The establishment of deacons is described in Acts 6:1-6

The role of deacon came in response to weakness in the church. The Greek speaking widows were receiving the same care as the Hebrew widows

The Apostles recognized that word ministry had to remain their top priority

They realized this problem must be addressed, but that they should not be distracted from word ministry to organize the solution.

The role they established to help this need was taken seriously v3

Deacons were not simply good church members who were available and willing

Everything that a church does represents Christ and his kingdom. All we do should have gospel priorities

The Apostles made the point in v3 that deacon work flows from the ‘Holy Spirit’ and requires biblical ‘wisdom’ 

The deacons were commissioned v6

The significance of this is that the seven were not just given a task to solve, they were given an ongoing ministry role in the church

The word “deacon” not used in Acts 6, but the intention seems clear

An ongoing role was established in Acts 6; and later we see the church has an office called deacon

If this was not the beginning of the deacon role, then the Bible has given the church an undefined office to fulfill

The title deacon is the Greek word for ‘servant’ – diakonos, which is used twice in Acts 6

v1 “widows were being neglected in the daily distribution (or deacon)

v2  “It is not right we give up preaching the word . . to serve (or deacon) tables”

We can see how the role established in Acts 6 soon became known as ‘deacon’

 

The role of deacon appears solidified in Philippians 1:1

Philippians 1:1 is the first time the word diakonos is clearly used as an official office in the church

Paul groups deacons with overseers which indicates the  prominence of their role in that church

 

Qualifications for deacon 1 Timothy 3:8-13

This list directly follows the list of qualifications for pastors in vs 1-7

Just as the qualifications for pastors focuses on godly character, so do the qualifications for deacons

The main difference in the two lists is that deacons are not required to be “able to teach”

Churches often view elder as a spiritual role and deacon as a practical role

Yes, it is true that elders have a word ministry focus, and deacons have a deed ministry focus

However, the point of the two lists in 1 Timothy 3 is clearly that both roles are spiritual

These are complimentary roles that together bless the church

Pastors/elders have authority over deacons based on:

(1)  Pastors are responsible for Word ministry which directs all that the church does

(2)  Pastors also called overseers, indicating their role of leading the church

(3)  Pastors are given significantly more emphasis in the New Testament

Like the office of pastor, the deacon role should be essentially unchanging

Like pastors, what deacons do in a church is what deacons in every church in every culture and age should do. Obviously some of the practices change with time, but the heart for being a deacon or a pastor are set by Scripture and should not be altered.

From the context of Acts 6, our view is that deacons are called to represent the church in caring for the sick, hurting and vulnerable within the local church

Like pastors, deacons are not responsible to do all the work, but coordinate all the church in it

v13 tells us that to be a deacon is blessed role

Deacons help make sure the church is unified demonstrating love in action and in putting works to our faith

Each church should honor its deacons and be grateful for their work before God

A faithful deacon is a blessing and a strength to their church!

SERMON LEFTOVERS 11.14.16

 Shepherds Care and Protect

Acts 20:28-30

by Paul Long

 

In Acts Ch 20, Paul calls for the pastors of the Ephesian church to give them some final instructions, as this will be the last time he will see them face to face.  His overall concern is how the church is protected and cared for.

 

Shepherding the flock begins with shepherding yourselves

In addressing these pastors, his first instruction is for them to watch themselves. 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves. 

Paul will say the same thing to Timothy – 1 Tim 4:16.

Pastor – guard your heart, in the busyness of ministry don’t neglect your own soul.  Don’t get so caught up in pastoring people that you forget to pastor yourself.

Sadly, personal holiness of leaders is not often the standard by which we measure success in the church today.  It is possible for the pastor to have outward ministry success and have a personal and spiritual life that is not pleasing to God.

Personal watchfulness need to be applied to any type of leadership position in the church or in the home.

Your own personal holiness is the starting factor in parenting.

If you neglect your own soul – time with God in prayer, Bible reading, weeding out sinful actions and attitudes – then you are unable to shepherd your children well.

So, whether we are parents, pastors, small group leaders or Sunday school teachers, we are called to this type of vigilance and personal watchfulness is necessary because sin always starts small.

If we personally are not loving Jesus well, then we are not leading the well.

 

Shepherds are also called to watch each other.

Pastors are fellow sheep as much as they are pastors –  so we not only give care, but receive care as well.

 

The purpose of this watchfulness is care for the church  vs 28

A good shepherd is constantly scanning the flock looking for signs of danger so they can care for the flock well.

Overseers are those that have a spiritual alertness for souls under our care.

Watchfulness is driven by what we teach–feeding the flock is the pastors main responsibility, protecting and leading flow out of that.  1 Timothy 1:3, 1 Timothy 6:3-4, Titus 2:1

At Greentree the main avenue of protection and care is through small groups and membership.

Pastors can’t get close enough to everyone to truly know you so small group leaders serve as under shepherds.

The small group is the main channel of discipleship, protection and care.

Through membership we submit to a corporate watchfulness of one another as we open our lives up to the other members for the care of our soul.

We should take these responsibilities seriously and they should be very precious to us.

At times, we miss the precious value of what we are caring for.  v 28…to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

 Jesus is the Chief Shepherd who is so committed to his sheep that he died for them.

Jesus is the Chief Shepherd; he is the Chief Pastor & Overseer of our soul.

Pastors are those who are called to shepherd the church of God under the Chief Shepherd.

As pastors, we want to follow Jesus’ example of giving our lives for the sheep- that is the heart of pastoral ministry.

This was Paul’s example in his life.  Acts 20:18-24

Our agenda is to testify to the gospel of the Grace of God.

 

Shepherds protect the flock against threats both foreign and domestic  vs 29-30

The influences of culture is one of the main wolf attacks we face.

Not only do we face danger from the outside but also – dangers from inside.

Shepherds protect from disease within the flock.

NT letters full of examples of those that seek to twist truth and draw others away.  Titus 1:10-11, 3:10-11

 

The Blessings of Protection and Care of Godly Shepherds

 1.  Blessing that someone is keeping watch over your soul

 There is a blessing in knowing that someone is tasked with the job of caring for and protecting your very soul!

Consider the seriousness of how God has designed the church to work for your care and for your good, and thank God for the blessing of someone keeping watch over your soul.

 

2.  Blessing of following and promoting Godly leadership in the church

I thank God for the spiritual protection and care that He has given us here at Greentree.  We have been blessed with Godly leadership, shepherds who keep a close watch on themselves and on the flock and for that blessing we should thank God.

Hebrews 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

How you relate to and respond to this command sets a major tone in the church.

 

3.  Blessing that someone is coming after you if you wander

The blessing of the protection and care of the church and of the shepherds God has put in place is that if you wander – someone is coming after you.  The protection is that you won’t wander too far without someone encouraging you to come back.