The Church

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?

 

PRAYING FOR YOUR PASTOR

It is always meaningful when someone earnestly lets me know they are praying for me. It simply never gets old.

We all need prayer and we all need to be praying for one another.

I don’t know if pastors need prayer any more than other believers, but I do know that we don’t need it any less!

Pastors do have some unique pressures which make them vulnerable to the enemy and to weariness.

Jason Allen is a pastor who shares a few reasons why it is good to pray for your pastor in this article.

Praying for your pastor will not only bless him and his family, it will bless you and your church family.

 

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 2.20.17

 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 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!