Sunday, January 25, 2009

Defining the Church

Defining the Church

Intro.: I learned to create computer programs too early.
  1. When I learned to program, all programs were composed of three kinds of building blocks.

  2. But starting ten to fifteen years ago a new paradigm was developed to define program. The new paradigm is called object oriented programming.

  3. In OOP, everything is considered an object. An object has to thing associated with it – attributes and methods. Attributes describe the object – color, make, model, size, speed, cost. Methods let the object do something – left turn, right turn, stop, accelerate, turn lights on, might be the methods associated with a car.

  4. I wondered what attributes we might use to describe the church.

  5. I would like to look at a passage that suggests two attributes that define the church.

Read: I Peter 3:8-12 Pray

Trans:One of the issues addressed in this passage is the problem of evil.

  1. Why hasn't God dealt with the problem of evil. Why do so many bad things happen?

  2. We assume that God would come in and change it all at once.

  3. But why couldn't God decide to take care of evil over time as we know it – knowing that the problem will be done at the end of time. I mean why couldn't He?

  4. Of course that is what He did. He takes on evil, person by person, and changes our lives. It will not be finished until the day we enter heaven – but it will be done.

  5. God has dealt with evil – in his way, not ours.

T.S. I would like to look at two attributes that help define the Christian church.

  1. Attitude One: Unity

    1. Peter begins the paragraph with these words, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another

    2. Sometimes scripture catches me by surprise – this is one of them. You see, I thought I had turned to the wrong book of the Bible. Peter's words sound a great deal like those of Paul in his letter to the Philippians:

      If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

    3. They are saying much the same thing – except they are saying it very different audiences. Paul writes to an established church, with leaders in place. A healthy church – needing, not to be corrected, but encouraged. Peter writes to a group of believers that have been forced from their home. They live away from friends. They live away from family. And yet they still had their faith. And the command – whether an established church or a struggling church – the call to unity is the same.

    4. But how do we show unity? Peter used two words to describe this – he said be humble and compassionate. Now most of us know what that means. But if we limit it to that – we have missed the point. What Peter wants his readers to know is that Christianity is not merely knowing about God, it is not just about having the right theology. More importantly, Christianity is about living our faith. Christianity is about reflecting Christ to the world around us.

(Ill.) Most of you know that last fall Sandra and I bought a new car. We have three mirrors up front. Each of the two visors have mirror on them – except that they are basically unusable unless I turn them down. And then there is the rear view mirror that is always there. It is always reflecting what is behind the car. We are all mirrors – we all are reflecting something. What kind of mirror is your life? Does your faith only work when you lower your viser? Does your faith only reflect Christ when you choose to put on your “Christian” faith. Or are you like that rear view mirror and let your faith always reflect your Lord and Savior. Humility and compassion are part of that reflection. But everything you say, everything you do becomes a reflection Christ's presence in your life.

    1. As a church we are united – as a united church we are called to reflect Christ in all we do.

  1. Attitude Two: Love

    1. Unity is part of what drives the church. But Peter moves onto a second attitude that defines the believer's life: love.

    2. The English has three words to express “love as brothers”. Now the Greek is not so wordy – it uses a single word: philadelphoi. As you may guess – it is the very word from which Philadelphia is derived. The “city of brotherly love” - we are to love each others as brothers.

    3. That means we are to be “tenderhearted” (that's Peter's word), caring, and courteous – those are the positive traits.

    4. But he also calls the church to avoid some things. Too often I hear people quote the biblical rule of an “eye for an eye”. It is an Old Testament quotation from Exodus 21. It certainly seems like a valid reason for getting revenge. But Peter reverses those rules. No longer is it an eye for an eye, but rather we are to told to not

      1. return evil for evil or

      2. returning reviling for reviling (NKJV) – I like the way the New Living Translation put it; do not return “insult for insults”.

      3. One translation sums it up by saying, “Don’t be hateful and insult people just because they are hateful and insult you.”

    5. Peter even takes it another step. “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

    • Eugene Peterson created a unique translation for his church that would capture the original excitement and intensity of the scriptures when they first read the New Testament. Dr. Peterson's translation is called The Message and he translates this passage saying "we must be a blessing to get a blessing" (The Message)

(Appl.) Bob Dylan had a song back in the sixties that had a line that said, “...the times are a changing...” When we become members of the church – not the Garland United Methodist Church, not any Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Catholic church – when we become a member of Christ's church, we find that “...the times are a changing...”. We will see the world differently, we will face the world differently. No longer will we live by “an eye for an eye” but we “will be a blessing to get a blessing”.

Conclusion: Two attributes that can define us a believers.

  1. Unity defines how we relate to each other Love defines how we relate to our world

  2. And none of this is new – Peter quotes Psalm 34:

Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,

but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

  1. Whether we are church of 5000 or a church or 10; whether we are a two year old church or a 200 year old church, these two attributes must define who we are.


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