Sunday, October 30, 2005

The People God Uses

Intro: I recently stumbled across a 234-page book that no one has been able to read.

  1. The Voynich Manuscript has a history going back to the early 1600's. Its exact origin is unknown.

  2. As a book, it is written in a strange alphabet – otherwise unknown.

  3. The alphabet looks like somebody was writing in a mirror. The images that appear on its pages are colorful and well-drawn.

  4. Men, both wiser and smarter than me, have attempted to decipher its contents. But to no avail.

  5. No one knows what this book says or what it means.

  6. Today it sits, just as unreadable as ever, in the rare book room of Yale University.

  7. One might say, “It is a well-known, unknown.”

  8. Today we want to look at two men who supported Paul during his imprisonment in Rome.

Read Philippians 2:19-30




  1. Timothy – A man everyone knew

      1. There are some names that everyone seems to know – many of you know Max Lacado or Patsy Clairmont.

      2. To the early church, Timothy, along with Paul, was that kind of man.

      3. Paul had first met Timothy in Lystra – a city on the Turkish subcontintent.

      4. But either in the book of Acts or in his letters, Paul lets us know that Timothy had ministries in Thessalonica, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem, and, now, Rome.

      5. But having been many places does not make one a strong believer – that is external

      6. What makes one a strong believe is what happens on the inside!

      7. But Timothy also was changed on the inside.

      8. Timothy had a concern for the people of his world.

(Ill.) There is a story – apparently true, that the Prime Minister of Grenada, his name was Eric Gairy, was so concerned about the possibility of flying saucers, that he petitioned the UN to set up a “UN Agency on UFO's”. A few years later Prime Minister Gairy was heard lamenting, “Regrettably, not much concrete action by that body has flowed from my recommendation.” Sometimes a person's concern can be misplaced – but Paul sensed that Timothy's interest was genuine.i

(Ill.) William Carey, who is called the “Father of Modern Missions,” served the Lord in India for many years. He gradually became very concerned about the attitude of his son, Felix. The young man had promised to become a missionary, but he reneged on his vows when he was appointed ambassador to Burma by the Queen of England. Carey wrote to his friend, asking prayer for his son with these words: Pray for Felix. He has degenerated into an ambassador of the British government when he should be serving the King of Kings.ii

      1. Timothy's heart was not on where he had been, but on what God had accomplished through his life.

(Appl.) Where do you place your value – is your value based on the externals or on what God is doing in your life. As long as we look at the externals, we may even miss those things that God is doing. Timothy was less concerned with the places he had served, but with how he had served. So must we.

  1. Epaphroditus – A man nobody knew

    1. As well-known as Timothy was, Epaphroditus was not.

(Ill.) Matthew Henry was a relatively unknown Methodist preacher. He eventually wrote a famous Bible Commentary. But as a poor and unknown young man he wished to marry a girl whose father was wealthy and who did not approve of the marriage. The father argued that, although he was a good scholar and an excellent preacher, “they did not even know where he came from.” The daughter had a ready answer. “But father,” she said, “we know where he is going, and I want to go with him.” The father acquiesced.iii

    1. Epaphroditus was also an unknown. Philippians is the only book – where his name is mentioned twice

(Ill.) Epaphroditus, whose name means “comely” or “charming”, was a Philippian Christian. Philippians 4 makes it clear that he had originally brought a gift for Paul and that it was received with gratefulness. Since then, Epaphroditus had been working along side of Paul – Paul call him “my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier.”

The Philippian church had heard that Epaphroditus was ill. In fact he was close to death, but he had experienced God's mercy and survived. So Paul will let him to return to Philippi with the letter we are looking at.

    1. Epaphroditus had every right to sit back and do nothing.

        1. he had done the job of delivering the Philippian gift, that was all that was expected of him

        2. he had been ill and really did not feel like working

        3. he was going to return to Philippi – so why bother

        4. he had already risked his life – he wasn't going to do it again

    2. But Epaphroditus didn't stop when it would be easy to. And because he did not, Paul showed him the utmost respect by calling him his brother, his fellow worker, and fellow soldier. Yep, Epaphroditus had every reason to not get involved, but he chose to involve himself in the Roman church until God would allow him to return home.

    3. It is just this kind of faithfulness that God expects of us. And when we have done that, we need to trust God to take our work and use it for his good purposes.

Conclusion: Some people are more like Timothy – known by everyone. Some are more like Epaphroditud – known only by those whose life he touched.

  1. It really does not matter which we are

  2. God can use us

  3. We are called to be faithful to Him

  4. And when we have done that, then we have done all that we have been asked.

iTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiMorgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (Page 90). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

iiiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Effecting Lives

Intro: I do not like today's passage.

  1. Complaining is such a major part of my life.

  2. I mean, if my computer is not working, someone will find out about it.

  3. Or, earlier this week, I went up to our computer classroom and discovered that the teacher's station was not working.

  4. I call ITS – and they can do nothing because Mike does not come in for another ½ hour.

  5. It would be like coming to church hoping for a good sermon and the pastor does not show up.

  6. Except for me this is bad news and I want to complain.

  7. And then I turn to this weeks passage and I am deflated.

Read Philippians 2:14-18


Tran. In Philippians 2:14-18, Paul provides us the motivations for changing our attitudes.

  1. The passage starts by telling us to do everything without “complaining or arguing.”

  2. He ends by telling his listeners “so you tool should be glad and rejoice.”

  3. The contrast was so obvious, I almost yelled out my excitement as I told Sandra what I had discovered.

T.S. As we look at Philippians 2:14-18, we will see that Paul presents to motivators for our taking time to change our attitudes.

  1. Effect on our own lives

      1. Three terms describe what Paul suggest will happen to those who this change from complainer to rejoicing.

        1. Blameless -

        2. Pure -

        3. Faultless -

      2. These three words are very close in meaning, but they make clear that this change takes place on two levels.

      3. I call these two levels the doing of sin and the want to of sin.

      4. The one is what people see – the other is what is going on in your heart.

(Ill.) Dr. Kenneth Kantzer was my theology prof in seminary. He told us that often when the the Bible used the plural “sins', it was referring to the doing of sin. A wonderful example of this is found in I John 1:9 - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Similarly, when scripture used the singular “sin”, it is referring the “want to” that we all seem to fight against - that park of brokenness that has infected all of mankind. Romans 5:12 reads “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men.” Sin, the disease that is part of all of our lives, began with Adam. But it is part of all of our lives.

(Ill.) John Maynard was a student in an old-time country schoolhouse. Most of the year he had drifted carelessly along, but in midwinter some kind words from his teacher encouraged him to take a new start, and he became a distinctly different boy and made up for his earlier faults. At the closing examination he performed well, to the great joy of his father and mother, who were present. But the copy-books used through the year were all laid on a table for the visitors to look at; and John remembered that his copy-book, fair enough in its latter pages, had been a dreary mass of blots and bad work before. He watched his mother looking over those books, and his heart was sick. But she seemed, to his surprise, quite pleased with what she saw, and called his father to look with her; and afterward John found that his kind teacher had thoughtfully torn out all those bad, blotted leaves, and made his copy-book begin where he started to do better. To all who would forsake sin God offers a new chance and promise to blot out all old sin and make the record begin with the new start.i

      1. What started with one man, God wants to take and make us, to use the words of Philippians 2:

        1. Blameless

        2. Pure

        3. Faultless

  1. Effect on the lives of others

    1. Moving from one who complains and argues to one who is glad and rejoices will change us in many ways.

    2. It will also effect those around us.

    3. Paul uses himself as an example. As the Philippians live out the Christian life, he will have a reason to rejoice.

    4. But Paul is not alone – he is but one member of the church. He serves to illustrate that the church is a body – when one part celebrates, we will all celebrate. When one succeeds in the Christian life – whether big or small – we all need to celebrate.

    5. The church is one audience – but there is another. Listen to what Paul says in verse 15 again, “so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.” The world is watching us.

    6. Those who live around you, those who work around you, those whose paths you cross will see God at work in your life. You will, as Paul continues, “... shine like stars in the universe.

(Ill.) I am reminded of that little ditty that many of us sang in Sunday School:

This little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine,
this little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine;
this little light of mine,
I'm goin'a let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

(Appl.) As I live out my Christian life, I do not want you, as my brothers and sisters in Christ, I do not the world, to see a perfect person. That person does not exist.

What I do want is for those around me, whether believers or not, to see a person that is changing. I want the church and the world to see a man who is becoming more like Christ each day, each week, each month, each year. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes the changes may be in bigger steps.

But if we are people who are changing, then we will be an encouragement to the church and be shining like stars in the universe. And that is what God asks for.

iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Salvation Exercise

Intro: There are a couple of books that I keep near me whenever I work at the computer.

  1. One of those books is a Bible – or two or three.

  2. The other book is a dictionary.

  3. You know, we in the church use a lot of words that have special meaning to those of us that have placed our lives in God's hands.

  4. But for those outside of the church, those same words may seem confusing and be misunderstood.

  5. Today we will look at one of those words - “Salvation”

  6. For example, the dictionary that I keep on my desk defines “salvation” as the “preservation or deliverance from difficulty or evil”.

  7. Even that sounds wordy – but it misses the point. No mention of Christ, no mention of its long term (including eternal) consequences.

  8. Let's look at what Paul has to say:

Read Philippians 2:12-13


Tran. I was amazed to learn that only one word is used for “salvation” in the NT.

  1. Contrast to the word love – three words found in the NT are translated as “love”

  2. Or four words for “sin”

  3. That one word is used for deliverance from physical pain, from danger, or from sin.

T.S. In the next few minutes we want to ask four questions about Philippians 2:13-14: 

  1. What is it talking about?
  2. Who is Paul talking to?
  3. Why – are we to work our salvation
  4. How are we to work our salvation
  1. WHAT – Work out Your Salvationi

      1. I learned a long time ago, I cannot look at you and tell whether you are a Christian.

      2. Your eyes don't change color, no new clothing, there is no extra halo around your head

      3. Salvation is that point where God takes us as broken people and begins to rebuild us.

(Ill.) Augustine says Salvation is God's way of making us real people.ii

      1. Salvation is a work of God, something that we never could do for ourselves.

      2. But once God has begun to work in our lives, there is the beginning of something that we will participate in for the remainder of our lives.

(Appl.) It is almost as if salvation is a verb. Salvation is not just a state in which we find ourselves, it is also that which keeps us alive as Christians. It is that part of our lives that will look for ways to become more like the person God wants us to be. It is that part of our life that is able to say “yes” to God.

  1. Who – Work out Your Salvation

    1. Salvation is intensely personal

    2. Sometimes it would be much easier for each of us to take responsibility for someone else.

(Ill.) Let me illustrate it this way. Sandra – would you come here for a minute. I know exactly what God wants of you. I know that he wants you to wear blue, I know that he wants you to eat lots of vegitables, I know that he wants you to go swimming two or three times a week. 

Now, I suppose, I could call each of you up here and tell you exactly what God wants; but if I did, I would be in trouble. I would be making a number of mistakes.

First, I would be ignoring the fact that God is working in my life. If I am focusing my attention on you, then I am missing God's work in my life. The command to work out our own salvation, implies that God is working in our lives.

Second, the command to “work out your own salvation” implies that the Christian life is not some mystical, magical way of improving our lives. It implies that it will take energy, it will take effort. And if we are focusing my attention of someone else, we are avoiding that which God wants me to do.

Finally, there is the implication that I will make use of all the means that God provides in order to work out my salvation. Scripture, music, the church, the sacraments, I will use every tool available to draw closer to God and to understand what he demands of me. And if we become so involved in another's life that we miss what God has for us, we will have missed the most valuable gift God has for us.

  1. Why – For God is at work
  1. Do you see the logic here - “Work out your own salvation ... for God is at work.

  2. We get so use to making touch decisions for ourself that we often do not see God at work. We become spiritually blind.

(Ill.) How men may live in the presence of the noblest inspirations and yet be blind to them is pathetically illustrated in the present condition of the Last Supper, by Da Vinci, the greatest and noblest triumph in the whole realm of art. Of the many acts of vandalism which have been perpetrated in the realm of art none stands out so gross as that through which this immortal work has suffered. Painted on the end wall of the Maria delle Grazie, in Milan, the holy monks were able to gaze upon it as they sat at their table. But so much did they value it, or esteem its spiritual power, that, finding the passage into their dining-hall too distant from the kitchen, they actually made a way through the wall upon which the picture was painted, cutting out as they did so the feet of the Savior! Surely that blindness of soul which makes men dead to spiritual realities was never more astoundingly illustrated. For here were men whose duties were spiritual, and who had consecrated their lives to spiritual things, so blind in soul that they carelessly sacrificed the most spiritual work of art ever produced to the cravings of appetite.iii

(Appl.) Keep your eyes open – watch for God at Work in your lives. When I drive down the highway and see a sign that says, “Men At Work” I immediately become attune to my surroundings and begin to look for men at work. Maybe today needs to be a sign post for each of us. Let it serve as a reminder that God is at work and we can be watching for indications of His presence in our lives.

IV. How – With Fear and Trembling

    1. I used to really fear the term, “the fear of God.” But I have learned something. God does love me, God does not want me to fear Him.

    2. What he does want is for me to honor and show respect for Him with all that I am and all that I have.

(Ill.) If Christ has our love, he has our all; and Christ never has what he deserves from us, till he has our love. True love withholds nothing from Christ, when it is sincerely set upon him. If we actually love him, he will have our time, and he will have our service, and he will have the use of all our resources, and gifts, and graces; indeed, then he shall have our possessions, freedom, and our very lives, whenever he calls for them. In the same way, when God loves any of us, he will withhold nothing from us that is good for us. He does not hold back his own only begotten Son, Rom. 8:32. When Christ loves us, he gives us everything we need– his merits to justify us, his Spirit to sanctify us, his grace to adorn us, and his glory to crown us. Therefore, when any of us love Christ sincerely, we lay everything down at his feet, and give up all to be at his command and service.iv

(Appl.) Let me conclude this service by asking you to take time to give all that you have to Jesus. Don't hold anything back. He gave all he had for you – can you do any less for Him?

iThis basic outline of this sermon is based on material found in The Pulpit Commentary: Philippians. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (Page 73). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

iiWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 901). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

iiiAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.

ivWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 644). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Humility In The Hands Of The Master

Introduction: Once, just as an oratorio of his was about to begin, several of George Frideric Handel’s friends gathered to console him about the size of the audience. Not many people showed up.

“Never mind,” Handel replied. “The music will sound the better” due to the improved acoustics of a very empty concert hall.

Somehow that reminds me of another story.

Once, when an acquaintance praised Johann Sebastian Bach for his wonderful skill as an organist, he replied with characteristic humility and wit: “There is nothing very wonderful about it. You have only to hit the right notes at the right moment and the instrument does the rest.”

Humility, it seems, is that rare virtue that makes us clever, gracious, well-liked, self-assured—and sometimes funny.i

Paul also has something to teach us about humility.

Scripture: Philippians 2:5-11


Let me begin by making two observations.

  1. Today we are looking at what is thought to be one of the oldest known hymn in the Christian Church. Its origin is unknown, I do not know the music – but its structure strongly resembles what is known of 1st century hymnody.

  2. What I am about to saw is really a continuation of last week's sermon. We have already noted that Paul has called the Philippian church to humility – now he illustrates that call by looking at Christ's life and focusing on three characteristics of humility.

I. Humility is characterized by a willingness to give up what is ours

    A. It is very easy for me to remember that Jesus is human. We have the details of his birth. We see him hungry, we see him with his friends, we see him die.

    B. It is not too difficult for me to remember that Jesus is God – I see him healing, I see him changing water into wine, I see him walking on the water.

    C. What is hard to picture is Jesus as GOD – as being present at the moment of creation – he was. “Let US make man in our image.” It is hard for me to picture Jesus as being present at the end of time sitting on the judgement seat – at the right hand of God the Father – demonstrating all the glory that is rightfully God's alone.

  1. Amazingly, it is this second image of Jesus that is really His. Yet he left it because of his love for mankind.

(Ill.) I may find it difficult to make this transition, but John Wesley understood it. A lady once asked John Wesley that suppose he were to know that he would die at 12:00 midnight tomorrow, how would he spend the intervening time. His reply: “Why madam, just as I intend to spend it now. I would preach this evening at Gloucester, and again at five tomorrow morning; after that I would ride to Tewkesbury, preach in the afternoon, and meet the societies in the evening. I would then go to Rev. Martin’s house, who expects to entertain me, talk and pray with the family as usual, retire to my room at 10 o’clock, commend myself to my heavenly Father, lie down to rest, and wake up in Glory.”ii

    E. Jesus walked away from it all. He left his home. He left the presence of glory, to live with us. Not with the rich, not with the powerful, but with the ordinary, the common. He put his glorious home aside, so that he could become the one who would serve mankind.

    F. Jesus gave up what was His – have this attitude in yourself.

II. Humility is characterized by a willingness to do what is not ours to do

(Ill.) A French philosopher once noted, “Plenty of people want to be pious, but no one yearns to be humble.”iii

    A. But that did not get in Jesus' way. He was willing to do far more than was his responsibility – he was allowed to die on that cross, not for something he did, but for all that we have done.

    B. The one thing that Jesus knew so little about, he died for. The one thing that was not part of his nature, was the thing that sent him that Friday to the cross.

  1. I remember my kids reminding me from time to time, “But that's not my job.” Can you imagine what our live would be like, if Jesus had turned to His Father and said, “But its not my sin.”

(Ill.) Jay Kesler was the founder of the High School organization Youth for Christ. Dr. Kesler has said, “A life thoroughly committed to Christ, lived and tested over time, seasoned with experience and humility, is more powerful than most people ever imagine.” iv

    D. Kids have not yet learned about humility – Jesus understood and practiced humility. He was willing to do what was really not his to do.

(Appl.) All of us are, from time to time, asked to do those things that are not normally expected of us. Things which, if one considers fairness, we would not be asked to do. But, as believers who seek to emulate Christ, we will accept those jobs, we will accept those tasks, that are not are not ours to do.

III. Humility is characterized by a willingness to be what God wants us to be.

    A. Negatively, humility means giving up what we are due. Negatively, humility means doing that which is not ours to do.

    B. Positively – humility means letting God do with us what he wants to do. It means being willing to be what God wants us to be. Humility means being obedient to all that God expects of us.

(Ill.) One of the men that has impressed me by his Christian walk was Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Boenhoeffer found himself as minority in WWII Germany – a Lutheran pastor that chose to speak against the horrors that were found in Hitler's Germany. Here was a man that chose to live his life for Christ, rather than let his culture shape him. Boenhoeffer once said, “Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.”v

    C. Jesus illustrated that – both in how he lived, in how he died, and in the fact that he now sits, again, at the right hand of God.

    D. Being willing to be what God wants us to be means living with both the challenges and the blessings that God sends our way. If we spend our time fighting those things that God uses to shape us, we have not learned humility.

    E. If we spend our time looking only for the blessing that God, then we have not learned humility.

    F. Humility will allow us to demonstrate God's love to a broken world – not because we must, not because we are forced; but because we will are willing to be what God wants us to be – even as Christ was who God wanted Him to be.

Conclusion: Let me suggest that there are two different definitions for humility.

  1. Webster defines humility as “the state of being humble.”

  2. Another writer has defined humility as willingness to be obedient to God regardless of the personal

  3. Which definition do you want to live your life by? It is a choice each of us must make – not just today, but each day of our lives.

iMore real stories for the soul. 2000 (electronic ed.) (Page 108). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

iiTan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : [a treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

iiiLa Rochefoucauld, Maxims. Quoted in Merriam-Webster, I. (1992). The Merriam-Webster dictionary of quotations. "A Merriam-Webster."; "Quotables from notables". Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

ivJay Kesler quoted in Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (Page 388). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

vDietrich Bonhoeffer quoted inWater, M. (2000). The new encyclopedia of Christian quotations (Page 692). Alresford, Hampshire: John Hunt Publishers Ltd.


Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Little “IF” ...

Intro.: Church camp has been a part of my life for many years.

  1. While in seminary we were part of a Free Methodist church that had a strong camping program in southern Wisconsin.

  2. And more space was needed – so a few weekends were set aside to build two new dorms one for the boys and one for the girls.

  3. Laid out like a three pointed star – dormitories would be set into the three points of the star – in the middle would be space for showers and rest room facilities.

  4. Week one – pouring of concrete floor, with big bolts placed every 12 to 16 inches apart around the edge.

  5. Week two, involved building and installing the outside walls. The bolts were used to hold the walls securely to the floor – which also become the foundation.

  6. The foundation of each point of the star was the same

  7. But as we finished off each dorm, there were differences – in wall color, in the layout of the sleeping arrangements, in the location of the door – it was always on the East side of the building – the side closest to the dining facility.

  8. The church is much like this – every church starts with the same foundation, but we are different on the inside.

  9. Paul recognizes this fact as he continues his letter to the Philippians.

Read: Philippians 2:1-4



  1. Paul begins by pointing to the Foundation

    1. Paul uses five words to which he knows describe the Christian life: encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, compassion

    2. Some things hit me has I looked these words this week – first, their definitions are often interchangeable. They are synonyms of each other. Depending on what translation you look at, the words are sometimes reversed.

    3. Second, the words suggest that there is a connection between us – they echo the words of Paul to the Corinthians – when one of us hurts, we all hurt; when one of us rejoices, we all rejoice.

(Ill.) This is most evident in the word “fellowship”. In Greek it is a word that was mentioned more often 20 years ago – it is the word “koinonia”. Interestingly, this is also one of three terms used in the NT to describe the sacrament of communion – the others are eucharist and the Lord's Supper. In communion we celebrate the death of resurrection of our Lord – but we also are celebrating the connectedness that we enjoy together. We are connected to the church. Christ gave us instructions to celebrate communion – in participating in communion, we are celebrating the fact that we are members of the body of Christ – an institution that has its roots going back 2000 or more years.

Communion, or “koinonia”, also should remind us that we are connected to the church today. Whether is a community of believers across town, across the state, on the other side of our country, or around the world – we are acknowledging that are a part of the family of God. As I travel, I am aware that I am part of something larger than the Garland church. Whether it was a trip to California for my mother's funeral a number of years ago, or my annual trip to Dayton, OH, and Frankfort, IN, it is exciting to see God at work in amazing ways. The same would be true if I ever had the chance to travel out of this country and visit mission churches in other parts of the world. God is at work changing peoples lives. Taking them from where they are and molding them into what he wants them to become. There is a “koinonia”, there is a communion, there is a fellowship of believers where ever we might find ourselves.

    1. Finally, Paul says, “If these things are present ... “. The “if” is a rhetorical “if”. It is as we might say, “if the sky is blue, ...' There is no question in Paul's mind that these five characteristics are part of the church -

      - there is encouragement in the church
      - there is comfort in the church
      - there is fellowship in the church
      - there is tenderness within the church
      - there is compassion within the church

  1. Paul gives hints toward building the Church

    1. The foundation is present. The five elements that Paul asks for are part of the church.

    2. He begins with the first of three commands found at the end of our passage. “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” The one thing that Paul wants to see in the church is unity.

    3. One mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose.

(Ill.) A story is told about an incident that occurred at the time of the battle of Gettysburg during the civil war. Massachusetts had sent a delegate to the Army hospital at Getttysburg with provisions to support soldiers from that state. As he entered the hospital he began going from cot to cot looking for soldiers from Massachusetts. Eventually he got worried – so he a bit more demanding, “Is there anybody here from Massachusetts?” After a few moments of silence one soldiers answers the question, “No – Only United States soldiers here!”i

The delegate was drawing a line that was not being recognized by the soldiers. We sometimes do the same thing within the church. But the lines are not along states – they are called denominations – Baptists, Wesleyans, Catholics, Methodists. We don't find those words in the scripture – what we do find is “Christian”. One mind, one love, one spirit, one purpose focused on the person of Jesus Christ.

    1. But there is a second command in our passage – It has to do with how we relate to others - “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.”

    2. Have you ever had to face a terribly difficult situation alone? You felt like the load was more than you could carry yourself.

    3. Let me suggest two mistakes that are reflected in what I just read:
      * First, we too often feel the need to be strong. We need to be able to carry every problem on our own shoulders. Instead of allowing the church to support us in our difficult times, it is easy to hold it in. Don't share it, don't let others share the load.

      *But there is another mistake we make in the church. And it is this mistake that Paul addresses here – We are called to be concerned with each other. But too often we communicate the message, “Don't tell me your problems. I don't have time to deal with them. I really do not care.” Yet we are called to carry each others burdens. We are called to care. Our message might better be, “Tell me what's going on. I really want to help carry that load. You know, if I can't do it myself, I bet there are those in the church that can help carry it.”

    4. Listen again to the words of Paul: “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.”

Conclusion: Much of today's message was about being the body of Christ.

  1. We began be looking at those things Paul knew to be true – encouragement, comfort, kononia or communion, tenderness, and compassion.

  2. But then Paul calls together to support one another, even in the difficult times.

  3. We are about to take communion, during the next few minutes, let us focus our thoughts on the things that make us a community that allows us to celebrate communion together.

iAMG Bible Illustrations. 2000 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Bible Illustrations Series. Chattanooga: AMG Publishers.