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.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Serving God's Way

Serving God's Way
Intro.: There are some topics I just don't like preaching about.
  1. The problem is that, even though I don't like preaching about them, God talks about them.

  2. For example, I don't like preaching about money. But I have read that the New Testament says more about money than any other single topic. So, every so often, I do preach about your pocketbooks.
  3. Another topic that I find difficult to preach about is submission. I remember growing up listening to preachers in church or on the radio trying to convince every wife they are to be submissive to their husbands. It still sound abusive the way it was presented back in the 60's and early 70's. Yet Paul and Peter do preach about submission.

  4. Six months ago I stopped preaching from I Peter for two reasons. It was partly because it was at that time I had my heart attack. But it was also because we were ready to look at this topic of submission and I was not read.

  5. Now six months later, as promised, we are returning to I Peter. And, though I suppose I could skip any discussion of submission, I will not do so.

Read: I Peter 2:13-17 Pray

Trans: Peter is the author of this book of scripture.

  1. This man of God had spent three years of our Lord – living with him, listening to him, watching him.

  2. And now he writes his first letter (or at least the first that we have) to a group of believers that felt alone and isolated from the rest of the church. Peter writes to encourage these young believers as the seek to serve their Lord.
T.S. Let's look at three ways in which we as believers must submit.
  1. We are called to submit to each other
    1. God has created us to be in relationships to each other.
    2. And in those relationships we are called to serve each other.
    3. Not surprising – Jesus made it clear in the gospels, when he reminded us that he “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”
    4. Look around you – beside you, behind you, in front of you. These are all members of the family of God. As a family, we are will be there for each other. We will support each other. We will serve each other.

(Ill.) The word “serve” has a very uncomfortable derivation. It comes from the Latin word servier meaning servant or slave. (Appl.) I don't want to be anybody's slave. I enjoy my freedom. I enjoy setting my own agenda, I want to set my own path. Yet God calls on my serve – serve you, serve my fellow man, serve those around me. No matter how uncomfortable it may be, I am called to serve.

  1. We are called to submit to authority
    1. I don't like authority. Authority makes feel very uncomfortable.
(Ill.) As we drove home last Sunday, the weather was far better than it had been the night before. We were tooling down I-90 heading toward New York. I have no idea what the speed limit was. But I expect that the Pennsylvania trooper that was stationed on the divider between the the Eastbound and Westbound lanes knew the speed limit. I saw the trooper, saw my speed was 65 MPH, and the 55 MPH speed limit sign in a single scan of my surroundings. I immediately started to slow down, but was certain that the trooper was about to leave his post and follow a silver Ford Taurus with New York plates. I was certain because I do not like authority. But you know what, he did not start to follow me. I still don't trust authority.
    1. But I Peter 2 reminds us that “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.”
    2. Regardless of how I feel about authority, regardless of who that authority is – I am to submit.
    3. You see, if I am called to serve, then there are no limits. Regardless of how I feel about someone, I am their to represent Christ to them.

(Appl.) Somehow it seems appropriate as we approach the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States that we spend a few moments speaking about our submission to authority. I do not know who you voted for – I really don't want to know who you voted for. You see, it really doesn't matter – regardless of who we voted for, we are to be submit to every authority. During the coming months, changes will come – yet we are to submit. (Ill.) The problem with submission, be to each other or to authorities, is that we are too much like the boy who was about to be disciplined by his parents. His mom was trying to get him to sit down so they could talk. Knowing what was coming, the boy refused – at least at first. He finally did sit down, but when he did just glared at his mother. But too often his words echo our feeling toward God, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside.”1

    1. Submission does not always come easy. You will remember that I earlier said, “I enjoy my freedom.” I am not alone – as long as we respond to this thing called submission using our own power, it will be difficult. As we learn to trust God, as we learn to rely on his strength, rather than our own, submission becomes easier. Whether it be to each other, to the authorities God has placed over us, or whether it be to God Himself.
  1. We are called to submit to God
    1. And that brings us to the third point of our sermon – ultimately we are to submit to God.
    2. Though it may seem easier to speak about being submissive to God than being submissive to human, I cannot help wondering if the reverse is actually true.

    3. Even as we submit to each other and to the authorities, we are submitting to God. We cannot submit to each other, we cannot submit to the authorities God has given us, unless we are submitting to God as well.

(Appl.) Stand as we close. I want you spend a minute thinking about where submission becomes hard for you. Is it with each other, is it to authorities, or maybe it is God. I don't want you to tell me where it is your struggle, but I do want you to tell God. Tell God where submission becomes hard for you and then ask Him to teach you this year how He wants you to be more submissive.

1Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.