1 Timothy 1:18-20 Life in the Local Church: Continue in Faithfulness

1 Timothy 1:18-20
Life in the Local Church
Continue in Faithfulness

 

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to 1 Timothy, chapter 1. We are going to pick back up in our series today, going through 1 & 2 Timothy, called Life in the Local Church. As always, if you do not have a Bible, or do not own a Bible, please grab on from the back table. We would love the Word of God to be our gift to you.
Now, its been a few weeks since we have been in this series and so we need to do a brief review before diving into todays text. Paul is writing to Timothy, who is the Pastor at the early church in Ephesus. Timothy is personally, very close to Paul, with Paul referring to him several times as a son to him.
Paul is writing to Timothy because there have been some issues and some teachers that have gained a foothold in the Ephesian church that need to be dealt with. The biggest issue we see that has been mentioned by Paul is that False teachers are False teaching a False Gospel. And there is no room for that in the church, of whom Christ is the head. Christ, who is revealed in Scripture, whose Gospel is revealed in Scriptures, not through the smooth words of people who look and sound good.
Paul is both encouraging Timothy and challenging him to do what needs to be done. And he is actually going to name names of two men who have been causing confusion and discord amongst the church.
So, with all that being said, lets go ahead and look at this morning’s text. Ill be reading 1 Timothy 1:18-20, and I will be reading out of the English Standard Version. Please follow along in your preferred translation that you have in your hands. 1 Timothy, chapter 1, verses 18-20. Paul, inspired by God, writing the holy and inerrant scriptures, writes:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.

All right, so Paul here is returning to his train of thought from earlier in the letter, back in verses 3-7. Timothy, do what you have been called to do. Do what has been entrusted to you. We know that with great power comes great responsibilities. And with great responsibility can come great rewards.
Paul has shown Timothy that God has entrusted him with great responsibility. Timothy is responsible to and charged to protect the flock at Ephesus, to protect the truth from the attacks of the enemy. He is to refute false teachings and teachers with the plain, pure, simple truth of the true Gospel.
One of the things we see about Timothy, if we study his life as recorded in the Bible, is that Timothy has a timid streak. He is not the loudest, surest, most take charge kind of guy. In that, a lot of the encouragement and challenges that Paul gives to Timothy, hit very close to home for me. Timothy does not always seem to be entirely sure of his ability to do the things that he needs to do to fulfill his responsibility.
And so, Paul reminds Timothy that God has called him to do this job. When God calls you to do something, he will equip you to accomplish exactly what He has called you to accomplish. This does not always mean that we will be successful at the task laid before us. We are not always called to be successful. We are called to be faithful and to do what God has said. In that, He will equip us as we need it.
As an example, I am called to shepherd the flock here at Bangor Community Church. I am also called to be a missionary to the community in and around Bangor, Ca. I may or may not be called to grow this church numerically. I may or may not be called to do many baptisms or to see firsthand many people come to faith. The results of my faithfulness are in Gods hands. I’m not responsible for that. I am responsible to Preach the Word and Love the People.
And guess what? That’s what God has equipped me to do. And what he has called you to do, he will equip you for exactly that task and the outcome that he has determined. And with that faithfulness comes great reward.
In this I am reminded of the parable of the talents. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that he entrusts each of us with different things, different tasks, different amounts. We are not responsible for each other’s talents. Talent was a unit of money, or gold back then. It works for material goods, for talents as we know them today, for anything because the idea is our level of faithfulness transcends it all. I am not responsible for your talents and how you use them. I am, to a point responsible for Hopes and the kids and how they use them. But I am primarily responsible for my own talents.
You are not responsible for my talents and how I use them. You are not responsible for each other’s talents, with your kids and your spouses being partial exceptions. We are responsible for helping to encourage, exhort and equip each other, as a body of Christ, as Paul shares in Ephesians 4. But you will not stand before God and must give an answer or an account for why I did or did not use my talents faithfully. You will stand and give an account regarding how you used your own talents.
In the parable, three men were given different amounts of money to take care of while their master was gone. One of them, given the most, was very faithful and got a return on his good works, he bore much fruit because of his faithfulness. The second was given a middle amount and was faithful to what he was given and he bore some fruit from his faithfulness. The last man was given a small amount and he was not faithful, bearing zero fruit. The first two were rewarded because of their faithfulness and the third was rebuked because of his lack of faithfulness.
God called those men to be faithful with what they were given, and he gave them the ability to be carry that out. Did the second man bear as much fruit as the first? No, but he wasn’t called to. He was still successful in carrying out what God had called them to.
So, the leads us to looking at, what was Timothy called to by God here in Ephesus? First, Timothy knew what he was called to because Paul and many elders laid hands on him, prayed over him and for him and prophesied over him. We see an example of this happen at the beginning of Acts chapter 13, with Paul and Barnabas. We will get more into prayer over the next couple of weeks but that is something we are still called to do. To pray over each other and to pray for each other. And there is something that happens, something that makes it much more personal and meaningful to both the person doing the praying and the person being prayed over.
But we also know that the prophetic offices have been closed. Gods Word has been fully revealed and there is no more extra biblical, special revelation. We need to remember to discern and see when to read the scriptures as descriptive, relaying that this is what happened, and when to read prescriptive, saying this is what we are supposed to do.
But at this point, in part because of the prayer and prophecy put onto Timothy, he was clear in his mission and his call. He is to fight the good fight. He is to wage good warfare. He is to fight against what Paul has already been writing about in this letter.
Timothy is to wage war against False Teaching in the church. He is to wage war against the False Teachers who are doing the false teaching. He is to wage war against the enemy’s scheme to destroy the witness and the mission of the Church. He was to wage war against the lies and the corruption and the sin that come along with all those things.
And Timothy is to also go the other route as well. He is to fight for Gods Truth. That’s Truth with a capitol T. The only actual truth there is. The Truth that all other claims are to be tested against. Timothy is to fight for Gods holiness, something we, as a Christian community in 21 century America don’t fully understand or grasp. He is to fight for the purity and sufficiency of the Gospel. And he is to fight for Gods righteousness, because we have none of our own and can only receive Christs perfect righteousness trough the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
And this is also what, in general terms, we are all called to do as well, in our lives, in our family, in our circle of friends and in our church. And it isn’t easy, and it takes an incredible amount of discernment.
Because this is one area where we must be careful. And we are going to use False Teaching as an example here. Not all False Teaching is heresy. One definition I like says this: “Heresy is a false teaching about the essential doctrines of our faith – the ones we must adhere to, regarding who God is, who Jesus is, salvation by grace, and Jesus’ resurrection.”
And so, False teaching about the non-essential issues is not heresy. It still needs to be confronted and dealt with, but we need to be careful about what words we throw around when we do indeed confront it.
Also, not all teaching that reads the text differently is false teaching. For example, we look at the various views on the end times. What did Jesus teach? Well, his speaking of the end times are summed up in be ready for it and nobody knows the time when it will come.
And yet the church today has three very different views about when Jesus will return and each of these three will influence how you read scriptures and are influenced by how you read scriptures. Now, in the end, two of those three will end up being wrong. But you can teach each one of them from a biblical standpoint and therefore, they are not, by definition, false teachings.
They are opinions and preferences that we believe. And we can hold them tightly even. But they are secondary issues that we should not divide over. I love Village Missions Statement of Faith on this subject. It reads, and I forget the exact wording, but it reads, We believe that Jesus Christ will one day, physically return. Done. That’s what we unite over in this subject. If we deny that part, that Jesus will physically return, then we get into heresy area. But if we disagree on whether we are pre, post or amillenial in Christs return, we simply read the text differently.
Some of these things that we differ on, they are differences of opinion. They are our interpretation. They are our preconceived notions and preconceived views, of which we all have. Some of these things, as I have said, we can still be united together as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, despite those differing views. Some of these things you can see or think differently than I do and I can still that you have a genuine and pure faith. And it is that genuine and pure faith that Timothy and all of us are called to defend and to protect.
So we also look at what the Bible says is the faith that we hold in a good conscience. Of course there is John 3:16, maybe is, and definitely used to be the single most well know bible verse in the world. John writes: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And I also like what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
That is what we cling to. This is what we hold tight to. And this is what, if we reject it, we make what Paul calls here, a shipwreck of our faith. Those who reject the faith, those who reject the Gospel, also those who claim to believe the Gospel but reject those closed handed Gospel issues, they are not just rejecting salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But they are also rejecting unity. They are rejecting the Gospel, despite what they claim. They are rejecting the true Biblical God and the true biblical Jesus.
And when you have rejected these things, you have rejected the faith. Paul names two men who have been in the church and have fallen into this category of False teachers, rejecting the core tenets of the faith and teaching heresy. Alexander and Hymanaeus are specifically named as having been dealt with and have been handed over to Satan.
Now, we can not just take that verse and start doing whatever we want with it. We need to be really careful with what we take from it and how we apply it to today.
When we separate from people, we do so after having tried everything we could do on our end for repentance and reconciliation. We see Matthew 18 as the go to text about how to treat issues like this. We separate only after much prayer. We separate only after much effort. We do so only after every other option has been exhausted.
And we do so for what purpose? As shown here and in 1 Corinthians 5:5, We separate from others, we remove them from the church only as a last resort, in order to bring them to repentance. We do so in order to, ideally bring them back into the fellowship of the saints and bring them back into the body of believers.
In this instance, if Alexander and/or Hymanaeus were to repent of their false teaching and they were to accept the full, clear, simple, true gospel, Paul would welcome them back into the church with open arms.
Now, we don’t know what exactly they were teaching that fell into the category of false teaching, though we could make fair guesses based on what Paul has already written in this letter. But we do know that Paul says they are guilty of blaspheming God.
Here is one definition of blasphemy: To blaspheme is to speak with contempt about God or to be defiantly irreverent. Blasphemy is verbal or written reproach of God’s name, character, work, or attributes.
Does that help any of you? Practically it was not very much help for me. So, I will describe blasphemy in this way and this is not specific or entirely complete, but it helps me practically. Blasphemy is giving Gods attributes and identity to someone or something else. Giving credit for Gods Works to someone or something who is not God. It is giving to God lesser attributes or taking away from Gods true identity.
Cause here’s the thing. God and God alone has the right to determine who he is. God and God alone has the right to what his identity is. He is God. He has revealed who he is in his revealed word, the Bible that you have right in front of you. God is the creator and the author of all things. He is the almighty and he is a jealous God. And all of creation was made to give glory to God. So, if we give the glory that is rightly due to God, to anything else, we are blaspheming God. Let’s not do that.
See what God himself says in his word. Believe in his Gospel, that Jesus his son, died for our sins and rose from the dead to full achieve the forgiveness of our sins. That forgiveness and eternal life with God, available by Grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
So, we continue to do what has been entrusted to us. Fight against the false teachings and sin that has corrupted this world. We stand up for and fight for the Truth and holiness of God and we trust both the results of our fight and our salvation to God and God alone.
Let’s Pray.

Romans 14:1-9 Unity, Libery and Charity

Romans 14:1-9

In Essentials Unity, In Non Essentials Liberty, In all Things Charity

Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles with me and turn to Romans chapter 14. If you do not have a Bible, please feel free to grab one from the back table as our gift to you.

Before we get started, I want to take a quick, informal, voluntary poll. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. If you do, just raise your hand at the answers that apply. I’m going to ask how many Bible translations we have in our congregation right now. I’m not talking about when we use multiple translations to do our studies, or when we enjoy reading different one to see how the phrasing is different. Im talking about the main one that you use. The box you would check if you could only check one box.

So, We will start out with the one I am using this morning, the English Standard Version. How many of you here use the ESV as your main translation?

How about the original King James, like Frank uses for the scripture readings up here? How may of you use the King James?

Next, how many of you use the New King James?

Next, Hopes translation of choice, the New American Standard?

What about the NIV?

Lastly, how many of you use any other versions than what I listed?

Ok, so I just listed 6 different options there. And we have a normal weekly attendance of less than 40. So, does those differences of preference create disunity? What about other matters of preference? Thats what Paul is going to address here in the passage we are looking at this morning.

We are individuals. Created as unique individuals. Created and called to unity, (Ephesians 4:3) but not created and called to uniformity. Lets go ahead and read this mornings passage, Romans 14, verses 1-9. As I said earlier, I am reading out of the English Standard Version. Paul writes:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master[a] that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

Disagreements, disunity, arguments and division go all the way back to the earliest churches, as we see here. This is not new, and unfortunately, due to the human sinfulness of all of us, it’s not something we can completely avoid. However, Paul shows us that we are not to be content with that answer. We are not to resign ourselves to the fact that their will be division and disunity, but we are to work at driving that out of the church at all costs.

This is the same principle we touched on last week in regards to sin. We recognize that we are all sinners and justification, the moment of salvation where we put on Christs righteousness and are declared righteous by God the Father, that moment does not make us perfect (Romans 7) But we are called to be holy and perfect as God is holy and perfect. (1 Peter 1:15 & Matthew 5:48) We can not use the fact that we are not yet perfect be an excuse for our sin. We can not let our selves be resigned to the fact that we will sin. Instead, as Paul says in the last verse of Chapter 13, we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. We do everything we can to drive sin out of our life.

In the same way, the Bible is clear that we do the same thing in regards to division and disunity within the church. But we also see, as in what I showed us at the beginning of the sermon, that differences in preferences and even disagreements don’t necessarily need to lead to division and disunity.

We need to discern and distinguish between essentials and non essentials. Thats why used this quote as the title for my sermon this morning. In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things grace. I have heard other pastors refer to them as “open handed,” or “close handed,” issues. The idea being that the non essentials are ones we hold with an open hand. We will discuss and disagree, we will hold them loosely and come together and worship together regardless of where we all fall on these issues. In theses things liberty. The close handed issues are the essentials. These are things that are fundamental and foundational to the faith. These are the things that we all agree on if we claim to be Christians. These are the things the hold tightly and we defend and we will fight for if need be.

If you are having trouble determining what an essential is, I suggest we start with Paul as he lays the gospel out simply and clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:1-7, where he writes:

Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.

That hits a whole lot of the essentials. Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again. All according to the scriptures. Salvation, which is need because we are sinners from before birth, is by the grace of God alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Jesus is truly God and truly man. He in eternal, not created and he is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 22:13) He is not a god, not a saviour, but He is THE Way, The Truth and The Life. (John 14:16) Those are the things that make us Christians and these are things that separate us from those who believe differently.

To put it bluntly, if you say you believe in and worship God, but you don’t believe in these essentials, you believe in and worship a different god than the god of the Bible.

On the other hand, there are a whole host of non essentials. These are things that we don’t have to agree on. We can disagree and still know that we are still brothers and sisters in Christ.

Paul gives the examples in his letter of eating meat. He gives the example of celebrating certain days. He gives the examples of what were going on in the churches in Rome in those days. And those weren’t just issues in Roman, but they were issues throughout the all the churches of that time. Because they were a part of the change over from Jewish traditions and dietary laws to the Christian liberty.

One of the big questions in the early church was whether one could eat meat that had been sacrificed to an idol. Today, a direct translation would be similar to, can we eat kosher and halal foods? Paul responds to this issue in 1 Corinthians 8 & 10. Essentially, because other gods, Idols, don’t actually exist, and/or, have no power, you are sacrificing something sacrificed to what is essentially nothing. It’s really not a big deal. HOWEVER, if you personally feel like you shouldnt eat that food, then you should not eat that food.

He makes another point as well, some new christians come from a place in their life where those idols or false gods were very real to them. Eating those foods may cause them to fall back into old sinful behaviors. If that is the case, if you are around those people, don’t eat those foods around those people. We don’t have to agree that eating those foods is wrong or that it is right, but if we are stumbling block to one another, we are in sin. And if we impose our conscience in these areas of liberty onto others, than we are in sin.

We as Christians, are not bound by the dietary laws that God gave the people of Israel in the Old Testament. We see that in Acts 10, where Peter has his vision regarding clean and unclean things. Some see the only application of that passage, however, as the inclusion of the gentiles into the family of God as full heirs. I see that as the main application, but thankfully that’s not our only text that shows our release from the dietary laws.

If we look at Marks Gospel, in chapter 7, we see an explicitness and a clarity that cannot be refuted. Reading verses 14-19, we see Mark write:

 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”[e] 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”[f] (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

So, again, we are not under the Old testament dietary laws anymore. That does not mean that some of us are not individually convicted to not eat certain foods or drink certain drinks. If that’s the case, if you are convicted not to do something, for you to do it is sin. And if you are not convicted, but to cause those who are to stumble, that is sin.

Paul next example, he talks about different days. He is actually speaking about a few different things in this. We worship and gather together on Sundays for two intertwined reasons. In Acts 20, it shows the early church gathering on “the first day of the week,” or Sunday. The related reason is that they were meeting on the first day of the week, on Sunday, because that was the day of the week that Jesus rose from the grave.

So, that’s why, traditionally, christian churches meet on Sunday morning. But we also need to see clearly that this is not command in the scriptures. There are some who, because the jewish sabbath was on Saturday, feel that Saturday is the correct day to meet in worship. Fine. Churches used to have many different services, many different days of the week. Some of you can speak to that.

The point was not which day we were supposed to gather together in worship, that’s an open-handed, non-essential issue. The point is that we gather together, as a church body, as a church family and we worship Christ. That is a close handed, non-essential. (Hebrews 10:25)

The other part of what Paul is referencing here has to do with the Jewish festivals. Were the still required to observe them? Paul’s answer harkens back to what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23, Whatever you do, do unto the LORD. Here, he tells the churches in Rome, The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

If you do continue to celebrate the festivals, celebrate them not as if you are still required to, not as they were originally instituted for, looking forward to the someday appearance of the coming messiah, but if you do celebrate them, do it unto the LORD, celebrating and recognizing that Christ has already come, and that he was the fulfillment of all prophecy and festivals.

As an example, Hope and I celebrate Hanukkah and Passover. And we do so unto the LORD. We do so for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, for us as a family, specifically, it brings us closer to Christ. We are not required to. And we are not to celebrate them as Israel celebrated them. But we are to recognize and draw closer to christ through them, if we choose to celebrate them. Both those who partake in the festivals, those who eat, and those who abstain from the festival, both do so in honor of the LORD.

Those are the two examples that Paul gives here. And his point is not to address these two examples specifically, but instead to give us a principle from which to work through. Unity, Liberty, and Charity.

We have many, many rights and freedoms as Christians. But our freedoms are to take a back seat to unity, love and charity towards each other. Read again the last three verses of our passage this morning.

 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

We do not live for ourselves. Our purpose is not for ourselves. Our death is not for our self. We have Christ, and he brings us together. He gives us our life, he gives us our purpose and he gives us our life after death. And in return he says to give them to him. Our life is for him. Our purpose is for him. Our death and the life afterwards is for him.

And so we have freedom and liberty. We have preferences and opinions. And we may disagree on them. hats why there are so many denominations. Because of differences in non essentials and preferences.

Now, we don’t live in a community with a number of different denominations. If we were in a real big city, like Sacramento, like some were, you would be able to pick and choose. You would be able to be a part of and serve in a church that most closely meets your theological beliefs, your preferences, your convictions, so long as it was faithful to the essentials, the closed handed issues. Technically, you could also chose to pick unfaithful churches as well, there are many so-called Christians churches that do not hold to the essentials. But staying faithful to Christ, you would have a number of options of churches to be a part of and to serve at and to worship with.

Even in Oroville, I’m learning more of them, I don’t know all of them, but I we could find churches in Oroville of every major, faithful denomination. And if its your prerogative, you are free to drive in there to attend the church you feel called to. My concern is not the numerical attendance of Bangor Community Church, my concern is the biblical faithfulness of Bangor Community Church and that all Christians are attending and connected with a Bible believing, Bible teaching, faithful Church.

We are not the only church within driving distance. However, we are Bangor’s Community Church. Bangor doesn’t have a bunch of denominational options. So instead, we have a community church. We focus on the Essentials. We discuss and celebrate the non essentials. And we unite and love each other in all things.

We have people in this room from an incredibly wide variety of spiritual and denominational background. And yet, we are all worshipping together in this room. We likely all have something about the church or the service or the music or the pastor or whatever, that doesn’t perfectly fit our preference. At yet, here we are, all together in this room worshipping Christ together.

And that’s because we recognize what is our preferences, and what are our essentials. If Im up here and start teaching against some of those essentials, for example, If I start saying that Jesus was not God while he was here in earth, as some mega popular so-called christian churches teach from the pulpit, just 2 hr north of here. If I were to start teaching that, I would expect to be run out of here post-haste. If I start teaching that Jesus never rose from the dead, I would not be around for long, at least I pray so.

However, If I’m reading out of a translation of the Bible you don’t prefer, or if we sing songs you don’t care for, or if we think the service is too long or not long enough. Whatever the case may be, we set aside our preferences for the sake of unity.

Psalm 133 speaks directly to church unity. David writes:

Behold, how good and pleasant it is
    when brothers dwell in unity![a]
2 It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
    life forevermore.

I heard one pastor sum up this psalm by saying that church unity smells good to God. I like that. No, we can not attain church unity in our own ability and power. Look at the situation Paul is writing to. Eat meat or not. What days are better than others, to have latkes for Chanukah or not? Something little in the grand scheme, but important to the individuals.

And because human people were involved, hurt feelings, likely broken relationships. Potential and likely disunity and division. When we let our preferences and non essentials come ahead of loving each other, when we let our feelings come ahead of unity, we place stumbling blocks in front of fellow believers AND in front of potential believers that may or may not be here, but will see. They dont have to be in this room to see division and disunity.

And ultimately, we have two goals as a body of christ, two main reasons to pursue church unity. First, to worship him and to follow his commands. Can you worship next to someone, can your mind be truly set on things above, truly set on God, if we are dealing with hurt feelings and division next to us, or een across the room? Unity brings a holier, more worshipful gathering of the saints.

But we also want to follow the commands of the God we are worshipping. Im not even talking about the command for church unity in this specific context. But the Great Commision and the Great Commandment. (Matt 22:36-40 & 28:16-20) Love God and Love your neighbor and go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to obey all that Jesus has commanded us.

And we will not draw anyone to Christ if we are fighting and dividing and putting ourselves above each other. One of the greatest blessings of this passage this morning is the emphasis and reminder of the freedoms that we have in Christ. But that freedom, again is not our own, but to by used for Christ, who it belongs to, who gave it to us.

John MacArthur says, Immature Christians are concerned with how much freedom they are entitled to. Mature Christina are concerned with how many freedoms they may gladly set aside to make the gospel attractive… How willing are we to give up any freedom that we might win some to Christ?”

that s the big thing. Paul has been establishing the importance of love in the life of a follower of Christ, and what that practically look like. And he has more recently been specifically reminding and instructing us to love others like our selves. This means giving up our freedoms if they become a stumbling block to others.

Now, as we finish up, I want to recognize some of the wording in the early part of this passage, talking about weaker or stronger. We will get into that in a few weeks and especially, specifically look at how this all applies to discipleship and the spiritual growth of young and new christians.

But here and now, I want to point out what Paul is doing here and challenge you to take it seriously. Paul is writing, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, in order to conform us to the image of Jesus Christ. (Romans 8:29) He is trying to show us how to transform our minds (Romans 12:2) and to act out and live our faith. He is calling us to lay down our lives for the sake of and the purpose of what Christ has called us to. He is reminding us that we are not to be served, but to serve. And that, as he said just a few short chapters ago,  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:10)

He is challenging and encouraging us, In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Liberty.

Lets Pray

Social Justice and Gospel Statement

So, I actually started righting this in the last week or so, before the Social Justice and Gospel Statement came out. I combined this with my response to the statement and am throwing my thoughts out there. (Spoiler: I agree with every word of the statement, but have not, and might not sign it.)

This post is me trying to put into words what’s been rattling around in my brain over the last couple of months regarding the whole Gospel/Social Justice division. Respectful, articulate, conversational thoughts will be loved and encouraged. Thanks for taking the time to read the whole thing.

So, what’s it been? 6 moths? A year? Since this whole “SJW” “Cultural Marxism,” and all those terms and identifiers have blown up and become a massive dividing point within Christianity. One side claims that addressing things like racial inequality, human dignity, very real social issues, especially within Christianity itself, are a very real, core part of what it means to be a follower of Christ. The other side claims that preaching the unfiltered, unwatered down, simple, by grace alone through faith alone gospel is the only thing that needs to be done.

Both sides are right. And Both sides are wrong. And both sides (not all individuals, thankfully) but both sides of the issue are unwilling to see any common ground, any room for compromise (not compromising truth, that’s not ok, but compromising as in coming together and hearing each other out without assuming meaning into words, without assuming motivations into arguments, and without assuming salvation into the way beliefs play out in individuals)

This divide and the arguments (and names) that are thrown about from both sides, very closely mirrors the political divide in our country as well. If you don’t believe the exact same political views that I believe your a Nazi and fascist, or a communist. No middle ground, no area for unity in disagreement.

The same thing here in Christianity today (not the magazine, lol). If you don’t hold the same convictions as I do, your wrong. If you believe that past racial issues are not fully gone, if you believe that there are social ills and problems in our society and our communities, then you must not believe the Gospel and you water down Christianity and you don’t believe in the sufficiency of the scriptures.

If you don’t believe that, if you don’t believe that those issues are ones that, not only exist, but exist within the church and should be addressed, well, then your not really following Christ. You have your head in the sand and you are a part of the problem, allowing these issues to continue, sometimes out in the open, sometimes just under the surface, and always because it benefits you.

And so with arguments like that from both sides, it can be hard to find common ground. It can hard to believe that you can both be on the same side. It can be tough to see that you both can be right.

Here’s the thing. The Gospel is sufficient for all things. The Gospel is what saves, what changes hearts, and lives. The Gospel is what brings us out of our sins and into right relationship with God. The Gospel is all that is needed.

And, there needs to be application of that Gospel in our lives. There needs to be fruit that bears itself out of that Gospel. And not all sin ends immediately upon salvation. The process of sanctification, the process of sin leaving our lives, our actions, our words and our thoughts, can take time. It will take a life time. We will never be completely sinless. But we are told to try. We are told that is the standard we are to strive for, that’s what we need to live up to. Not because its required for salvation, but because salvation requires it of us.

Some sins God delivers us from instantly. Some sins he gradually, over time convicts us of and helps us work through. Some sins we get so comfortable with that we never do listen, no matter how much we are supposed to or how saved we are.

Racism is a sin. Period. All are created in Gods image and likeness. There is none better or worse. We are all one in Christ under the cross. It seems to me that Racism is a sin that one doesn’t not just get delivered from, but one that, through a process, through the Holy Spirit pointing out errors in that way of thinking, will take some time before being purged from a person.

When we see Racism in the church, our job is to confront it. When we see pride in the church, when we see sexual sin in the church, when we see any sin inside the church, our job is to confront it. And because we are so good at trying to ignore our sins, especially ones that take time to be convicted of, and because we like our own sin, but hate others sins, we tend to congregate with people who share the same sins as us. This is especially true if we are not intentionally looking for, seeking and trying to kill the sin that is inside of us. The Bible says that is what we are to do, seek out and kill the sin inside of us. But we don’t always do that.

And any sin that congregates together has the opportunity to become systemic. The easiest to point out is if a church has a systemic problem with pride. It starts with the leadership and it flows down from there. We see it happening in various denominations with sexual sin. If the leadership starts to accept certain sexual sins, over time it will also be accepted by the congregation and it will imbed itself within the church body, even as it turns over and new people come in and old people (not age related) leave.

The same can take place with racism. It starts with someone who becomes a Christian, and is struggling with that sin. Either they don’t eliminate it or are established to a leadership position before its eliminate. It is accepted by that person and eventually, knowingly or not, consciously or not, becomes accepted by the people around them, (others in leadership or authority) and then the rest of the congregation. It then becomes a part of that church in a systemic way, both as an institution and in the individuals.

That sin needs to be confronted both as individual sins, and in some of those institutions where it has allowed to fester and not be confronted. That doesn’t mean that the people are not saved. That does not means that racism is rampant in all institutions or all individuals within those institutions. It does not mean that we as individuals need to repent of what people have done in the past. But institutions may very well need to repent of what the institution did before any on currently in the institution was there.

The Gospel is sufficient for all things, first and foremost, but certainly not only for salvation. There is nothing that needs to be done. But once we are saved, we are required to search our hearts and eliminate any sin that we come across. We don’t succeed in that 100%, but we are command to continue to root it out. For some, the sin that never gets eliminated or takes a while is racism. To deny that is foolish.

It is a poor argument to say, the Bible says racism is bad, so if we are truly saved there will be no racism. That is true in theory. Just as, if we are truly saved, we wont give in to sexual temptation, we wont sin in anger, we wont struggle with pride, we wont lie, cheat or steal. Hear me loud and clear, this is not excusing any of these sins. They need to be confronted and dealt with when they are there.

If you have not read through it yet, I highly suggest that you go and Read the Social Justice Statement that came out on Tuesday, September 4th. (https://statementonsocialjustice.com/) I will go on record as saying that I agree with every affirmation and denial that is in the Social Justice Statement. However, at this point, I will not be signing it.

The reason I will not be signing it is because this statement, I think, misses the nuances of the conversation going on. Again, I agree with everything in this statement. But not everyone on the other side of the conversation disagrees with anything in this statement. This statement is good, it provides clear, biblical reference points and summations about the gospel, salvation, sanctification, race and the role it plays, and more. But it doesn’t address the concerns that people who agree with this statement still have regarding the treatment, historically and currently, individually and corporately of minorities. Obviously, I do not think that the people who put this statement together and put it out there are the ones guilty of this kind of treatment, (Though, in all honesty, I don’t know them or their personal lives, thoughts, actions, I make that judgement based on what I do see from them, their actions, teachings and convictions.) But there are those who have and are. The question becomes, what do we about those, and what do we do to those who have been on the receiving end? Tough questions that we cannot answer until we are actually willing to sit down and listen to each other.

And the conversation is not about coming up with solutions, we have the solution, the Gospel, being transformed by the renewing of the mind. But the conversation is about recognizing where these sins occur, how we are blind to them (similar to the sin of pride) and how it can be a stumbling block and a barrier to our brothers and sisters around us. There is no substitution for the Gospel, there are no add-ons to the Gospel, but there is required application of the Gospel and this is a way that some have not recognized a need for application to be purposely and consciously dealt with.

Anyway, that’s my two cents, stemming from watching people I love, admire & respect on both sides of this division try to stand up for the truth of Jesus Christ. Maybe its a language issue, thinking words that are used mean something other than what they are intended to mean when they are used. Maybe its looking to the extremes in both sides and labeling everybody in with those two sides (similar to American Politics today) Maybe its just ignoring the heart and the nuances of what’s being put forth, but we need to do a better job loving each other and listening to each other. We need to do a better job being the body of Christ, standing up for the truth in love and yet loving the truth in all its application, not just theory.

Casey

Galatians 3:28 & Genesis 1:26&27