How To Prove We Are The Church Of The Living God

by | Jan 29, 2017 | Master, Setting the Record Straight

Host

Russell Traweek

Description

In this episode we take on 1 Peter 4:7-19 as we discuss what it means to be the Church of the Living God in the midst of conflict and disagreement of different areas of doctrine and the work of the Church.

Transcript

This episode is an excerpt from a sermon series I did in 2016 called “The Optimistic View of the Kingdom”. In light of much of the recent struggle between brothers and sisters in Christ, I wanted to bring this message because in Christian living, as we discuss and debate theology as a whole along with specific doctrines and their origins, there comes an occasion of disagreement. At times very stark differing opinions emerge and sometimes we answer from pure intellect and sometimes we are guided by purely emotions. Both our intellect and emotions, because we are imperfect, fallible men, can be affected by our sinful flesh. Often, because of these debates, we can lose focus of the mission and ministry that God has placed before us. What I would like to discuss today might be considered by some to be milkfish in nature, but I think as so often we are reminded both in the Old and New Testaments that we need to REMEMBER the exhortations of Scripture. As we look into this today or theme passage is found in 1 Peter 4:7-11 which reads:

7 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

First, when we live purposeful lives, we prove we are the Church of the Living God. 1 Peter 4:7 says, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers.” We must live purposed lives that are clearly focused on the very Kingdom purpose of God. John 15:7-11 says:

7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

We do this by bearing the fruit of God’s Word and by applying God’s Law-Word to all of life.

Second, we prove we are the Church of the Living God when we love each other earnestly. 1 Peter 4:8 says, “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” How we love our brothers and sisters in Christ is essential to the Christian’s life. John 13:34-35 says:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Yet, love for our brethren is not a permissive or perverted enabling love toward sin. It is at times conflictive when our brethren are walking in sin, flirting with a devastating doctrine, hindering or limiting the Gospel in a way that Scripture does not purport and other areas that require correction. As the theme passage says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” This means we lovingly bear with the failings of our brethren, but it does not mean ignore them.

Third, we prove we are the Church of the Living God when we open our lives to one another. Now guys I am not getting soft on you, but we need to keep remembering what we are exhorted as His Church to do. 1 Peter 4:9 says, “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” What does that mean? Opening our lives to one another means more than welcoming one another into our homes for food and good company, but as Romans 12:9-13 tells us that we are to:

9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

We do so by being welcoming one another into each other’s lives. We do so by opening our homes and our hearts to one another. We desire the fellowship of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We long to serve the Lord by serving others. This includes our brothers and sisters in Christ that are in need, not only praying for them, but this requires action on our part as well. However, prayer is essential. James 5:13-16 says:

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Whether we are in times of rejoicing or mourning, in times of feast or in famine, we are to share our struggles with our brethren and we are to share in our brethren’s struggles. This is not totality of our Christian responsibility, but it is part of it. It does not require being a member of a local gathering of a church, but it does require the gathering of the Church local and universal being involved in the lives of each other; whether face to face or on a phone call or other social media outlet.

Fourth, we prove we are the Church of the Living God when we use our giftedness to serve one another. 1 Peter 4:10-11 says:

10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.

This further reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12 which I will share in its entirety which reads:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

The gifts among the saints are for the purpose of serving other saints. It must be understood that this Scripture does not just apply to the Church local, but also to the Church universal. God, by the Holy Spirit has gifted His people to serve one another in various ways, times and places. Some gifts are much more easily applied in the Church local, including giving financially, but it was also common to see the Church local giving toward a need in the Church universal or abroad. Each believer is gifted by God. Some have a variety of gifts, but that does not make them superior or independent of other believers. Some have more specific giftedness, but the manifestation of their giftedness is necessary for the function of the whole body.

Fifth, we prove we are the Church of the Living God when life as we know it, hits the fan. Now, I am not just trying to make a less colorful play on words, but we need to be real and honest before this world. 1 Peter 4:12-19 says:

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

Let’s break this down into more bite sized pieces.

One, when life hits the fan, we ought to not be surprised. That’s what verse 12 says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” When troubles come and the world is watching you, what they need to see and know is Matthew 5:44-45:

44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

What they need to see is that God is no respecter of persons and shows no partiality to anyone (Acts 10:34); both the Christian and non-Christian alike go through troubles and hardship. The difference that the non-Believer should see is our response to such hardships. We should not act surprised; even in the midst of persecution.

Two, when life hits the fan we should rejoice in our suffering. Verses 13-14 says that we are to:

13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

We must rejoice, for the Lord is our victory already, not only in the midst of our troubles.  Romans 5:1-5 also exhorts us:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Rejoicing shows both a temporal understanding but reveals a worldview of eternal victory as well. Most people live for the temporal and have the temporary in mind. As Christians, we must lead from an eternal perspective. The world around us must see that we have our eyes set on something greater. In many ways, our lives are but stepping stones toward a greater purpose only found in Christ Jesus.

Three, when life hits the fan, we might suffer, but we do not do suffer because of doing evil. 1 Peter 4:15 says, “let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.” In fact this passage is prefaced in 1 Peter 3:13-16 which reads:

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

In all things we are to honor Christ, therefore having no fear of being punished for doing good. If we are going to suffer brothers and sisters, let us do so because of righteousness and the righteous works that we do, not because of evil deeds or malicious talk or the sorts.

Four, when life hits the fan we must not be ashamed of suffering for the Gospel. 1 Peter 4:16-19 says:

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

The Gospel is central to the purpose of the Christian life in making disciples and furthering the building of Christ’s Kingdom. Hence, Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is the “power of God for salvation.” It is through the preaching of the Gospel that men are saved. Paul goes on in Romans 15:18-21:

18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ;20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.”

I find it interesting that Paul’s deepest desire after persecuting the Church and then being saved by Christ is to preach the Gospel and much more to preach the Gospel where it has never been heard and not build on the foundation he has laid in Christ Jesus or a foundation someone else laid, but where Christ’s name has never been uttered. Paul knows that wherever the Gospel has been preached, it is transformational and that those who have been transformed will continue to preach the powerful Gospel that have heard and received. It is not the miracles that are central to the faith or fulfilling a social need, but it is the power behind the Gospel. In fact, we are not to be led by how many people we can get to walk down an aisle at church or how many baptisms we perform in a year. In 1 Corinthians 1:17-18 Paul says:

17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Furthermore, 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5 says:

4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

The Gospel we preach is under the leadership and power of the Holy Spirit. We are not to convict and manipulate people into the Kingdom of God. It is not only because we can’t manipulate anyone into Christ’s Kingdom, but it is up to the Holy Spirit alone to convict and save. Our responsibility is to the proclamation of the Gospel. We must not be ashamed or fearful that this is our calling in Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:7-12 says:

7 …for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God,9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

Five, when life hits the fan we must not fear man, but God alone. Matthew 10:26-28 tells us:

26 “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Why do we fear God and not man? It is because Romans 14:12 says “…each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Yet for so many, we care more about what others think about the ministry God has given us. Giving an account to God means He is our divine judge. 1 Peter 4:16-19 says:

16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

It is time for judgment to begin with those who claim to be the people of God. Why judgment? Could it be that judgment is necessary to separate out the sheep and the goats amongst our local congregations? Could it be to determine who the real followers of Christ are? When persecution and hardship and suffering are introduced, what will happen to the so-called Church?  In Matthew 10:34-39 Jesus says:

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

I believe that If we are to be judged and persecuted by man for our faith in Christ, there will be plenty representations of Judas, that will sell out the Christian brethren for a meal or little provision that will give them temporary survival.  There will be those who jump on the celebrity bandwagons and follow suit as well on social media, which happens often. Yet we ought not be surprised for we are exhorted in Matthew 10: 16-23:

16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

I remember when I originally preached this message to my congregation these next few words, which were almost prophetic:

I believe that even in this room, there could be those who would do such a thing. If not in this room, there are family members that would sell you and us out. The question you must ask yourself is who do you fear the most, God or man?

And yet there are those that did just a short time later abandon us because of chasing after their own wants, desires and pleasures instead of furthering the Gospel of Christ. We cannot give up. For even in the midst of persecution and hardship and suffering, and even if our lives were required of us for our faith, the Gospel goes forward, the Gospel goes out and the Gospel transforms.

My encouragement to you is the last verse of this theme passage! 1 Peter 4:19 says, “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Brothers and sisters, let us continue to debate doctrine and so forth, but let us not lose sight of the greater good. Don’t get distracted to the point that we lose sight of our primary call.

I remember a debate that I was in on a Facebook thread over immigration. In the middle of the interaction a guy asks me, do you know Bojidar Marinov. Are you one of his disciples? I answered him:

Yes, I know Bo well, yet, I am a disciple of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Have you considered that the reason you cannot win this debate with me, is not because I am a disciple of Bojidar and because you cannot win the debate with him, but that we are both disciples of Jesus Christ and you cannot win a debate with the Lord?

I went on to say something like this:

The Lord is about setting the captive free both spiritually and physically. Because so many Christians are disobedient to the Great Commission to go and make disciples of the nations, God is bringing the nations to us and what is the response of mainstream evangelicalism, but let’s keep them out…let us build a wall and then continue say we need to reach the nations, raising money for useless missions organizations, while staying home sitting in our pews in willful disobedience. The issue is not about borders…it’s about your view of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

We must be willing to debate the issues, but let us never lose focus on the ultimate call of Christ. Until next time, God bless you and yours!

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