Forward in Faith #37
A Community of Faith – Part 1
Folks the New Testament often finds athletic illustrations to describe our life in Christ. But though we may be running a race, we are not solo runners, we are part of a team. We are each individual parts of a body and body parts don’t work well alone. And so our faith expression is a Shared Experience.
Now our writer whether he be Paul, Apollos, or Barnabas, our writer makes his final exhortations to his readers. After these 12 chapters of teaching on the nature and person of Christ, the Power of salvation and the place of faith, he has some final words. These next few weeks I want us to look at this chapter and talk about what it is to be a people of faith, a community of faithful ones. We are not perfect but when, together, we operate in faith as a faith community, it is a marvelous thing.
So, let’s read our text and look for ways that we operate in this community
So we are told to love each other and told to minister to friend and stranger
We are told to have honorable marriages and perspective in our finances
And we say, “but Pastor when you talk ‘faith’ is that just telling me to ‘keep my chin up’ and believe in myself, or believe in the future, or believe in the process?”
NO … for faith to be POWERFUL there must be something on which to stand
I was listening to Dr. W.A. Criswell preach online this last week in a recorded message and he said “My Feet may Tremble but this ROCK on which I stand is NEVER MOVED.”
Is there a Rock on Which to Stand in the shifting financial sands, in the difficult and treacherous relationship climate, in the antagonistic culture in which we live, is there a ROCK?
YES YES YES YES, and we will get there by and by in a few minutes But before we get there we have to walk down through the instructions for a Faith community and they we will see the Rock on which our faith is built
What does our writer tell us?
3 things, Faith shared within, faith shared, without, and shared as an example … let’s look
1. Faith Shared Within
Verse 1 is very clear … “Keep on loving as brothers”
Look at it piece by piece
A. “Keep On”
The Greek word is meno = remain, stay, abide, sojourn, tarry
This verb is in the present, active, imperative tense. Present tense means that it is an action in process with no discussion of completion and an action. It is active so the subject is performing, not someone else. Since the subject is “you understood”, the writer is talking to the reader, that’s us, and it is imperative, meaning it is a command, exhortation, and it is not an expression of reality but of possibility, if we will choose it.
So as people of faith, part of a local body of believers, we have been placed together by God in this body. And while we are all part of the Family of God, THIS local expression of the body is a more intimate family. So, in this family we are commanded to travel to, to stay in, abide in, set up our tent and remain … “Keep On Loving Each Other As Brothers”
I think you probably know THIS Greek word
Philadelphia = which of course you know means “Eagles” … oh wait, no that’s NFL for “Philadelphia” not Greek. J You tell me what the Greek means …
Philadelphia is the city of what? Brotherly Love – That’s what this word means. We will get to the first of those two words, the definer, in English in a minute but since “love” in English is used for many actions and emotions, we need to know what expression of love is this
This love is seen as a “kindness, hospitality, or kindly love” That is to say that this kind of love requires action toward others. That is a command to treat with kindness, reception, and care, meeting needs. Kindness is, “loving affection, sympathy, friendliness, patience, pleasantness, gentleness, and goodness”.
Remember this word, “Philadelphia” is kindness and hospitality toward brothers. So when you apply this exhortation to the original audience for this letter, we are told as the church FIRST to express our faith within the body.
“Keep On Loving each other as brothers”
This is an instruction directed at the body of Christ in particular, the local body of Christ, the individual church. So, you put it all together and we are going to take action here. We are told to continue in an active mode of being in active kind, hospitable love toward our brothers and sisters in our relationship of Church.
Hospitality toward one another doesn’t happen in the worship center. It happens outside of here. Let me say that you have done this well in the past, but let me encourage you to taken inventory and continue. Are you in active relationship with your brothers and sisters from this body? Are you doing dinner, attending each other’s celebrations? Do you know when there is a need and meet iti? Do you take a meal over because they have been sick? Are you patient with each other gentle, good toward one another?
The N. T. is clear that we are to be active in love toward one another. 37 times we are told to relate in positive relationship toward “one another”. Overwhelmingly the command in those verses is to “LOVE one another”. But in the other passages we can see what that means, as love is defined
Romans 12:4 – honor one another
Romans 12:10 – be devoted to one another
Romans 12:16 – live in harmony with one another
Romans 14:13 – stop passing judgment on one another
1 Cor 1:10 – agree with one another
1 Cor 16:20 – greet one another with a holy kiss
Gal 5:13 – serve one another
Eph 4:2 – be humble, gentle, patient, bearing with one another
Eph 4:32 – kind and compassionate with one another
Eph 5:21 – submit to one another
Col 3:13 – forgive one another
Hebrews 3:13 – Encourage one another daily as long as it is called today
Well there you go … are we loving one another?
Make those verses a check list … if you are deficient in any area … get busy.
So, we express our faith WITHIN the body and 2nd action of a community of faith is
2. Faith Shared Without
A. Entertain Strangers
I have to say that the worse our society gets, the less we are willing and comfortable, to carry out this example of faith
The admonition is “do not forget” or “do not neglect”
Entertain Strangers - The word is philoxenia - fil-ox-en-ee-ah = showing love to strangers, hospitality to strangers
Show love and hospitality not just toward believers but strangers, because in the process you perhaps have unknowingly entertained angels
This word xenizo- xen-id-o = to receive, entertain, show hospitality. To angels, angelos = messengers
So the question is raised “Pastor are angels out there?” and “is God sending angels to check on me?” Well, certainly there is more going on in the supernatural that we know. This reference is to Genesis 18 and 19 when Abraham entertained 3 visitors from Heaven, one of which we know was the Son of God. he didn’t even realize it. But for us, we should see that when we serve others we serve God. Jesus said, in Matthew 25:35, that when we take a stranger in, feed, give water, etc. to the least … we do it to HIM. And an angel is a messenger here a messenger of God. So, we need to be aware that sometimes God has allowed people in our lives whether “heavenly” or not, they are a divine appointment. How will we respond?
So, as a point of action, if you ask “do I have to meet every need that I see?” well that is between you and the Lord. But we should in every circumstance, ask, listen, and respond to the Lord with each opportunity and then trust him in the outcome without fear.
Secondly we Share faith Without by
B. Remembering those in Prison and Suffering Mistreatment
This is a call to Christian empathy and compassion
“Remember” = remember and respond and is also an imperative exhortation, so it is our duty. It is directed toward those in prison and those who are mistreated physically bodily.
This calls to compassion is specifically here speaking about Christians in other parts of the world. The instruction here is to remember that while your local body may be in relative peace, others are going through great adversity for their faith. Some are tortured while others are even imprisoned or killed. In our comfort we should feel their suffering and do what we can. You can go to sites like “voice of the martyrs” at www.persecution.com and learn about those suffering and in prison around the world and support and pray for them, feeling it as if it were we ourselves going through that.
But a more personal application and action might also be in order. If we are going to share in a community of faith we need to be aware of those among us who know and have people close to them even in their family who are suffering or in prison and remember and respond.
They are down and out and we should feel that and reach out to them instead of leaving them, because satan certainly is reaching out to them while they are vulnerable. Muslims are reaching out to prisoners, skinheads are reaching out to prisoners, and gang members are reaching out to prisoners.
To make this real, if you have people that are close to you in prison, I would ask you to give us their information or at least their name. If you allow us to, we will reach out to them. And if you are willing to reach out to them, we will provide you with that contact information in newsletters and bulletin boards and you can reach out as well.
I would also include those suffering through separation and harm in our military. We should reach out to them as well. We have contact info posted on some please provide others if you have them.
A community of faith shared within and without
And so a Community of faith is
3. Shared by Example
In these 3 verses are two ways that believers can live an exemplary life in front of a watching world
1 Peter 2:11-12 says that as people who are residents of the Kingdom of God and thus just strangers in this world. So we need to live such good lives among the pagans that though they bring false accusations against us, they will see the way we live and glorify God!
There are two areas in our world today that every person faces and the world is looking for someone to show a difference, Marriage and Materialism. They are also areas that can be controlled either by Fear or Faith.
In our marriages we have an opportunity to set an example of faith and
A. Communicate Real Love
The marriage and the home are the area that satan attacks more than any other. The home is the 1st and greatest of God’s institutions. Before Government, before Church, God instituted marriage and then the home in that order. Paul taught in Ephesians 5, that the purpose of marriage is a glorious mystery of showing to the world a living example of Christ and the church. Husbands are told to love, sacrifice and loving leadership as Christ had for this Bride the Church. In return, the wife is told to submit to her loving husband just as the church should submit to Jesus Christ.
And so marriage we are told should be honored “timios” = precious, honored, gem
Hey you don’t throw your diamonds in the gutter, nor do we treat our marriage that way. No, it says, we are to keep our marriage, pure. The word is amiantos = pure undefiled – as the precious gem that it is.
- An unfaithful husband, or a husband that is overbearing, uncaring, or unloving, is a picture of an unfaithful Christ and that is a blasphemous because that is not Jesus. Now men, I know we aren’t Jesus but we have to present the best picture of him that we can.
- An unfaithful wife, or a wife that is rebellious and self-serving is a picture of the church turning its affection to another, to idols, and useless objects of worship. That is ungrateful and selfish and a poor reflection of the church that Christ loved so much he died for her.
- The term “adulterer” speaks to actions that are extra-marital and the phrase
- “sexually immoral” means actions before or apart from marriage and that word “sexually immoral” is the Greek word, “pornos”. Don’t really need to explain that do I?
Oh people, our marriages are examples of Christ and the church.
What picture are we showing?
I do not want to bring us down but if you give up on your marriage you are not showing the love and restoration that is possible in Christ.
Perhaps it is permissible in some cases and unavoidable at other times, but do you believe that Christ can forgive and restore? Shouldn’t marriages ending in divorce be the rarest of cases in the Body of Christ instead of 50/50 like in the world? Oh, my prayer is that we reclaim it in the church. Let us pray with you, counsel you, encourage you and help you find a way up in Christ if at all possible. This is important stuff, the world needs an example of real love in Marriage.
The other area we spoke about is materialism. That is a inordinate love for THINGS. When we deal with materialism in a godly way, we give the world an example as we
B. Communicate Real Trust
Greed, fear, and discontentment are all a lack of trust in God’s provision. In a few weeks we will look in more detail at contentment, but let’s just talk for a moment about trust versus fear. Folks we are living in the most difficult financial times of this generation for sure. How should we respond as the people of God?
“Keep your lives” – tropos = “way of living, manner of life” We need to communicate to the world, through our living, that we don’t trust in the economy of this world but the economy of Heaven.
It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be wise and do our best to manage our finances and prepare for the future on this earth. But my hope is not set on Wall Street, my retirement plan, the White House, Japan, or Europe, NO my hope is in the Creator, Owner, and Sustainer of all things, God Almighty.
Psalm 25:5 – Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long
We need to turn our love away from material gain because material things will fail us. We will lose jobs, and we will lose houses, and we will lose the security of wealth. But when we display faith in the word of God, we communicate REAL TRUST.
Trust in WHAT??
Trust in a “Rock which will never be moved” …
Here it Is, Here is the place where we can place our faith so our marriage can make it, finances won’t overwhelm us, prisoners can be encouraged, sufferers can endure, and brothers can keep on loving one another …
Our writer quotes Deuteronomy 31:6 here in verse 5. He reminds us that in the midst of EVERY TROUBLE we face, God says “Never will never leave you; Never will I forsake you”
Now in English we are told that not to use double negatives because they make positives. But it isn’t that way in some other languages. Spanish uses double negatives. And so we have here a double negative and then a triple negative
The first “NEVER” is a double negative two words ou (no or not) and mé (not)
The second “NEVER” is a triple negative oude (and not) ou (no or not) mé (not)
“leave you” – aniemi = loosen, abandon, give up, fail to relate to
“forsake you” – enkataleipo = to leave behind
Okay believer, if you are in Christ, he didn’t bring you this far to leave you. In the spiritual or the physical, he will not leave you or forsake you
“No not ever cut you loose or stop his relationship with you and not no not ever leave you behind”
That is a ROCK that will NEVER Move
Do you UNDERSTAND your secure place in Christ?
That’s a pretty confident place for us to be in. And so verse 6 tells us the attitude of our heart, the example we show the world is of a believer that is CONFIDENT in Christ and we can say, no matter the circumstance
“The Lord is my Helper”
“I will not be afraid”
“What can man do to me?”
If you take my job … God has something else for me to do
If you take my house … my home is in Heaven
If you take my life you just usher me into the presence of my helper, Savior, Creator, and King
To Live is Christ and to die is gain
We have an opportunity to show the world in this economy that we trust in the Lord
Psalm 20:6-7 David said “Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed; he answers him from his holy heaven with the saving power of his right hand. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God
People, do you see how important our lives of faith are to the cause of Christ?
God uses our lives lived together as an example … a community of faith
People we come into Christ because of the grace of God. We don’t earn it is given to us by Grace, and that grace is entered into though faith. And faith becomes the vehicle by which we live the Christian life. We have to LIVE as people of faith
A German pastor named Deitrich Bonhoeffer who lead resistance against Hitler, said “Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate”
In a day when pastors were literally standing in Christian pulpits in Germany and saying that God was coming to Germany through Hitler, Bonhoeffer stood for the truth and sought to bring Hitler down. And in case you thought different, he came from a wealthy family and a life of EASE. His family was liberal and barely religious. But he chose to study for the ministry. He and others began to speak up for truth and against Hitler after he came to power in 1933. As persecution increased and many backed down, he was willing to stand alone if necessary. He was also involved in rescuing Jews and in 1943 he was thrown in prison. What did he do? He pastored those in prison with him. He wrote letters of encouragement to family and friends. He challenged people to be the person in Christ that they were created to be, where they were.
He was finally transferred from Tegel Prison to Buchenwald, and finally to Flossenburg, an extermination camp.
On April 9, 1945, just a month before German Surrender, he was hanged with 6 other resisters. A Doctor who witnessed his hanging
“The prisoners … were taken from their cells, and the verdicts of court martial read out to them. Through the half-open door in one room of the huts, I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer, before taking off his prison garb, kneeling on the floor praying fervently to his God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a prayer and then climbed the steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued in a few seconds. In the almost 50 years that I have worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
How will you live your life? A life of distinction and faith or a life of uniformity and fear?
Look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. May it be said of us that we lived and died entirely submissive to the will of God.