Friday, August 15, 2008
2 Corinthians 12:11-21 A Failing Church
Occasionally I come across folk who tell me about how superior their church is over ours.
You would be surprised at how thoughtless these folks are.
But who is to say what evangelical gospel Bible preaching church is “better” than another church? I wouldn’t be game to criticise some other evangelical church.. How do we know how God is using a particular evangelical church is a particular place at a particular time.
When I was growing up in Engadine, it has been interesting to see how God revived each denominational church in that suburb,, each in its own tome for His own purpose.
First the Congregational church, Then the Baptist Church, Then the Anglican church,
Then the church of Christ, then the Anglican again.
What was God doing? Whatever He liked. And it was all good.
In the time of revival at each church there was a renewed love for the Lord Jesus Christ, a renewed attention to the Word of God in the individual Christian’s lives, a renewed desire to pray for the lost, and a wonderful renewed membership, as people came to know the Lord and people brought their friends and family members to come to know the Lord. Those churches would then suddenly grow to about 4times their original size over a period of about a couple of years. Then the revival would move on to the next church.
Different churches are different sizes, experiencing different blessings and troubles at different times served by different men and women, with different gifts and abilities, and all for His glory in that place.
Paul had to deal with some folks who were spouting off at how inferior Paul’s churches were and how superior theirs were. Who is inferior?
“I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles"
Well, the funny thing is, that the very guys who spouting off at how superior their churches were and how inferior Paul’s were, actually were exhibiting the very characteristics of an inferior church.
Here are some characteristics of a superior and yet failing church!
1. A FAILING CHURCH HAS NO FOUNDATION
Paul and Barnabas were in Iconium we are told that they "spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders" (Acts 14:3). They spoke the divinely inspired word - no New Testament Scriptures had yet been written down - and God in effect said to the audience, "Yes, this is the foundation on which you in Iconium can build your lives," and that divine confirmation was the miraculous signs and wonders God enabled them to do. The miracles were a testimony from God that their message was true. You see the same in Romans 15:15-19 where Paul is reminding the brethren in Rome that it was through the grace of God that he was made a minister of Christ to the Gentiles, and all the things Christ did through him: "I have written to you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done - by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ" (Roms. 15:19). The signs and wonders Paul was permitted to perform were one of the means by which the Lord Jesus enabled Paul to bring the Gentiles to obedience. They were inseparably connected with his ministry as the apostle to the Gentiles. You find the same emphasis in the words of Hebrews 2: 3,4: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with diverse miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his will" (A.V.). These gifts and miracles were intended as divine confirmation that the message brought to the Hebrew Christians was of the Lord himself. So these miraculous gifts are not scattered indiscriminately through the New Testament. They are Jesus' signs that the word of the apostles is the truth to be taken into our lives and obeyed. So in the book of Acts we read, "The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people...people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter's shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed" (Acts 5:12, 14 & 15). And again Luke wrote, "God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them" (Acts19:11&12).
Thus when Paul came to Thessalonica he could say 1 Thess 2:13 Also, this is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God, which also works effectively in you believers.
13 For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
God is saying to us today, "Trust these men. What they have written is true. See how I confirm it to you by these mighty miracles which they have done. Build your life on this foundation of what my apostles have written down. There is no need of any more revelations from heaven.
Yet these false apostles were opposing the revelation God had given by these apostles who did rel miracles that confirmed their message. Any church or pastor proclaiming that his words are more important than the scriptures, displays himself as the pastor of a failing church.
2. A FAILING CHURCH USES EXPLOITATION
Paul doesn’t want to be a burden to this church.
"Forgive me this wrong!" (v.13). Then Paul announces his travel plans, that he is coming to visit them again, "and I will not be a burden to you" (v.14). More than that he says, "I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well" (v.15). Then he returned to this same theme in the 16th verse, "Be that as it may, I have not been a burden to you".
When you consider the cults then one definitive mark of their activities is the way they exploit their members. A cult leader will be self-willed, arrogant and even irreverent in the use of his alleged spiritual knowledge and authority. He will exploit his followers emotionally, financially and even sexually.
Alfred Packer had claimed in a column that no Packer had ever been a notorious criminal. Reader pointed out that the notorious Colorado cannibal, Alfred E. Packer, belonged to his clan. four men in his party were found dead, all of them stripped of flesh. According to Colorado apocrypha, the Judge said, "Packer, you depraved Republican son of a such-and-such, there were only five democrats in Hinsdale County, and you ate them all!" Packer was sentenced to 40 years. See Irving Stone, "Men to Match My Mountains," page 433.) The University of Colorado in Boulder has an "Alfred E. Packer Memorial Grill."
It's wrong to eat people, either literally or figuratively.
In Bible, "eating up" people is a picture of ruining them for personal gain. Quote from Micah attacks practices of leading citizens. Brutal economic exploitation.
. Debater destroys his opponents with ridicule. Wrong.
. Character assassination, gossip, vendettas.
. Churches eat up pastors.
3. A FAILING CHURCH IS MARKED BYSELFISHNESS
Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. So I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well" (vv. 14&15).
"I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." That is exactly what the Lord Jesus said and did. He spent everything he had for us; he expended his very self for us. That is the spirit that makes a church flourish, and without it, what an inferior church you will find.
I was reading PT Forsythe’s Mission and he says that because we have come into contact with the Saviour Who poured out Himself to death, so we take on His heart who poured out Himself for the our salvation.
If we understand that He loved us and gave Himself for us, we will love others and give ourselves for others.
In a book called "Through the Valley of the Kwai" Ernest Gordon writes about life in a World War II Japanese prison camp and the men who built the bridge over the river Kwai especially one big strong Scotsman from the regiment of the Argylle and Sutherland Highlanders named Angus McGillivray. The camp had become an ugly situation, with lots of thieving. The Argylles worked in pairs. Every senior man had a man called a 'mucker' who worked with him. Angus's mucker was dying, and everyone had given up on him except Angus. He had made up his mind that his friend wouldn't die. Someone had stolen his mucker's blanket. So Angus gave him his own, telling his mucker that he had "just come across an extra one." Likewise, every mealtime, Angus would get his rations and take them to his friend, stand over him and force him to eat them, again stating that he was able to get 'extra food.' Angus did anything and everything to see that his friend got what he needed to recover. But as Angus's mucker began to recover, Angus, this great strong man, himself collapsed and passed away. He had died of malnutrition complicated by exhaustion, as many prisoners did. But he had been giving his own food and shelter to his friend. He had given everything he had - even his very life. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:12). As word circulated of the reason for Angus McGillivray's death, the mood of the camp began to change. Suddenly, men began to focus on their mates, and living beyond survival, of giving oneself away. They began to pool their talents=97one was a violin maker, another an orchestra leader, another a cabinet maker, another a professor. Soon the camp had an orchestra full of homemade instruments and their church (called the "Church Without Walls") began to flourish so that even the Japanese guards attended. The men began a college, and a library system. The camp was transformed; an all but smothered love revived, and the catalyst was the attitude of a Scotsman named Angus who gave all he had for his friend. For many of those men this turnaround meant survival. Our point is this, that a congregation too can change through the influence of one man who despises selfishness and determines, "I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well." (v.15). Without that spirit a group of Christians becomes an inferior church.
4. A FAILING CHURCH EXHIBITS WORLDLY MINDEDNESS
"Have you been thinking all along that we have been defending ourselves to you? We have been speaking in the sight of God as those in Christ; and everything we do, dear friends, is for your strengthening" (v.19).
The apostles spoke in the sight of God.
They recognised their direct accountability to Him for every word they said.
The false apostles said whatever flowed off the tops of their heads. They didn’t hold themselves accountable for all they say said before God. Deism is seen in our day when we make statements beyond the scriptures and make rules or rituals above the scriptures rules for life.
2 Tim 4:1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. 11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.
5. A FAILING CHURCH IS A SINFUL CHURCH
"For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder. I am afraid that when I come again my God will humble me before you, and I will be grieved over many who have sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual sin and debauchery in which they have indulged" (vv.20&21).
This church was protecting sinful activity within the church and approving it as right.
This church played with sin.
It played with sin in its relationship between its members.
Quarrelling. Outbursts of Anger Factions
The word "schism" is a transliteration from the Greek schisma, which literally means "a tear in a garment or a crack in a stone." A torn garment is useless; it fails to accomplish its purpose of covering the body. A cracked stone endangers the whole structure that rests upon it. Paul writes that no member of the body should behave in such a way as to render the whole body useless. The way to avoid such schism is for the members of the body to help each other, since they are capable of recognizing one another's strengths and weaknesses.
Eleven monks were treated in hospital after a fight broke out for control of the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the traditional site of Jesus's crucifixion, burial and resurrection. The fracas involved monks from the Ethiopian Orthodox church and the Coptic church of Egypt, who have been vying for control of the rooftop for centuries. It is not the first time monks have come to blows at Christendom's most holy place, but it is one of the most serious in recent times. As black-clad monks threw stones and iron bars at each other, the Israeli police were called to restore order. Seven Ethiopian monks and four Egyptians were hurt and one of the Ethiopians was reported to be unconscious in hospital. The fight erupted over the position of a chair used by an Egyptian monk near the entrance to the roof. He sits there to assert the Copts' claim to the rooftop, which is mainly occupied by a few African-style huts which the Ethiopians, who have been evicted from the main church over the centuries, use as their monastery. On a hot day, the Egyptian monk decided to move his chair out of the sun. This was seen by the Ethiopians as violating the “status quo” in the church, set out in a 1757 document which defines the ownership of every chapel, lamp and flagstone. After several days of rising tension, the fists began to fly on Sunday. The Egyptians said their monk was teased and poked and, in a final insult, pinched by a woman. Yesterday there was a silent stand-off on the roof, with the Ethiopians defending their property with a row of chairs. The church is a cockpit of rivalry between Christian sects and, in the words of one historian, the “most unchristian place in the world”. It is shared among six denominations, with the more powerful ones taking ruthless advantage of any weakness by their rivals.
In September 2004, Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clerics had a fistfight (resulting in at least five injuries) after a Catholic left a door open during an Orthodox service.
Impurity Sexual sin Debauchery.
Sometimes I hear some people say nice things about pastors living in flagrant sin.
What can you do but call sin for what it is.
You cannot afford to play with these sins. In whatever cause you are conducting, don’t play with these sins. It’s the mark of a failing church.
When a family called the Romeros brought their new Burmese python home from the pet shop they called it 'Sally'. It was a foot long, but they fed it every week and after eight years Sally reached eleven-and-a-half feet and she weighed eighty pounds. And one day, July 20, 1993, Sally, turned on 15-year-old Derek, wrapped herself around him and strangled the teenager so that he died of suffocation. It used to be just a little pet snake, and maybe the family did not realise how big and strong it had become because it had lived there docilely with them for eight years, quite a talking point in the home. But that snake was a killer.
"Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death" (James 1:14&15).
“A united Church… makes a mighty power, the mightiest conceivable, and then when it by and by gets into selfish hands, as it is always bound to do, it means death to human liberty, and paralysis to human thought.” Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court