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Tuesday, 11 February 2014

1 Corinthians 16:5-18 Onward and upward we go



After I go through Macedonia, I will come to you—for I will be going through Macedonia. Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey, wherever I go. For I do not want to see you now and make only a passing visit; I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. But I will stay on at Ephesus until Pentecost, because a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me.
When Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord, just as I am. No one, then, should treat him with contempt. Send him on his way in peace so that he may return to me. I am expecting him along with the brothers.
Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the Lord’s people. I urge you, brothers and sisters, to submit to such people and to everyone who joins in the work and labours at it. I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you. For they refreshed my spirit and yours also. Such men deserve recognition.

Introduction:
Ø  Writer: The Apostle Paul.
Ø  Corinth: A church in disarray.
Ø  Purpose: To instruct the church in right ways.
Ø  Issues: Selfishness, pride, arrogance, deviation from the truth, acceptance of error, and complacency.
Ø  Remedy: Come back to the truth and encouragement to do the right thing.
The church in Corinth are a people who are in trouble. They are reeling over sin in their midst. They have made bad decisions and are suffering the consequences of their actions. They have come to the attention of the Apostle Paul who has had to rebuke them for their ways in this letter. They need instructing as to how they accept Timothy and Apollos and also Paul himself. They also needed to be told that in their midst was Stephanas and his believing family who they should take notice of and be like rather than being the worldly Christians that they had become. It is interesting that in in middle of Paul’s pleas he gives them some incredibly powerful and important advice: 
He urges them to stand firm in bible truth and to deal with error whilst at the same time caring for the purity of the gospel and of the church.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
There are five instructions here that ought to be the motto of every church and every Christian in all times. If we can just live by these five rules then the church and every individual Christian would always please the Lord our God.
I know that there are issues here in Ogmore-by-Sea. It is not because somebody has been telling tales out of school but simply because there are always issues in all churches and in all of our lives. We should all want to glorify the Lord Jesus in all that we do. That of course is vitally important for us as individuals but I would say that in some ways it is more so for the church. But yet at times it seems to be that like Corinth we pass by serious difficulties and errors in the church as if it really does not matter but focus in on secondary issues as of vital importance.
Problems within the church or the family of God ought to bring tears to our eyes.
When last did you weep over the state of the church? More to the point when last did you weep over the state of Ogmore-by-Sea Evangelical church? I put it to you that there is much to weep over. We might not have sunk to the depths that the church in Corinth had but there are things both in the church and in our personal lives that are in contradiction to God’s directives for us. It is simply not good enough for us to say that this is because we are human and that we are still under the influence of sin. We have been saved from the penalty of sin, not in order to sit and bask in easy believism but to glorify God, in the church and in our personal lives! This passage tells how that we must accomplish this. It is not a suggestion at the end of a nice little letter from Paul; it is final instructions at the end of a hard hitting letter that addressed the serious errors of Corinthian ways.
So what do we learn?
In order to protect the church we must:
1.      Be on our guard.
2.      Stand firm.
3.      Be courageous.
4.      Be strong.
5.      Do all of this in love.
As we read this we cannot help but think of Joshua, which is exactly what Paul intended! Moses had died and Joshua had been promoted by God to lead the people of His people. As you can imagine he felt insecure. Moses had been such a great pastor; how on earth can Joshua follow in his footsteps? But God commissioned Joshua to be himself and not to attempt to be another Moses! Therefore God instructed him in the way that he was to go (just as Paul is doing in this letter):
Read Joshua 1:1-9
Joshua Installed as Leader
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide:  “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
The Old Testament is where Paul learned all of his theology and so this incident along with many others in the Old Testament is what spurred him on to instruct Corinth in the way that he did. There are similarities between Joshua’s circumstance and that of the leaders of the Corinthian church. They were both to lead a rebellious people to do exactly what God commands in order that He might bless them as He wants.
It is the same for the church in all times therefore we must:
1: Be on our guard.
There was much in Corinth that had happened because the leaders had taken their eye off the ball. I was recently teaching Nathaniel to catch a ball. He had become frustrated because he just could not do it. His problem was that he had “policeman eyes” they were everywhere and so he had no focus. All that I did was to keep on telling him to keep his eye on the ball. When he did then: success! He had got it. He can now catch.
That is what Paul is saying to the church. Keep your eye on the important things.
What are they?
Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
It is not popular today but it is absolutely necessary, the bible is our guide, take your eye off the bible and you will never “catch the blessing!” Blessing comes from obedience to God’s expressed word. Keep the Word ever before you, both here in the church (elders you are responsible for that whatever others might demand) and in your personal life. If you want to know why you’re spiritual life is dull and why you are missing the blessing.
You HAVE taken your eye off the bible!
Be on your guard!
But also:
2: Stand firm:
That does not necessarily mean stand still! We have just considered the importance of guarding the word of truth. Again from our passage in Joshua we can learn what Paul means when he said “Stand firm!”
 Look at verse 7:
“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.”
Soldiers of Christ, arise, and put your armour on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies through His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of hosts, and in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts is more than conqueror.
Stand firm do not move from the truth. That is not popular today but then again it never was. It will not make you popular with men and sadly at times with other Christians also but nevertheless it is vital! Corinth got into a desperate mess because nobody stood firm on the truth of the word. What will you do here in OBSEC? Leaders you will be under pressure to do all sorts of things but you must:
Stand firm!
Whilst guarding the truth and standing firm you must also:

3: Be courageous and be strong:
Joshua was not only told to stand for the truth; he also must be courageous with the truth. What Canaan needed most in Joshua’s day was to be occupied by God’s people and for  that to be accomplished Joshua not only had to be on his guard and to stand firm in the truth but he was to act upon the truth.
Look at verse 6:
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.”
And verse 9:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Be bold, be strong
For the Lord your God is with you
Be bold, be strong
For the Lord your God is with you
I am not afraid
I am not dismayed
Because I'm walking in faith and victory
Come on and walk in faith and victory
For the Lord your God is with you!
The Lord our God is with us in a way that Joshua could only look forward to. Emmanuel has come; the Lord Jesus Christ is the captain of our guard. He is with us and He is leading us on into victory. He has called us to occupy our land for the good of the population. Just as Canaan needed to be occupied by Israel so this world needs the church. But let us be more focussed, Ogmore-by-Sea needs you. Remember Kitchener during the Great war had his picture all over the place declaring to the population; “we need you!” Ogmore-by-Sea needs Jesus. You are a representation of Jesus to them, you have the word of life and hope and help. You must be bold, strong and courageous. You must occupy the land by going into the community with words of eternal life. The children’s work is a start, the Monday fellowship is exciting but there are more in our community than young and old. How do we bring the word of life into our community? We must walk in faith and in the promise of victory; we are on the victory side:
On the victory side, on the victory side
No foe can harm me; no fear can alarm me,
We are on the victory side.
On the victory side, on the victory side
With Christ within, the fight we will win.
We are on the victory side.
Do we believe that? Will we be bold, strong and courageous? Paul tells us to be watchful, to stand firm and to be strong! Remember that we are on the victory side.
There is one final instruction for us to consider:


4: All of this must be done in love!
Joshua went into Canaan in judgement; the people of Canaan had overstepped the mark! We have a very different ministry. It is still one of judgement but it is with the offer of grace and mercy. For Canaan it was too late, they had had their chance but it is different in our world today we are in a day of grace and so we go in love. Not with sloppy sentimental eyes looking into heaven a type of starry eyed gospel but we go with the authority of God to declare His  judgement upon sin but also with an offer of grace for the forgiveness of sin. Joshua had the sword of judgement but we have the gospel of salvation.
The love that Paul is referring to here is the love that Jesus has.
Jesus’ love is threefold:
He has
Ø  Love for His Father.
Ø  Love for His people.
Ø  Love for the world.
Our love is to be the same. Do you Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, mind and strength? Is He your passion, read the gospels and see how Jesus loved the Father; and NOW be like Jesus!
Do you love God’s people? That is the church. Look around you now, who is it that you do not love. You are failing Jesus, put it right!
(Why not pray for that person right now?)
We are reminded that Jesus said that all people would know that we are His disciples by the true love that we have for one another. That again is real love and in no way hairy fairly slop. Read about how Jesus loved His Father and His people and also the church which at times required serious rebuke and even a whipping. Paul earlier in this letter had to threaten a visit that would be unpleasant because true love is blatantly honest and not always pleasant but it is always fair and done with love.
Are you really honest; fair and loving with each other?
When we have that love for each other then we must also:
Love the world! Do you love the lost with a gospel love? They need the gospel and you are their missionaries. What are you doing for them? If nothing then you are simply displaying your utter contempt for them.
I do pray that God will bless us all as we seek to glorify Him in all that we are.
Onward and upward we go.
Amen.

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