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Sunday, 14 February 2016

“We are committed to fellowship.” Romans 12:1-21

Building the right foundation part 22

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
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As we continue our series of “Building the Right Foundation” we will once again refer to our church covenant which every church member agrees to abide by when joining the church. It is therefore important for us to regularly consider it's content and to re-confirm the promises made. Today our focus will be:




Church covenant point 4
We commit ourselves to fellowship by seeking to maintain a spirit of love and unity among our brothers and sisters, by encouraging each other in our spiritual lives, and by carrying out a ministry of caring.
We will therefore consider what a committed fellowship looks like and how we maintain true fellowship. The covenant statement begins with the Commitment made and continues to speak of the Spirit in which the commitment is made which then naturally results in mutual encouragement.
In my experience church can often be one of the most discouraging places on the face of the earth. But as we read the New Testament we discover that this should never be the case. In fact church should be a mini version of heaven here on earth. Church of course is not the building. I can understand those who make comment in visitors books in places of worship saying that they have found in the building an atmosphere of peace. I personally may not get that feeling in that place but certainly do when on top of a beautiful mountain in the silence of nature where peace is tangible enough to feel. That is not the point of what we are considering today, even though feelings are important they are never a true indication of reality. We can often feel at perfect peace when all is wrong.
The church is the gathering of Christians whose set purpose is to glorify Jesus and to worship God by His Spirit. And so the purpose of our gathering this morning is to worship God together and by this to encourage and build each other up in the faith. This then begs the question;
why there so much negativity in the church today?”
This is where our covenant is so helpful. In the Lord's letter to the church in Ephesus found at the beginning of Revelation; Jesus criticised the church because thy had lost their first love. Even though they were commendable in many ways they had moved from their original foundation they looked good from the outside but in reality they had gone hopelessly wrong. They are a reminder to us that we need to keep our focus right.
Our foundation is clearly spelled out our covenant, therefore when there is discouragement and criticism it is evident that our foundation has slipped. Over the years our church has experienced many blessings for which we praise God but there have also been many discouragements. We pray that God will help us once again to build on the right foundation. In this today's subject is absolutely key to the ongoing work of the gospel here in Callington.
Let us therefore first consider:
Our commitment:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Our commitment to each other must be founded upon our commitment to God. The Apostle Paul in our reading is speaking to the church, giving them instructions as to what true worship should be like. As a group of gathered Christians there Paul gives us a few ground rules that make us into the church. The first of which is:
God's mercy: Paul reminds the church that for everything we are totally dependent upon the mercy of God. By this stage in his letter Paul has already taken the opportunity to spell out in great detail what God's mercy looks like. In chapter 3 he says this:
Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
The important word here is justified; an easy way of remembering what justified means is that in God's sight it is:
JUST AS IF I HAD NEVER SINNED.
This has been made possible for us by God's grace when we became a Christian. By the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus upon the cross our sin was dealt with, we are forgiven and are innocent of all sin as far as god is concerned. He no longer sees sin in us because it was transferred to Jesus when He died on the cross. We are justified, innocent and free.
In view of this Paul says tells us in the passage read that there will be a knock on effect. Before we go on to explore what that means we must take this opportunity to challenge our own hearts in order to check that we are truly justified. Do you know with absolute confidence that God truly sees you as if you had never sinned. This will only be true of any one of us if we believe on Him who was crucified and turn from our own sinful ways and trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of our sin. If you are not too sure; why not have a chat with me afterwards, I will not be able to do something spooky over you and make you a Christian but I would love to show you more of how it can be possible for you.
Many of the discouragements in the church come from people who believe that they are saved but are not and have not experienced God's grace and mercy and as such they are confused as to what church really is all about. It is equally true that many problems come from Christians who have forgotten the mercy that God has given them when they were converted. Either way we must remind ourselves constantly of God's mercy and then act in accordance with that wonderful gift.
Our commitment made due to God's mercy is the foundation of how we function as the church.
The spirit of our commitment:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Paul says that because of God's mercy extended to us then we must act in accordance with that gift. This is evidenced by our offering to Him the right sacrifice. See what Paul says; it must be a living sacrifice. Jesus is the only one that died a sacrificial death. Paul is talking about us being living sacrifices. We have all heard of those who believe that they must live a life of total deprivation in order to please God. Paul is not advocating living in caves, up trees, on desert islands. Neither is he saying that we live in communes or in poverty in order to please God. He is saying that we are to live whatever life God has benefitted us with in holiness which is then pleasing to God. This requires a sacrifice in the form of crucifying self wants, self demands and desires. For the Christian it is now all about Him who will supply our every need it is no longer about me and my rights. This is a completely new characteristic but it is the foundation of the church. The church is evidenced by it's sacrificial spirit towards God and also towards one another. It is a spiritual gift that God has given to the church. It is what our covenant is saying:
We commit ourselves to fellowship by seeking to maintain a spirit of love and unity among our brothers and sisters, by encouraging each other in our spiritual lives, and by carrying out a ministry of caring.
Can you see how this fits in with what Paul is saying? We are now interlinked through Christ to each other. When I worked in my laboratory I had a wonderful nuclear magnetic resonance machine to play with to my hearts content. That machine was absolutely useless if it was not focussed. For a right result the magnetic field which did the work had to be focussed onto the sample. This required me to spend hours or even at times days tuning it by twiddling 10 little knobs which were interdependent upon each other. There was first the number one knob which had to be right to start off with and then the other 9 had to be interdependently tuned to that one. The closer to perfect that the machine became the more effective and sensitive each little adjustment was. It was a laborious job but it was vital! That is something like the church, our main focus is Jesus, if we make sure that He is number one in all that we do the more that we adjust our lives as individuals and corporately then the more like Him we become. Paul says that the church must work together to be one holy body.
I hated it when I was disturbed whilst tuning my nmr because it was difficult to come back to it. I had one colleague who thought it funny to come along and turn one of the knobs. He was a perfect picture of the devil who loves to come into the church and turn one of God's people in another direction the result being disunity! We need to keep the focus, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and that then spurs our thoughts to each other. We are the family of God and we do not want to be dysfunctional. A dysfunctional family is usually known by it squabbles and internal wranglings.
I know many good families that I have observed and have wanted to be a part of their family unit. That is how the church should be, people should be looking at us and saying look at how they love each other. We want to join them.
How do we accomplish this?
Paul tells us that we should put worldly or sinful ways aside and be Godly in all that we do towards God and also to each other!
How do we put this in place?
Mutual encouragement:
That is what our covenant says that we are committed to. This is what scripture says:
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary:
If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Let us simply highlight the different ways in which we encourage and care for one another:
  • Do not think of yourself more highly than you do others. Look at yourself with honesty in the light of the truth of scripture. The reality is that we are all sinners saved by grace and are only as much worth to God as is every other person. Modern thinking is “I am the greatest” biblical thinking is you are the greatest.
  • We all belong together as one unit. Paul likens the church to the body. The body has one specific function which is achieved through the efforts of many different contributions. This is a wonderful picture of how the church must operate, using all of it's functions whatever they are for the purpose of glorifying God. No one function whether it be prophesying or preaching, teaching or praying, serving or being served, administrating or organising, and the many many more functions are vital for our church. These gifts must be used by those equipped with them to use them and then the church will be functioning properly, it is an all body or all people ministry. Where do you fit in? When it goes wrong it becomes like our bodies when they malfunction. I can speak of a broken bone that cripples the man, a broken carer in the church cripples the church. A silent preacher or teacher makes the church vulnerable. A lazy worker leaves the church unkempt. What is your job here? Are you functioning as you have been gifted? Are you in the right job? When a cell in the body gets too big for itself, it becomes a cancer that tries to take over and eventually kill the body. If you are trying to do something that is not your gifting, just like the cancer you will destroy the church along with yourself.
  • Encourage one another!
  • Love sincerely.
  • Hang on for dear life to goodness and despise evil. This is so much needed by each one of us here.
  • Be devoted to one another: Devoted = loyal; faithful; true; true blue; staunch, constant, committed, dedicated, devout, fond, loving, admiring, affectionate, caring, attentive, warm, ardent!!!! In fact it sounds just like Jesus and how He is to us! Be like Jesus in our devotion to each other.
  • Honour one another.
  • Be zealous in serving the Lord.
  • Be joyful, not doleful.
  • Patient in all things.
  • Prayerful.
  • Generous.
  • Hospitable.
  • A blessing even to those who do not like you.
  • Rejoicing with those who rejoice, mourning with those who mourn.
  • Harmonious.
  • Fair minded and not proud.
  • Not conceited.
  • Doing the right thing.
  • As far as possible living at peace with all.
If we can accomplish this as the church here then we will be a truly blessed people and then others will be blessed through us. That is a promise because the more we seek to follow our covenant then the more Christ-like we become. The more Christ-like we are then the more effective is our church witness.



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