• The Body of Christ (pt. 3)

    Sermon Video: https://www.facebook.com/107675501997/videos/1095777260816644/?__so__=channel_tab&__rv__=all_videos_card


    Sermon Manuscript:

    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. – 1 Cor 12:21-27


    There is no one more perfect than Jesus. He has never sinned, which means He has never done anything wrong, never thought anything wicked, never desired something that was impure, never acted out of selfish agendas, but always in every circumstance at every minute from all time done what is right. Jesus is very unlike us in this regard.


    But, what do you think Jesus thinks about you? As He sits on His throne in Heaven, receiving the praise and adoration of the angels, sovereignly governing the affairs of the world, and His eyes “ablaze with fire” (Rev 1:14-15) turn towards your life…what does He think? What does He think about what you are like in public, around your friends, at work, talking to your kids, when you’re all alone and think no one is watching…? The question is, in a way, unsettling because we realize that much of our life is filled with sin and realizing that all of it is being done before the eyes of a holy God. 


    And, as we think about our life we see a lot of sin! What could Jesus possibly think of us? Dane Ortlund, in his fantastic book Gentle and Lowly, asks that question:


    “How do you think about Jesus’ attitude toward that dark pocket of your life that only you know? The overdependence on alcohol. The lost temper, time and again. The shady business about your finances. The inveterate people-pleasing that looks to others like niceness but which you know to be fear of man. The entrenched resentment that burst out in behind-the-back accusations. The habitual use of pornography. Who is Jesus, in those moments of spiritual blankness? Not: Who is he once you conquer that sin, but who is he in the midst of it?” p. 91


    Ortlund then cites 1 John 2:1, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” John writes his letter because he wants the church not to sin—sin will bring nothing but misery into your life. But, when we do sin—which we all do—who is Jesus for us? If you have not trusted in and submitted to Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, Jesus will be your judge, doling out the precisely perfect, fair and just punishment for your sin. But if you will come to Jesus now and will submit to Him as King, finding forgiveness for your sins in His death and resurrection alone, then what does Jesus become for you? An advocate. What is an advocate? It is someone who stands up to defend another. And John tells us that it is when we sin, not after, not before, but when we sin that Jesus stands up before the Father and defends us. 


    Isn’t that amazing? In the midst of your sin, your failure, your compromise, your shame, Jesus not only loves, not only accepts you, but actively defends you! As Satan accuses you before the Father for your sin, Jesus stands and pleads your case. Yes, Marc totally blew it. He was selfish, lazy, insincere. But he has trusted in me and my work on the cross to forgive His sins. Total honesty, no blame-shifting, no excuses. But total acceptance, forgiveness, and pardon because of the great work of our Lord and Savior. Friends, Jesus is not tapping his foot, waiting for you to clean your act up before He will take up your case before the Father. It is in your sin—not after, in your failure—not your success, in your weakness—not your strength, when you are dead to rights guilty and Satan accuses you before the Father as one who is vile and worthy of Hell, that He stands up and says, “I will defend his case.” Why? Because your acceptance before God the Father has nothing to do with your righteousness and everything to do with Jesus’ and the sufficiency of His work. So, you are loved, you are accepted, you are stood up for. That is why the gospel is such good news!


    Jesus is not waiting for you to clean yourself up before He will embrace you. Whatever murky bog of sin you have plunged yourself into, whatever pit of addiction, He wades into our filth, into our guilt, and picks us up, washes us, forgives us. Jesus is not worried that you will stain His white robes. Rather, His purity isn’t sullied by our impurity, but His righteousness cleanses us of our unrighteousness and makes us pure, though our sins be as scarlet, He will make them white as snow (Isa 1:18).


    Blistered, leprous, filthy lips may touch the stream of divine love; they cannot pollute it, but shall themselves be purified. - Spurgeon


    Now, that was all just my introduction. Here is the question I want to aim at: what kind of community does that gospel create? We have been discussing for the last few weeks how the gospel does not just create saved individuals, but a saved people: the church. We have been saying that the New Testament expects and requires Christians to be meaningfully attached into a church, the same way a member of a body is attached to the rest of the body. We today call that “membership.” If you are not a member here and would like to know more about it or how to become a member, feel free to talk to me or any of our other pastors here. But today, I want to spend the rest of our time thinking about what this community, the church, should feel like. When we have a group of people who all believe this truth, what does that community look like? 1 Corinthians 12:21-27 tells us that it looks like a community that relies on each other, honors each other, and loves each other.


    Relies


    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.


    What is this saying? You don’t have it all together. You cannot do the Christian life on your own. There are issues, sins, problems, temptations, trials, tasks, joys, and sorrows in your life that you will not be able to navigate on your own. If you do, you will be like an eye without a hand, or a head without feet. No, you need the whole body to walk through life. We need each part, performing its own unique function, with its unique skills and experiences. Even if we look at some people in the church and think: I don’t need them in my life. I can’t see how they would help me or this church. Paul goes so far to say: those people are actually the most crucial! They are indispensable! What does this mean for us? This means that we practice church membership as a way of identifying who our local body is. Remember, in the metaphor here you as an individual are not the body; the whole church is the body, and you are individually members of it (1 Cor 12:27). Membership is a way that we can identify who those individuals are and is a way to make a commitment to those members. 


    There are going to be issues in the church and in your own life that requires the gifting, perspective, and experience those other members have. So rely on each other. Expect other members in this church to serve one another. The gospel has baked into it all the humility we need to realize that we aren’t so impressive and so talented that we don’t need help. 


    Honors


    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.


    As we look at the body and see those individuals in it who are different than we are, we don’t merely realize that we need them, but we honor them. We respect them as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, heirs to the kingdom of God who will one day, with you, be made fully resplendent with glory of the new creation, scrubbed clean of sin, and shining like the stars in the heavens. Lewis tells us, “It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship,” (The Weight of Glory). 


    Paul tells the Roman church to, “outdo one another in showing honor,” (Rom 12:10). There is Christian competition! We are working hard to go further and further in honoring each other. And when we do this, there are no divisions in the body. There is no such thing as the “elite Christians,” like the Navy Seals. There is no club of important church members who deserve honor, while the regular chumps have to grind it out at the bottom of the ladder. In fact, Paul makes it sound like the weaker you are, the more honor should be shown to you. This means that in the church there should be no superiority, no flippancy with one another, no presumption. We don’t grumble and complain about so-and-so behind their back because they are weaker. We honor them. Consider this verse that Paul applies earlier to divisions in the church in Corinth: “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1 Cor 4:7. 


    Loves


    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.


    What an amazing command. The church relies on one another, honoring each other, avoiding all divisions…why? Because we love one another. We are to have the same care for one another. So, my goal as a member of this church is to aim at caring for all of the other members—not playing favorites or only caring about a few. We are to share such a united beating heart that when one of us suffers, we all suffer; if one member is honored, we all are rejoicing together! We weep and laugh together. 


    What does this look like?


    This looks like a young married couple with no kids who have been saving up for a vacation to Europe choosing instead to give that money to another couple in the church who are trying to raise money to adopt a little boy from China.


    This looks like one couple with several children, weeping with and praying for years for another couple who has struggled with infertility. And this looks like the infertile couple rejoicing through tears when the other couple announces that they are pregnant again.


    This looks like inviting that really socially awkward church member regularly over for lunch and game night, not because it is easy or comfortable, but because you are fellow members and are called to honor and love one another.


    This looks like church members rallying around another church member in the church when her husband suddenly leaves her, providing her a home to live in and a shoulder to cry on, professional counselors and lawyers in the church providing help that would normally cost thousands of dollars.


    This looks like Acts 2:42-47:


    42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. 


    So friends, here is my encouragement to you: this kind of community does not happen accidentally. It is something that is brought about a group of people who have seen the magnitude of what God has done for them in Christ Jesus in loving them, accepting them, inviting them into the family, despite the fact that they don’t deserve an iota of that kind of love. And now, out of the overflow of that profound love, they now look to others who are different than them, maybe weaker than them, maybe stronger than them, and extend the same kind of love, acceptance, and commitment that they have been given in Jesus Christ. So, brothers and sisters at Quinault: jump in with both feet. Rely on each other, commit to each other, prioritize your relationships with one another. Outdo one another in showing honor. Love one another. Weep with one another. Rejoice with each other.


    1.  — Edited

      The Church in a Postmodern World

      In the ancient and classical world, the universe and cosmos were seen to be a fixed, orderly system designed by the Creator. Your task was to discover how your life fit into the cosmic structure, the design that had been divinely given to you. This meant that the “good life” was found in a life of virtue—you conformed your life to submit it to God’s design. With the coming of the age of Enlightenment (modernity) in the 1700’s and the scientific revolution in the 1800’s, the goal of man was no longer to submit himself to the God-given design, but instead was to only submit so far as seemed reasonable to him. God was no longer the final court of appeal, but man’s reason (Descartes) and sense-experience (Locke) became the measuring stick that would prescribe the measure of our consent to God’s design. So, the “good life” was found in a life of rationality—you lived life in accordance with what your reason and sense-experience told you was a good life. 


      As the tumultuous and bloody 20th century tumbled forward the West began to move beyond the scientific and rationalistic confidence of modernity. Two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, and a whole host of other scandals led the intelligentsia to begin to be skeptical of the Enlightenment’s promises and moved into what is now known as postmodernism.


      What is postmodernism? If the classical worldview (or premodernism) said that something was true because God had revealed it to be so, and modernism (or the Enlightenment) said that something was true because our rational faculties and scientific method had determined it to be true, postmodernism says that the concept of universal “truth” itself is suspectThe question for a postmodern isn’t, “What is true?” but rather, “What is true for me or my community?” There is no grand metanarrative of religion or science that can give us absolute truth about morality, identity, or even logic.


      In premodernity, truth was revealed.

      In modernity, truth was discovered.

      In postmodernity, truth is created.


      The French existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, summarized the worldview well in his pithy maxim: “existence precedes essence.” That is, since there is no “essence” (no design) innately given to us at birth by some Creator, we are now free to simply decide what we want our essence to look like; what we want to be “true”, who we want to be, and what we believe is right or wrong is ultimately up to us. And no outside standard can tell us otherwise (unless, of course, we consent to let it do so). This worldview has been immortalized by supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy in his 1992 majority opinion in the Casey vs. Planned Parenthood case: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Therefore, in the postmodern world, the most important virtue to be pursued is that of self-expression, self-discovery, and self-love. 


      Friends, this is omnipresent in our culture today. This is in our children’s movies, our music, our schools, our concept of justice and morality, and our political discourse (on the right and the left). Don’t let anyone tell you who you should be, you have to decide that for yourself, be true to yourself, believe in yourself, love yourself. You, more or less, are an island to yourself—and you will allow different ideas, worldviews, or people into your life so long as they help you on your path of finding/loving/expressing yourself. 


      What should a Christian think about this?


      Paul warns the Colossians, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ,” Col 2:8. He also explains to the Corinthians, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Cor 10:5. So how has the church in the West done in responding to a drift into modernity and postmodernity?


      While the church might blanch at the moral relativism of postmodernism, it has in many respects co-opted much of its worldview through its appropriation of pragmatism. What is pragmatism? It is, to put it crudely, a worldview that determines “truth” by whether or not something is deemed to be useful. Whereas philosophers and theologians of yesteryear were committed to reorienting their life and priorities around what they deemed to be universal, inviolable truths that were timeless and unchanging, pragmatists view “truth” to be a more flexible term. “Truth” is determined by something’s cash-value, marketability, functionality, or persuasiveness. Does it get you what you want? Does it work? Then it must be “true.”


      Now, of course, this is a dramatically oversimplified perspective on pragmatism. If you crack open your philosophy textbook from college and study John Stuart Mill’s utilitarianism or John Dewey’s pragmatism (or *gulp* Rorty’s neopragmatism) you will find a much more nuanced explanation. But most of the pragmatism that is practiced in America today—and especially in the church—is not coming from a disciplined study of philosophy. It is just the byproduct of living in a highly commercialized, market-driven, corporate America that worships the bottom line and hates being told “no”. 


      So how has the church fallen prey to this ethos of postmodernism and pragmatism?


      1.     By preaching a gospel of self-love, rather than self-denial.

      2.     By (functionally) denying the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, the power of prayer, and the sufficiency of the gospel.

      3.     By allowing the priorities and values of secular culture set the church’s priorities and values.

      4.     By assuming the Bible doesn’t set guard rails for the church’s methods of ministry. (Asking “what works?” before asking “what does the Bible require?”).

      5.     By emphasizing feeling over truth.

      6.     By emphasizing technique over virtue.

      7.     By ignoring the horrors of Hell and the splendors of Heaven.


      In time I hope to write at length on each of these points, coloring each one in with more clarity. But for now we can rest assured that although the world around has been saturated with the fog of postmodernism, God’s truth still stands, and He honors those who will not be conformed to the thinking of this world (Rom 12:2). Though others claim that they are the potters, and “truth” is their clay, we know better. Our true joy and satisfaction is not found in creating our own meaning, but in submitting to the divine design our loving Maker has laid out for us.

      1. The Body of Christ (pt. 2)

        Sermon Video Here: https://www.facebook.com/QuinaultBC/videos/756473018501119/?vh=e&extid=akMAm8Mc7Hgb8E9i


        Sermon Manuscript:

        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. – 1 Cor 12:12-27


        How do you build “community”? Our church’s mission statement is “building a covenant community who worships Christ above all.” But, let’s say you just want a community, ready-made, pop in the microwave and *boom* its done—what do you do? Well, the world teaches us that we can build a community around three things:

        1.     Attract people with something entertaining or appealing

        a.     Football, book club, wine tasting, etc. “You like this too? So do I!”

        2.     Call people to action to some noble cause

        a.     Activists, PTA, politics, etc. “This mission is so important that you must join with me…”

        3.     Invite people with shared problems for a group of mutual dependence

        a.     A.A., support groups, mom Facebook groups, etc. “We all are struggling through the same problems together…”


        If you can hit any one of those three, you can create some kind of community together. But here is what this depends one:

        1.     You find other people who are like you, who have the same interests as you, the same personality as you, care about the same things, etc.

        2.     The commitment of each individual, which is largely dependent on their own comfort.


        Is this the kind of community that the gospel creates? Why do all these Christians around the world gather together into these communities called churches—even in circumstances that can make it inconvenient, uncomfortable, even dangerous to do so? Is it because we have created a community like we have seen above? Well, yes and no.


        We are attracted by the good news of the gospel and the glory and splendor of our God. God is the most interesting, beautiful, and pure being in the universe and He has the best possible news for mankind. Jesus Christ loves sinners.


        If you thought you could earn, demand, and fight your way through life on the basis of your own entitlements and cleverness, but now you find within yourself not light but darkness and denial, not freedom but impasse; if you have shocked yourself with the evil you’re capable of and have given up on yourself in despair, the God of love waits for you with open arms today. – Ray Ortlund. How could you not be attracted to that?


        We are given the most noble mission and cause on the planet: go forth and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them all that Jesus has commanded. Further, we are now called to live a life of holiness, a life that we were originally intended for as image bearers of God. 


        And, lastly, we all are far too weak, far too prone to not follow through, far too sinful to try and do this life alone, so we need the support, love, and encouragement of one another.


        Attraction, mission, and support. That is a great recipe for a meaningful community. But, here is where the community that the gospel makes is different than the community that the world makes: the community that the world makes relies (1) finding other people who are like you and, (2) the commitment to it is largely decided by the individual. The gospel, on the other hand, creates a community that (1) draws in people from all walks of life, all kinds of personalities, all kinds of cultures, all kinds of nationalities—not just other people who are like you. And (2) the gospel creates a community that calls people to a commitment that is not determined by their comfort level, but by the calling that God has placed on them. It is a calling-based commitment, not a comfort-based commitment.


        Unity


        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. – 1 Cor 12:12-13


        This is the passage we considered last week. This passage shows us that when someone becomes a Christian they are not only reconciled to God, but they are then placed in God’s family, the Church, the body of Christ. Last week we looked at what happened when we believed the gospel: (1) we have our sins forgiven and receive the Holy Spirit, (2) we are baptized, and (3) we become a member of a local church. This is what is assumed is what happens to every Christian in the New Testament. It is within the local church that we find the arena to obey so many of the commands of the New Testament. The “one another” commands in the Bible (love one another, pray for one another, be patient with one another, forgive one another…) are not meant to be exercised to some faceless mass of humanity in general, but to real, actual people. It costs nothing to say, “I love my city.” But when you love people in particular, then you are required to actually put that love into practice. In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamozov, he warns about how easy it is to slip into this fantasy of imagining that you love humanity in general, but cannot love actualpersons:


        “I love humanity…but…the more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams…I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity…yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together…As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men; one because he’s too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose.” – Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamozov 


        The local church is intended to be the ecosystem in where the commands of love are to be primarily practiced by Christians. We don’t love a theoretical group of people; loving hypothetical people doesn’t require me to change, to bear any one’s burden, to ask for forgiveness. But real, living, breathing people who step on my toes and ask things of me that make me uncomfortable—those are the people I am called to love. 


        Diversity


        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.


        The unity of the body does not come at the expense of its diversity. The gospel is just too good, God is too glorious, and the danger of hell too serious for us to only welcome other people in who are like us. God commands all people everywhere to repent and believe in the gospel (Acts 17:30), and because belief in the gospel entails becoming a member of that gospel community, the church, this means that churches will be full of a diverse group of people. This is where Paul’s metaphor of the body reveals itself to be so brilliant—each body part is wildly different. A foot is nothing like a eye. Yet, both are vital, integral parts of the same body and share the collective identity of “body.” 


        The diversity that Paul is referring to here is primarily a diversity of spiritual gifts (see 1 Cor 12:1-11; 27-31). God has given supernaturally empowered gifts to His people upon their reception of the Holy Spirit, and each of those gifts is very different. For some, it is the gift of teaching, for others it is the gift of administration, for others it is the gift of encouragement. But, since Paul just mentioned right before this that in the body there is Jew and Greek, slave and free (vs. 13), he also is likely thinking about the diversity in ethnicity, culture, and socioeconomic class. The body is diverse! And no one is permitted to count themselves unworthy of belonging in the body because they are different. Each member’s own estimation of their usefulness is not the grounds upon which they are a part of the body. Rather, their inclusion in the body is based on the fact that God has made them a part of the body—He has divinely ordained that they be there, with their unique personality, gifting, culture, and status.


        What does this mean?


        ·      Our body should be diverse

        o   Pray that our church would reflect our community.

        ·      Your being here is not an accident—God put you here.

        o   Guard your heart against the temptation of thinking that you don’t deserve to be a part of this church because you don’t look like someone else.

        ·      You are needed

        o   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,  - 1 Cor 12:21-22

        o   The previous verses warned of someone deeming themselves to be unworthy. This verse warns against one member looking down on another. 

        o   But, if the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” then that means that the eye needs the hand. Which means each member is absolutely needed. Put another way, your participation in the life of the church is not, in God’s eyes, optional. If my hand decides to stop cooperating with the body, the whole body suffers. Worse, if my hand decides to sever itself from the body, the whole body will suffer tremendously and will be incapable of fulfilling all of the required tasks—and the hand will soon begin to die.

        o   So, what is the verse teaching us? It is assuming that each Christian is meaningfully attached to one another in the body of Christ, the church. This is why our church practices “membership.” Church membership is a way that we are trying to obey what Paul is teaching here about being committed to one another. Most Christians today treat their relationship with church on a comfort-based calling; they attend, participate, and engage to the degree that they feel like it. Similar to how someone might treat a football team, or a fan club. But the church, in the Bible, is described as a family. Which means that we are committed to one another and our commitment doesn’t flow out of our shared interests, but out of our identity as a family. 

        o   And this family, bound together by God’s covenant, has been divinely brought together, each member with a specific role, a specific task. 

        o   So, friend, you are needed. This is your church and God has brought you here for a reason. Why not begin to pray: God, how might you use me here? What role might I play? 

        §  Serving in the nursery

        §  Helping set up for Sundays

        §  Calling our members who are unable to gather and encourage them

        §  Invite new faces over for lunch after church

        §  Participating in a small group to help encourage others in their faith

        §  Turn that savings account into a gift to help another member who is struggling to make ends meet


        The gospel is too glorious, the mission too great, and our need too dire for us to do this alone. So let’s link arms with one another, and walk forward in unity.

        1. The Body of Christ (pt. 1)

          Sermon Audio here: https://sermons.faithlife.com/sermons/613232-the-body-of-christ


          Sermon Manuscript:

          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. – 1 Cor 12:12-27



          What does the gospel do? When someone believes it, really and truly, what happens to them?


          The Bible teaches us that when we come into this world we are naturally self-centered; what matters most to us is our happiness, our goals, our dreams, our priorities. But when God opens our eyes to trust and believe in the gospel, suddenly our center of gravity shifts vertically upward towards God—He is now our highest our priority. Becoming a Christian is not acknowledging that we need God to come into our story, but it is to actually see that we are in His story. We are reconciled with Him and filled with His Holy Spirit to be empowered to live for Him and walk out the role He has apportioned for us in His great narrative. And anyone who is in Christ here today knows what that is like—to find your life suddenly reoriented off of “self” to “God”—this is one of the fundamental aspects of what we call conversion. 


          But, here is my question: does the gospel leave you there—receiving the benefits of reconciliation with God and a call to live a holy life…all by yourself? My encouragement to you today is to see that the gospel not only restores your vertical relationship with God, but also establishes your horizontal relationship with God’s people. Or, to put it another way, my aim is for you to see the truth of 1 John 4:20-21, “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen…whoever loves God must also love his brother.” Or, to put it one more way, to be united to Christ is to be united to everyone else who is united to Him. When God saves an individual He does not leave that person as an individual, but brings him or her into the family of God, the Church.


          Unity


          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. – 1 Cor 12:12


          A human body is comprised of many, many different parts, but it all functions together as one collective unity (when I walk all of those hundreds of different body parts work in perfect harmony) and share a collectives identity (I don’t think of my body as a summary list of each appendage, I just think of it as “my body”). So it is with the Body of Christ; we share a collective identity and function together harmoniously as one. Why?


          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. – 1 Cor 12:13


          We have this remarkable unity because we all have become partakers of the same Spirit. Our unity doesn’t just come from shared interests or cultures or similar places in the socioeconomic bracket. Notice how Paul specifies that Corinthian congregation was comprised of Jews and Greeks, slaves and free. Do you have any idea how much Jews and Greeks hated each other? Do you have any idea how suspicious they were of one another and how culturally distant they were from each other? The animosity between the two of them would have been similar to a Union and Confederate soldier after the Civil War. Or, for a more contemporary example, it would be like the animosity between an illegal immigrant and an American who wants to deport all illegal immigrants. What on earth could possibly bring these two groups of people together into the same church? They have believed the same gospel and have been filled with the same Holy Spirit—though they come from very different cultures and have very different preferences, they now both share the most important thing in common, so they are unified. 


          Friends, think of a member here that you know least or maybe don’t get along with that wellNow, think of a friend or family member that you know very well and get along with, but isn’t a Christian. This is teaching us that you actually have a much more significant relationship with that church member than your unsaved neighbor or relative. Why? Because you both have believed the gospel, both been filled with the Holy Spirit, and both have been “baptized into one body.”


          Now, what does that mean—in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body? When the New Testament describes someone becoming a Christian, it assumes that multiple things happen simultaneously: (1) you believe the gospel and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (2) you are baptized and (3) you become a member of a church. In Acts 2, after Peter’s sermon, he gives this offer to the listeners, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,”… So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls,” Acts 2:38, 41. Added to what? Added to the church in Jerusalem. Do you see the three cords intertwined together there? (1) Believing the gospel and receiving the Holy Spirit, (2) being baptized, and (3) becoming a part of the church. This is what Paul is referring to here in 1 Corinthians—we have received the Spirit, been baptized, and by our baptism we have been added into the body of Christ, the church. And, of course, to the Church can refer in the Bible to every Christian across space and time—but it most commonly refers to a local congregation (“the church in Corinth…the church at Rome, etc.). Theologians refer to that first understanding of the church as the Universal or Invisible Church (all Christians) and to the second understanding as the Local or Visible Church. But here is the question: is Paul referring to the Universal, Invisible body of Christ when he says the Corinthians were “baptized into one body,” or is he referring to the Local, Visible body of Christ in Corinth? Is Paul assuming that being filled with the Holy Spirit and being baptized means that one is an individual Christian, or does it mean that person is a member of a local church? Now, one cannot be a part of the local church without being a part of the universal church, so the question basically boils down to whether or not Paul is referring to the local church.


          As we will look at the rest of the passage we will see that Paul’s reference to being baptized into one body refers, of course, to the universal church, but also to the local church in Corinth.

          1.  — Edited

            QBC Elder's Statement on Gathering

            Delivered July 26th, 2020


            As many of you have been made aware, there has been a change in the policies of our local health department in regards to local churches being permitted to gather inside their buildings. Our governor had made an adjustment back in early June that permitted churches to meet indoors during phase 1.5, so long as they met under a 25% room capacity of their sanctuary and practiced safe masking and social distancing practices. We, and all of the other churches in our area, immediately pursued this upon our county entering into phase 1.5 back in the first week of July.


            There is some confusion as to whether our local health department has changed their policy, or had maintained this policy from the very beginning of phase 1.5, but it would appear that the Benton-Franklin Health District has been given the authority by the state office to decide its own protocol for what is allowed to be open during this modified phase we are in. And in this phase, apparently due to the continuing rise in Covid-19 infections in our county, the health district has determined that churches are actually not permitted to gather indoors, but must continue to gather outdoors as we were when in phase 1 (see red section here). Further, though anything can change in a few days notice in this pandemic world we are living in, the document that was sent to us by the health district makes it seem like this restriction will remain in place for the foreseeable future (until phase 4).


            This has been an arduous, painful season for us all and having the proverbial rug ripped out from under us once more has made this feel even more deflating. So, though your elders have been made aware of this for the past two weeks, we have spent that time thinking, praying, meeting, discussing, and looking to what other like-minded churches in our area and across the country are doing. We want to approach this decision wisely remembering that we elders are responsible…


            1.     To be obedient first and foremost to our Lord at whatever cost that may bring.

            2.     To love our neighbor as ourselves, and to especially love our fellow church members, preferring their needs over our own, and showing special deference to weaker members.

            3.     To make decisions that serve our congregation’s spiritual well-being as we strive to feed Christ’s sheep who are entrusted to us.

            4.     To submit to the governing authorities so long as they are not prohibiting gospel ministry or coercing us to sin or violate our conscience.


            So, in light of those responsibilities what are we to do as a church in light of this new restriction? Some churches have decided to continue to gather indoors (as we have these past few weeks) and some churches have decided to move outside, or cancel their corporate worship entirely and just produce a video to be sent out over the internet. We, Quinault Baptist Church, will respond to this new change with caution. What do I mean by that? I mean that we will, starting next week, gather outside for our worship gathering—but, we will not do so indefinitely. We will continue to gather outside so long as weather will permit us to do so. However, once there is extreme heat, cold, rain, or any other form of inclement weather that would normally prohibit us from gathering, we will then move our corporate worship inside and proceed to do what we have been doing these past few weeks. 


            We are doing this because

            1.     We will not forsake the regular gathering of fellow Christians for corporate worship. Christians are people who gather. Our religion is not one of private experience or monk-ish solitude, but of fellowship, of hospitality, of singing together, breaking bread together, praying together, worshipping together. And while our fellowship is not limited to what happens on Sunday morning, our corporate worship on Sunday morning is the crown jewel of that fellowship. The very word for “church” in Greek literally means “assembly, gathering.” And we are commanded in Hebrews 10:24-25 to not forsake gathering together as a church. Jesus tells us that it is in our physical gathering as a church that His presence is made manifest in a unique and distinct way (Matt 18:20). This is not something that can be reproduced through an online streaming service; you cannot have “church” online any more than you can hold your wife’s hand online.


            We initially cancelled our corporate worship gatherings and produced sermon videos for family’s to worship at home because there was much unknown about the virus, its mortality rate, and our hospital’s capability to keep up. Further, we were under the impression that this would be a temporary pause needed to slow the infection down for a few weeks. However, those few weeks stretched into months. And, as our elders have been reaching out and checking in on our members throughout this season, we have seen the emotional and spiritual toll exacted on our people by the loneliness, isolation, and separation from the body during the quarantine. It is not good for man to be alone, and Christians are intended to live in community with one another. And as we all are currently calculating the potential risk of going to stores, gatherings, and restaurants, we should likewise be calculating the risk of what extended isolation from Christian fellowship will do to us.


            This does not mean however, that our members who are unable to gather with us because of health concerns are walking in sin—the command of Hebrews 10 refers to willful neglect of the church gathering; that is, not coming because you just don’t feel like it or your weekend just got too busy or you just wanted to sleep in. That would be a willful violation of this commandment, a sin; but staying away from the gathering because you, or someone you are in regular close proximity with, are at a high-risk of catching a virus that may be deadly for you or those in your home would never be understood to be willful neglect of gathering by our elders.


            And, of course, our whole church should be diligently praying for those who are not regularly gathering with us: look around and take note of who is not able to be here with us and diligently pray that the Lord would sustain them through this season, and maybe even reach out to them, check in on them, see how you might be able to encourage and edify their family.


            2.     “If the worship gathering is so important, than why move outside?” Because while Hebrews 10 tells us to not forsake gathering, it does not specify that we must gather in a building. The "church" is not a building, but a people gathered together. So, we are able to continue to gather and obey Hebrews 10:24-25 by gathering outside on our lawn. We have even had members who have been staying home tell us that if we were to gather outside, they would actually be able to attend. It is objectively safer to gather outside in regards to virus transmission. Further, by moving outside that gives us an opportunity to comply with what our local government is asking of us, and likely helps preserve our gospel witness to our unsaved community who might interpret our gathering indoors as an unloving action. There will likely be a time where we will need to disobey the government and risk how others may perceive our church, but those are issues that we do not want to risk flippantly.


            3.     “But, you said you would gather indoors if the weather didn’t let you gather outdoors? Won’t you be disobeying the government or risking your testimony by doing that?” Well, the short answer is: yes and yes. From the beginning I have said that a Christian is required in Scripture to submit to the governing authorities so long as they are not (1) requiring us to sin or (2) prohibiting gospel ministry. Once the government begins to intervene in the ministry of the gospel they have transgressed their God-given authority and have no legitimate grounds for their actions. We are happy to submit to the government when and where we can: for instance, the government requires our church building to meet its safety standards and fire codes. We are happy to comply with those requirements and see how that helps us love our neighbors well by creating a safe place to gather and does not hinder the ministry of the gospel. 


            But, while Romans 13 calls Christians to submit to the governing authorities, Revelation 13 portrays the governing authorities like a beast who devours and gobbles Christians up. So, we submit, but we do so with caution, always remembering where our highest allegiance lies, and always aware of the potential danger. We are alarmed at the way that the government appears to have so easily cast aside the importance of church gatherings, both locally and across our nation—permitting businesses to operate with patrons indoors, but prohibiting churches from doing the same. Particularly while politicians and medical professionals enthusiastically encourage and protect the rights of citizens to gather in protests, citing the first amendment of our constitution, but do everything they can to limit, throttle, and discourage attendance at religious gatherings--which is also cited and protected in the very same first amendment--smacks of hypocrisy and discrimination. 


            We do not believe that our local government is intentionally seeking to persecute Christians or have any particular animus against churches. Rather, it is my assumption that our governing authorities are simply ignorant to the importance of Christian fellowship. So, while it is very clearly important to them to get businesses to open up to drum up the economy, prioritizing churches just does not bear the same weight. It has the same importance of a baseball game or concert: a large gathering of people for something non-essential that could just be reproduced online. So, we are simply here to remind them and our community that actually what happens here is essential, is necessary, and is worth it. So, short of some dramatic information coming to light, if the government tells us we can no longer gather together, indoors or outdoors, we will, with the apostle Peter say, “we must obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29).


            So, in closing, we want to encourage all of our members to trust the Lord’s inscrutable wisdom and unfathomable knowledge as He unfolds His sovereign plan. God is in control and He is good. It is our duty to day-by-day walk in immediate obedience to Him and let Him worry about tomorrow. Please be diligent in prayer for one another and for your elders through this season. Your elders love you, are praying for you, and are striving to faithfully shepherd you through this perplexing season we are all walking through.


            The grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.


            On behalf of the elders,

            Pastor Marc

            1.  — Edited

              A Tale of Two Ministries: Paul and the Peddler's (2 Cor 4:1-6)

              Sermon Video Here



              Sermon Notes:


              A Tale of Two Ministries

               

              1.     Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

              a.     What ministry? New Covenant ministry, see chapter 3.

                          i.     Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (3:4-6)

              b.     Why do we not lose heart?

                         i.     Because it does not depend on our sufficiency—the ministry doesn’t come from us.

                         ii.     God makes us sufficient for ministry.

                         iii.     The Spirit gives life.

              2.     But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. 

              a.     2:17, “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.”

              b.    We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, 

              c.     but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.

                          i.     J.I. Packer: “Doctrinal preaching certainly bores the hypocrites; but it is only doctrinal preaching that will save Christ’s sheep.”

                          ii.     John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

              3.     And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.

              a.     Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, 13 not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. 14 But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. 15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (3:12-18)

              b.     Why does Paul bring this point up? 

                           i.     It sounds like he is answering an objection: if you are really a minister of the gospel, why do so many people reject your message Paul?

                           ii.     Perhaps Paul is not as “successful” as the peddlers.

              4.     In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

              a.     Why is the gospel veiled to those who are perishing? Satan had blinded them; a gospel blindspot.

              5.     For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

              a.     Why did Paul’s message get rejected? Was it because he wasn’t dynamic enough in his presentation? Paul admits that he is not a great public speaker in his last letter to the Corinthians:

                         i.     And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.  (1 Cor 2:1-5)

              b.    A shot at the “peddlers”—they proclaim themselves.

                            i.     Preaching for popularity: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ,” (Gal 1:10). “They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them,” (Gal 4:17).

                            ii.     Preaching to their own passionsFor the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Tim 4:3-4).

              6.     For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

              a.     Paul’s only hope for gospel ministry: Sovereign grace to overcome spiritual blindness.


              In Summary: Two Ways to do Ministry, Paul and the Peddlers.

              -       Paul’s Model

              o   Recognize that his sufficiency to do ministry comes from God alone

              o   So, he will rely alone on a simple, plain proclamation of God’s truth

              o   And trust God’s sovereign ability to remove the innate blindness

              o   Therefore, he refuses to use salesmen like gimmicks to hawk the gospel, or tamper with God’s Word to make it more palatable to the natural man

              o   Therefore, his ministry does not rely on his programming, creativity, charisma, leadership, skills, or personality. He does not proclaim “himself,” but Jesus Christ as Lord.

              -       Peddler’s Model

              o   Believe that God is involved in the ministry, but His work needs their assistance.

              o   They speak unclearly about the truth, a foggy message that aims to make no concrete declarations that might lose some of their hearers.

              o   They follow the model of the marketplace: whatever it takes to make the sale.

              o   Therefore, they are willing to downplay or ignore elements of God’s truth or even contradict it.

              o   Because they are unwilling to rely on the Lord’s sufficiency for their ministry, they “proclaim themselves.” Their ministry will succeed or fail depending on their skill and salesmanship.


              What does this look like today?

              -       Protestant Liberalism

              o   The concern of losing the “modern man” with the miraculous that appeared to contradict science

              o   In time, as we shifted to a postmodern world, and the problem no longer became the virgin birth, but the moral teaching of the Bible, they quickly adapted as well

              o   Born out of a desire to keep the church relevant, not lose touch with contemporary audience

              o   What happened to these churches? They are dying

              -       Seeker Sensitive

              o   Started about 30-40 years ago within conservative Evangelicalism with the Willowcreek “church growth” model led by Bill Hybels and Saddleback and Rick Warren’s “purpose driven church.”

              o   Aimed at creating a church experience on Sunday that was “seeker sensitive” that is, a church that was designed, top to bottom, to be appealing and attractive to non-Christians. 

              o   What was changed?

              §  The Building

              §  The professionalization of the ministry (programs, programs, programs)

              §  Homogenous principle

              §  The "cool" factor

              §  Music

              §  Preaching—topical, short, funny, sermonettes that steer clear of doctrine.

              §  “Try before you buy” mentality of discipleship

              o   Runs off of pragmatism and marketing

              §  George Barna: “The Church is a business and must be run with the same wisdom and savvy that characterizes any for profit business. It must be marketed…we must direct the flow of goods and services from the producer to the consumer, to satisfy the needs and desires of the consumer and the goals and objectives of the producer.”

              §  Joel Osteen can fill a stadium—there must be something he’s doing right. Right?...


              What’s wrong with this?

              -       What you win them with, you win them to

              -       The consumer is always right!

              -       It robs the church of its supernatural engine

               

              1.  — Edited

                Bearing Fruit Through Suffering (John 15:1-11)

                Sermon Audio: https://sermons.faithlife.com/embed/sermons/608203


                Sermon Manuscript:

                “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 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. – John 15:1-11


                Suffering is inevitable, painful, productive, assuring, 


                Inevitable


                Christianity is a peculiar religion because it not only affirms the presence of suffering in this world (which all religions do), but it also promises that it will actually increase your suffering in this world if you adhere to it (which almost no other religion does). Christianity acknowledges the presence of real evil and suffering in the world as the by-product of man’s rebellion against God from the beginning. And it also promises that at the end of time, God will restore His creation to its intended design to be rid of all suffering and sorrow. So, for any human being, suffering is just par for the course in this life. But, for those who submit to Christ, who become Christians, there is actually an amplified experience of suffering. We are told, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Tim 3:12.  Jesus promises to His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” John 16:33. And in our text in John 15, Jesus promises that those who bear fruit are pruned by the Father.


                What does unique Christian suffering look like? 

                -       Godly sorrow over sin

                -       God disciplining you for unrepentant sin.

                -       Satanic opposition

                -       People slandering you for your faith

                -       People attacking you or killing you

                -       Weeping with those who weep

                -       The pain of seeing unbelief around us


                Painful


                Being pruned doesn’t feel pleasant. We all have a threshold for pain, a perceived limit for how much difficulty we can take before we “lose it.” Perhaps you have heard the popular proverb: God will never give you more than you can handle. Perhaps you are aware that this is a relatively loose interpretation of 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” God is throttling our temptations in accordance with our ability to endure it—that’s a wonderful promise! But, of course, this does not mean that our awareness of our limits are our limits. God knows what our limits are and, if He sends it into our lives, then according to this verse, we know we can walk through it. But this means that at times God sends things into our lives that seem to go far above and beyond what we thought we could bear. Listen to the apostle Paul, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead,” 2 Cor 1:8-9. Paul felt like he was going to die! We should be highly suspicious of any kind of “Christianity” that promises that it will always buffer us from pain or difficulty.


                After my sermon last week our dear sister Joy reached out to me and asked me to clarify something. Towards the end of my sermon last week I read John 15:7-8, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my father is glorified.” And then said, “If you abide in Jesus and His words abide in you, your prayers will be answered and the Father will be glorified.” She said that she agreed with that statement, but asked if I could clarify it some. Joy prayed for a considerable amount of time for her late husband to be healed and he wasn’t. So, what are we to think about that? What are we to do when God doesn’t answer our prayers, but Jesus just promised that we could “ask whatever we wish” Surely that is a great source of pain, of suffering in our life—not only watching a loved one die, but pleading with God to do something to intervene and to be given an answer that we were not asking for. 


                Tim Keller in his book on prayer, commenting on Romans 8:26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words,” explains that God always gives us in prayer what we would have asked for if we knew everything that God knew. All of us can surely look back at things that we desperately wanted as children and our parents told us “no.” And now, with hindsight, we can see that our parents were loving us by telling us “no,” it was just hard for us to understand why or how it could be loving in the moment. God ultimately knows better than we do and is committed to always and only do what is for our good (Rom 8:28). When we receive a “no” to our prayers it could mean that what we are asking for is ultimately not what’s best for us. God is not a senile grandparent who wants to keep giving his grandkids another scoop of ice cream because he just wants to earn their affection—let mom and dad worry about the discipline, grandpa is here to have fun! He is a loving Father who is committed to our good. Sometimes we pray and pray and pray and pray for something that seems so good, so right and we cannot imagine how God keeping this from us would be loving or wise. I wonder if you can look back now on certain prayers you prayed while you were younger and are grateful that God didn’t give them to you. Is it not possible that the current “no” you are receiving isn’t also ultimately for your greatest good but you just lack the hindsight to see it as such? Friends, be assured that from the perspective of heaven all of our Heavenly Father’s “no’s” will be made perfectly clear.


                But for now, on this side, we experience the pain of what seems like silence; the frustration of being told “no” but seeing no good reason why. We see spouses, relatives, children get sick and die. We see jobs lost, marriages dissolve, and clouds of depression continue to linger. And like the apostle Paul who pled three times for his thorn to be removed from his flesh, we have often been told “no, my grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness.” We have prayed like Jesus in Gethsemane, “Father if it be your will to take this cup from us, but nevertheless not our will, but Your will be done.”


                Productive


                Look again to Jesus’ words, “every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit,” John 15:2. Pruning a tree is a counter-intuitive process. You want the tree to grow, be healthy, and more productive—so what do you do? What’s the reward a tree gets for producing all this fruit? You hack some branches off. That doesn’t seem to make sense, and yet that’s exactly what happens. Trees have sucker branches that are sucking the vitality from the healthier, stronger branches, and when you lop them off, those resources are redistributed to the healthier branch. This is what the Father does to the branches attached to the vine. Doesn’t that almost sound disincentivizing? The more you grow as a Christian, the more pruned you become. Perhaps when you become a Christian you understand there are some things that need to be pruned out of your life—you’re okay with God getting rid of that addiction or that unhealthy habit. But eventually, He starts coming after things that you never thought you would have to get rid of, His shears start closing in on branches that you really love.


                In Hebrews 12 we are told, “let us…lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” 12:1. The image is that of a race and we have these weights and entangling sins which are slowing us down. The assumption of the verse is that winning the race is your highest priority, so you are willing to shed whatever you need to make it across that finish line. But what happens if you love that weight that is slowing you down? What if the prize at the end of the race doesn’t seem as glorious as this entangling sin that is tripping us up? This is where we need the Father’s discipline.


                Notice, in Hebrews 12 after we are exhorted to actively lay aside these weights and sins, the author then launches into a lengthy explanation of the effect of God’s Fatherly discipline in our lives. “For [our earthly fathers] disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but [our heavenly Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” Hebrews 12:10-11. The discipline of the Lord, the rebukes from our Father, produce “peaceful fruits of righteousness.” Christian, do you want to grow? Do you want to see an increase of the fruit of the Spirit in your life? Then you must enter the school of the Father’s discipline. 


                CS Lewis memorably explains this in Mere Christianity, “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”


                Assurance


                Lastly, the by-product of suffering in our life is ultimately assuring. Do you know which branches don’t get pruned by the Father? The fruitless ones that get bound and thrown into the fire. Listen to Hebrews again:


                And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

                “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

                nor be weary when reproved by him.

                6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

                and chastises every son whom he receives.”

                7 It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. – Heb 12:5-8


                If I am out at the store and someone else’s child begins to disobey their parent, I am not going to step in to discipline. I only discipline my children. And my discipline is itself a sign of my love for my child. Jesus explains in Revelation 3:19, “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” This is why when I discipline my son I explain to him that the reason he is getting this spanking is because I love him and I don’t want him to think that he can disobey mom and dad and think that its okay. The Bible commands children to obey their parents, “that it may go well with you and you may live long in the land,” (Eph 6:1-3). Children, your life will go better if you honor your mother and father, if you obey them. Parents, requiring your children to obey you and disciplining them is the most loving thing you could do for them. It is precisely how God treats us.


                But this is the key: God’s discipline of us is never punitive, but is always restorative. When we sin and God disciplines us, He is not exacting punishment out of us nor is He looking to satisfy His anger, His wrath, His justice. All of those things were satisfied at the cross where Jesus absorbed the rightful wrath and punishment that all my sins deserved. So now, I know that when the time for discipline comes from my Heavenly Father He will discipline my like a Father and not like an enemy. His aim is my holiness, my growth, more fruit, more joy—not my destruction. His pruning is intended to make the tree healthier; He isn’t staggering towards the tree with an ax in hand, looking to vent His anger, looking to settle the score, looking to pay me back for that big sin lurking in my past. Friends, God’s wrath has been satisfied. Your judgment day, if you are in Christ, has already passed—2,000 years ago on a hill far away, on an old rugged cross.


                And I know this isn’t a sermon on parenting, but parents, this is why it is so important for you to be so careful with your discipline. Right after Paul tells the children in Ephesians to obey their father and mother, he then turns to the fathers and says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord,” Eph 6:4. Why does Paul single out fathers here? Are mothers not prone to exasperating their children? Are they not required to also discipline and instruct their children? Of course they are. And both mom and dad need to be so careful in how they discipline—but dads really need to be careful because they are giving their children a picture of what the heavenly Father is like. This is why abusive fathers are one of the most demonic and destructive forces in the world today. They teach their children to fear, resent, and mistrust God. And when those children grow up and difficulty and suffering comes into their life, their flinch response is that God is like their dad growing up and has finally reached His limit and has now snapped.


                But that isn’t who our God is! Our God is, yes, the one who prunes, but He is also the God who says this: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love,” John 15:9.

                1.  — Edited

                  Does God Desire All to Be Saved?

                  In my sermon this Sunday I encouraged our church to meditate on 1 Tim 2:1-4 this week. One verse that may have stood out to some of you was verse 4, "[God] desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." This same thought is repeated a few verses later, "Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all," verse 7. Many a Christian over the years has been puzzled by these passages. If God desires all people to be saved, then why aren't all people saved? There have been four basic interpretive traditions of this passage:


                  1. Universalism. This is a heretical (non-Christian) perspective that simply ignores passages of Scripture that talk about anyone going to hell or passages that teach about faith in Jesus Christ being a prerequisite for salvation. So, God desires all people to be saved, therefore all are saved.
                  2. Open Theism. This is another heretical perspective that assumes that God does not know, nor determine, the future. Open Theists claim that for God to have an authentic relationship with us, He cannot know the future. God desires all people to be saved, but He can't do anything about it because He is dependent upon us to make those choices.
                  3. Arminianism. This is a Christian perspective that understands that God knows the future and is in control, yet for God to have an authentic relationship with us He cannot impinge upon our choices--our "free-will" must be preserved. So, God desires all people to be saved, yet not everyone is saved because not all choose to be saved. (The name "Arminianism" comes from Jacob Arminius, a Dutch theologian who rebelled against the standard teaching of the church back in the late 16th century.)
                  4. Reformed. This is a Christian perspective that would understand that an individual's salvation is entirely dependent on the Lord. Our decisions and choices are real and we are held accountable for them, yet apart from the Lord's intervening work, none of us would choose God, thus it is God's prior choice of us that determines our response. The reason that "all" are not saved is because God has not determined that "all" will be saved. (The name "Reformed" comes from the Protestant Reformation which occurred in the early 16th century, especially the tradition that followed John Calvin's teaching. The "Reformed" understanding of God's sovereignty in salvation was the predominant position throughout church history, but had been lost in the period leading up to the Reformation.)


                  An Understanding of 1 Timothy 2:4


                  As far as the interpretations go, it would seem like the Reformed tradition has the biggest problem with making sense of this verse. In fact, 1 Timothy 2:4 is a traditional proof-text that Arminians will typically run to when trying to discredit Reformed theology. So, how can those of the Reformed tradition make sense of this verse? If the Reformed believe that not all are saved because God has not elected all to be saved (see Rom 9:14-23), then how does 1 Timothy 2:4 make any sense at all? Doesn't the passage plainly say that God "desires all people to be saved"? There are two basic interpretations of this verse (and other verses similar to it):


                  (1) The Two Wills of God. This is what is sometimes referred to as God's "antecedent" and "consequent" will (Thomas Aquinas) or God's "secret" and "revealed" will (Jonathan Edwards). A contemporary proponent of this perspective would be John Piper who refers to the "will of decree" and "will of command." This interpretation would see a difference between what God desires to happen and what He ultimately decrees to happen. God desires all to be saved, but He does not ultimately decree that all are saved. John Piper explains, "God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all." A helpful illustration would be Ezekiel 18:23, "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" God takes no delight in the death of the wicked--He does not enjoy it. And yet, the wicked still perish. God desires something (the wicked not perishing) that does not ultimately happen. Why would God desire something but not get it? Why would He desire to save all, but not allow all to be saved? Universalists reply, "If God desires all to be saved then all must be saved." Open Theists reply, "God may desire all to be saved, yet all aren't saved because God can't save all." Arminians and Calvinists (Reformed) repudiate both of those replies.


                  Both Calvinists and Arminians agree that the problem does not lay in God's inability nor do they ignore the Bible's teaching of the reality of hell. Offering an alternative for why God does not save all, Piper explains, "because there is something else that [God] wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all." Believe it or not, both Arminians and Calvinists affirm this--the two wills of God. They simply disagree on what God's higher commitment is that prevents all persons from being saved.


                  John Piper explains:

                  "The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is. What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God's glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29)."


                  Therefore this perspective would say that God desires all to be saved but this "desire" is fundamentally different than what God ultimately determines or decrees to happen.


                  (2) All Persons Without Distinction. This perspective views that when Paul explains that God desires "all people" to be saved he is not referring to all persons without exception, but to all persons without distinction. In other words, Paul is not referring to God's desire for all individuals who have ever lived, but to all kinds of people. God is not only the savior of Jewish people, but of non-Jewish people as well! This would make sense why then a few verses later Paul emphasizes that he was a missionary to Gentiles (non-Jews). After explaining that we should pray for "all people" because God desires "all people" to be saved because Jesus gave himself as a ransom for "all people," Paul concludes with this: "For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth," 1 Tim 2:7. Why does Paul need to insert that little parenthetical oath (I swear I'm not making this up!). Likely because so few of the early Christians believed that people who were not Jewish could actually be saved.


                  In Acts 15, there has to be an entire church council held to figure out whether or not its okay for Gentiles to become Christians. The subtext of the entire book of Romans is the division that is occurring in the church between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians. It takes a vision from heaven with God coercing Peter to be okay with entering into a Gentile household and sharing the gospel with Cornelius in Acts 10. Heck, in Acts 6, there is a division between between two classes of Jewish Christians because one of them is more culturally Hellenistic than the other--imagine what it would have been like for them to have someone in the church who hadn't been Jewish at all!


                  For centuries and centuries, Jewish people were told that their people, children of Abraham, were God's chosen people. And if anyone wanted to enter into a saving relationship with Yahweh, they had to first become Jewish. Further, there was a deep animosity that ran between Jews and Gentiles in the first century. It would have been similar to the way a Southerner would have viewed a Northerner shortly after the Civil War. There was deep distrust and anger, not to mention a wide cultural distance between the two groups. Now, after the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus, it didn't matter whether you were Jewish, Greek, Scythian, or slave (Col 3:11). All that mattered was your relationship with Jesus, and Jesus was open and available to any and all cultures, ethnicities, and tribes. So now, Jews and Gentiles were not only going to need to inhabit that same space together, they needed to practice the "one another" commands as fellow church members! This was a massive upheaval to the collective psyche of the recent Jewish converts to Christianity (and remember, the overwhelming majority of the early church was comprised of Jews). This is why Paul's letters are so frequently littered with reminders that the gospel is available to both Jews and Gentiles alike and that in Christ there actually, "is neither Jew nor Greek...for you are all one in Christ Jesus," Gal 3:28 (see also Eph 2:11-22).


                  Therefore, when Paul is explaining that God desires "all people" to be saved, he is referring to all kinds of people to be saved. Don't think that you shouldn't pray for those emperors or governors (1 Tim 2:2) just because they are Roman or Greek--pray for all people; God desires people from every tribe, tongue, and nation to be gathered around His throne (Rev 5:9-10).


                  In Conclusion


                  I admit that at first glance the "all persons without distinction" can seem like a cop-out of an answer: so "all" just doesn't mean "all"? But I think that if you spend more time immersing yourself in the New Testament with an eye for it, you will begin to see how central this dilemma was in the early church--it is almost present in every letter of the NT. Thus, I find the "all persons without distinction" argument to be more satisfactory than the "two wills of God" interpretation in 1 Timothy 2:4. That doesn't mean, however, that I would disagree with the general argument made of the two wills of God by Piper (or Edwards, or Aquinas). I think that argument is fundamentally correct and I would affirm the Calvinistic interpretation of God's highest commitment being to the display of His glory. I believe all of that is gloriously true! I just don't think that is the main point Paul is trying to make here in 1 Timothy. I think the thrust of what Paul is getting across is that we should never forsake praying for someone because they belong to a certain class, group, or culture. No "tribe" is too far from God that He cannot save them, so pray, pray, pray with all diligence for God to move His sovereign hand and save.