Dealing with Serious Threats to Our Peace

happy-reformation-day

I blew through the application section of this morning’s message. You can listen to the audio here.

I promised to post this portion of my manuscript on the blog for the convenience of anyone who wanted to pay closer attention.

I promise, I fulfill.

Warding off serious threats to peace in the church requires a decisive plan for their defeat – watching out for them, staying clear of them, being smart about them, and expecting the God of peace and the Lord of grace to help us fight them. Takeaways are plain. One, relish being part of a confessional church with Reformation roots. Your best friend to guard against error is an orthodox, articulation of sound doctrine. Two, embrace the stewardship of guarding the go0d deposit of the gospel. Three, expect error to hunt us to destroy our unity. Don’t be caught by surprise. Leaders and followers alike stay on the alert. This is why you don’t teach any class at OGC unless you are a member and have been appropriately vetted in terms of sound doctrine. Four, be decisive in dealing with error in the majors. We can’t afford to pussyfoot around with heresy in any form given the costs to our unity. Five, be careful what you read, watch on Christian TV, and to whom you listen to on the web. Be smart – wise in the good, innocent in the evil. Spend more time learning the truth than you do at all in dabbling in the deceptions. Six, rely on the God of peace and the Lord of grace to fight the battle against the arch deceiver. Pray, pray, pray. And, seven, preserve peace knowing you’ve been saved by the God of peace and are helped by the Lord of grace.

I look forward, Lord willing, to continuing the peacemaking theme next Sunday with Psalm 133 – Unity’s Song. 

 

The Trouble with Community

That’s easy.

Christians. Saints by position in Christ who still act like pagans in sin. No matter how spiritual believers become, while in the flesh, the potential for relapse ever remains a threat.

In my role as a pastor, occasionally I take the heat for the local church body by receiving complaints about real and/or perceived breakdowns in its expression of community. These trouble me, especially the ones I cause by my own lapses into gospel amnesia that lead to legalism or license in my own life. I pray and labor to find ways to correct our imperfections.

I think a sermon series like The Graces of Gospel-Shaped Community like we are giving ourselves to for the rest of this year at OGC can tend to spur us on to greater heights and depths of community. Certainly I pray and labor for that in multiple ways. But the downside of such an emphasis is that it can serve to highlight our failures and weaknesses in community too. And that can lead to discouragement, if we don’t take care to keep things in perspective.

Something helping me in that regard is to remember the nature of the first century church. We really can’t afford to romanticize the experience of the New Testament church. That kind of thinking tends to reveal itself in comments like, If we could only be like the church of the first century, that would fix everything wrong with our church.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. The fact that we have so many one-another passages in the New Testament is due to the fact that the assemblies of the first century experienced their fair share of sinful dysfunction and more. In fact, we wouldn’t likely have some of the precious one another passages of the Bible, if it weren’t for the troubles of a church like Corinth for example.

This Sunday’s text from 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 illustrates this perfectly. The Corinthian saints got so out of whack in their fellowship that they abused one another in the taking of the Lord’s Supper. God got so miffed at them for their offenses that He judged some with sickness and death (v. 30)! If you want to know the cause of the Lord’s wrath on this occasion, don’t miss this Sunday’s sermon – The Grace of Waiting. I know, I have no shame, but I refuse to let the exegetical cat out of the bag before its time.

I could cite similar historical and contextual instances from other books of the New Testament, but I think you get the point.

So while we take seriously our failures in community with a view to allowing the gospel to shape us more thoroughly toward improvement, let’s remember that we have ample evidence from the New Testament that sinners living in community will trouble one another.

And that’s exactly why we need to be in community — gospel-shaped, grace-laden, Christ-exalting, Spirit-empowered community.