Sunday, March 13, 2011

March 13th - Building the Church

Prayer Requests
Pastor Aaron Preaching / Resignation
St. Patrick's Day Witnessing
Swift Cantrel Witnessing
Summit Members in Foreign Lands
Japan Evangelism and Safety
Cassandra Feeling Better
Etowah High School, loss of student
Jennifer finishing Magnet applications
Ben's Great Grandmother Rest
David Master's College Scholarship
Students Teaching Friday

Text - Nehemiah 3, 1 Corinthians 12

We embark today on an absolutely amazing chapter of the Bible, but one which I could also make the most boring lesson in the Bible. It could be called a "baby-name chapter" because it contains some absolutely great names for babies when in a decade you' re looking, I especially like Hashbneiah (thoughts of God), Harumaph (Snub-nosed), and Shelemiah (thankful to God). We're not going to spend a whole lot of time in Nehemiah 3, because I want to look at the New Testament Parallel in 1 Corinthians 12.

Let's do some context in Nehemiah 2 Nehemiah leaves a very cushy position and travels to Jerusalem to seek the wellbeing of his people. How does this parallel Jesus Christ? Jesus stepped out of Heaven to be born into abject poverty to seek the welfare of his people.

2 Corinthians 8:9 You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.

Something that I've read to you before, but is definitely worth reading again, is John Flavel's presumption on how the conversation between Jesus and his Father may have gone as Jesus left Heaven to rescue his people.

Father: My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls?

Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.

Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.

Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.

Nehemiah 2 is also a great look at Nehemiah leaving the world to endeavor something huge for God and his people. How does Jerusalem look at this point? It's in ruins, the walls are torn down, it is open for attack on every side, it is a sad place to live.

Here we see another parallel to Jesus, that he immediately started building his church after he was raised. We see this to a much smaller extent in Nehemiah as he starts to rebuild Jerusalem. There is much to learn in this passage and I struggled with how much we should read, I've decided we should read the whole chapter for the sake of knowing that the Bible it totally the Word of God and we shouldn't skip anything.

This passage shows us that the book of Nehemiah is a historical book, it's not just an allegory or a neat fictional account, but that it actually happened. Some people here are mentioned nowhere else, but in their faithfulness to God they are recorded for our edification and we should always remember that God takes notice even if others don't.

Nehemiah 3

The actual geography of Jerusalem is of a little value, I actually heard a whole sermon on the different gates trying to find a superspiritual hidden message in them, but the greater value is that we look at how everyone worked together. Though for geographies sake, the way this chapter is written works its way around the city from the Sheep Gate to the Sheep Gate, if you see in verse 1 it starts here, and in verse 32 it ends here. There is no greater importance for who is named in order, other than who is named first, the others are just in order of where they were on the wall.

The first people we see working are the priests led by the high priest, Eliashib. There is a community of people found in Georgia called the Mennonites, they used to be closely related to the Amish. They do a lot of weird things, but one of the weirdest is that they believe only their pastors should share their faith. The biblical model is that everyone should be doing the work of God, but that this should be led by the religious leaders. Where a pastor puts his emphasis is where the church will put their emphasis. You can see that with me that my emphasis is on evangelism and Bible memorization and growing students into capable disciples. You can see it in David Platt's church where one of his big thrusts is giving money for world missions and sending world missions, and his church is doing a mighty work in that.

So the priests are setting the example and everyone else falls in line, check out how Paul would say this,

1 Corinthians 11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.

Another important thing we see in this passage is who is working. Look at verse 1, it's the high priest and lesser priests, verse 8, it is skilled laborers the goldsmiths and perfumers, throughout the passage there are noname people who seem to have no skill, just working, verse 12 a mayor/governor of Jerusalem and his daughters, so now we've got girls involved, verse 13, people from outside of Jerusalem join in, and in verse 30 we see a "sixth son" which is a son with little to gain in inheritance, but he's working for God, not worldly gain. The important thing to see about this passage of scripture is how many people are working and how diverse they are.

Not everyone is working though, look at verse 5, the nobles of the Tekoites would not help, they wouldn't stoop, to lowly levels, to serve God. There are many people I run into in Christendom today who will do things for all sorts of reasons, but won't dare to open their mouth to talk about Jesus Christ. They think they're serving God, but many of them unfortunately are not. Sometimes the most menial tasks can be the most important, while the most grandiose accomplish the least. Like yesterday Kyle was faithful to preach the gospel in Atlanta, maybe two-hundred people heard him, but I guarantee you he did more good yesterday than Joel Osteen will do today even though 2 million people will hear Joel Osteen. Stoop, beloved, to serve your Adoni, your Lord.

Two more things I want to show you before we move to 1 Corinthians 12. Look at verse 4, we've got this priest Meremoth working on the wall near the Fish Gate, which just for trivia is the gate that fish from Tyre would be brought through and where the fish markets were, but we see Meremoth working, and he must have finished his job. Instead of going and sitting down, he goes to verse 21 and finds another job to do, he repaired another section on the door of Eliashib's house.

That brings me to the next point. Eliashib wasn't working on his own house, which would have shared a wall with the wall of Jerusalem, he's working on another project somewhere else. But look at verse 23, here we've got people working on their own houses. I just want to show you that it's great to reach out, it's also great to be helped as well. They all knew that they were building the wall together and that it would get done, they trusted the efforts of their brothers and sisters. We should be doing likewise in the church, not saying, "Ok, everybody come work on my project." We're building the church together, and together it will get done by the work of the Holy Spirit.

So that brings us into the New Testament. There are all sorts of churches this morning that will be throwing wiz-bang services with crazy loud music, light shows, amazing computer animations, motorcycles jumping over the pastor, weird gimmicks, animals on stage, preachers dressed up, speaking in tongues and dancing like crazy and really trying to feel the Holy Spirit. Steve Lawson preached on Friday at John MacArthur's church and he made an excellent point that these are the "bland leading the bland", these churches, though alive in appearance, have no clue as to the power of the life giving Word of God, and are dead in their sin and trespass. We don't do that to try to feel the Holy Spirit, let's read

1 Corinthians 14:12 Since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

The way the Holy Spirit works is not by giving you a warm-fuzzy feeling inside, but by growing you in holiness, giving you boldness, enlightening the word, making your efforts fruitful, giving you love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. If you want these things more and more, then strive to build up the church.

And how do you do that? Can you only do it if you're a pastor or elder or teacher? By no means, let's go back to chapter 12.

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

The simplest summation of this passage is that you're not all goldsmiths, you're not all religious leaders, you're not all nobles, you're not all governors, but that you all have a place to work in God's building of the church.

Let's take a closer look at these, this is not a comprehensive list by any means, I think there are at least a few other gifts not here mentioned, like I believe I have a gift of boldness, of not caring what people think of me because I care more about what Jesus Christ thinks of me.

Utterance of Wisdom - This probably makes more sense to us if we see it as "ability to speak well with instructing words." This is the ability to teach application so that the hearers can more easily apply it.

Utterance of Knowledge - This is the ability to teach deep truths so that many understand.

Faith - The ability to persevere in the face of great adversity. Some are easily blown about in a sea of doubt, but others have a steadfast anchor, which can be used to moor others to the truth.

Healing - Either the ability to understand medicine better than most, or more probably to pray for sickness and have better than average results. It is not God's will that you are healthy and wealthy, because he uses the opposite for his glory, but there are definitely no lack of stories of people being healed through prayer. It is said that Charles Spurgeon had this gift and that 3 out of 4 people he prayed for got better. He always sought to point people at eternal healing rather than temporal healing though.

Miracles - This is the working of power, doing things much bigger than seems possible.

Prophecy - This is the public proclamation of the Word of God. In the Old Testament prophets spoke new revelation, in the New Testament we speak revelation that has been given to us in the Bible.

Discernment - The ability to tell what is God glorifying and what is not. Here is a good point to pause and let you know that all of these should be sought and strived for, that they are gifts by the Spirit, but we can definitely grow them.

Hebrews 5:14 Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Tongues - The ability to speak other languages, to learn them easily. Anyone can learn a language, but some people have a supernatural gift to easily learn another language.

Interpretation - The ability to translate the one language into different languages. William Carey, a famous Baptist missionary to India, translated the New Testament into 27 languages, he had this gift.

Other gifts mentioned in the Bible are serving, exhortation, giving, mercy, and leadership.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 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. 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. 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? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 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." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 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, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And all of this is led by the head, who is Christ. Where the head goes, there goes the church, we follow him, he's leading us and working in us. Here is our major application, that as you grow into leaders it is absolutely imperative that you preach the true Jesus, because if you preach a squishy or lop-sided Jesus, your disciples will follow that error. You must strive to be good teachers, rightly representing the head of the church, so that the whole body will be healthy.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

And finally, we build this church, knowing that our labor is not in vain:

1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.