Worthy Worker (Part Two)

Please read 2 Timothy 2:14-26 in your Bible.

Pastor at the Construction Site_v03 (1)Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020

      I want to start by asking you to put on your thinking caps.  I’m going to read a variation of the classic “Trolley Problem” and ask you to record your response on your bulletin.

You are part of a seven man crew working on a section of railroad track.  You happen to be standing at a switch and notice that a out of control train barreling down the track. Directly ahead on the tracks are five of your coworkers who do not see the train that is headed straight for them. On a side track is one of your crewmates who has his back to the oncoming train.  There is no time to warn them as they’re all wearing noise-cancelling headphones.  If you pull the lever right next to you, the trolley will switch to the side track. You have two options:

  1. Do nothing and allow the train to kill the five people on the main track.
  2. Pull the lever, diverting the train onto the side track where it will kill one person.

You have to decide in a split second what to do.  What is the right thing to do?  Write a one or two on a piece of paper.  We will come back to this situation later.

For now, we’ll complete our look at being a Worthy Worker by observing that discerning right from wrong and choosing to do right is very much at heart of our worthiness.  God finds people of true faith to be useful to Him in the work of expanding His Kingdom.  This passage tells us how.

Our aim is to be worthy workers.

  1. Two examples of unworthy workers. (16-19)

Be alert: evil can grow in a church just as it can anywhere.  In v. 16, Paul warned THOSE WHO INDULGE IN [GODLESS CHATTER] GROW MORE AND MORE UNGODLY.  GODLESS CHATTER feeds negativity and encourages divisive sins of the tongue like gossip, complaining, and back-biting.  As we said in part one, CHATTER may sound harmless, but it is not.  It results in greater ungodliness.

In v. 17, Paul wrote that UNGODLY TEACHING WILL SPREAD LIKE GANGRENE.  GANGRENE is a flesh-rotting disease (one form of which is fatal in 48 hours), so Paul could hardly have chosen a more repulsive image to describe the effect of UNGODLY TEACHING.  He identified two people who were among the UNGODLY in Timothy’s church: HYMANAEUS and PHILETUS.  Who were these people?

In 1 Timothy 1:20 Hymaneus was one of two people whom Paul HANDED OVER TO SATAN TO BE TAUGHT NOT TO BLASPHEME (Alexander was the other).  This probably meant they were put out of the church in Ephesus for serious errors in their teaching.  PHILETUS is not named in 1 Timothy 1:20, nor anywhere else in the Bible.   He apparently joined Hymaneus and Alexander in their error and suffered the same penalty.  Putting them out of the church is somewhat similar to the treatment for GANGRENE; surgical removal of the bad tissue, usually in the form of amputation.  For the survival of the body, the bad parts have to be cut off.

Their sin was to HAVE WANDERED AWAY FROM THE TRUTH.  The word WANDERED is an unfortunate choice for translation of the Greek word that means “missed the mark, deviated, or went astray.”  “Wandered” allows for an accidental deviation when Hymaneus and Philetus chose to believe an error, and worse, talked others into believing the same error.

Specifically, their false teaching was stating THAT THE RESURRECTION HAS ALREADY TAKEN PLACE.  Paul does not explain their false teaching, merely noting that it attacked the most central teaching of the Christian faith: resurrection.  (See 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, where Paul vigorously defends the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our personal resurrection, and the importance of these doctrines.)  What they did with this false teaching and how many people were taken in by it are details we are not meant to know.  It is sufficient for us to know that it was false and that it had a negative effect on the church in Ephesus.

The effect of their falsehood was to DESTROY THE FAITH OF SOME.  The word DESTROY can also be translated as “overturn.”  It meant that the false teaching had so affected some people that they ceased to believe the truth.  The health of the entire church was threatened, even though only SOME of the members fell in with Hymaneus and Philetus.

The good news is, though evil people and other circumstances can challenge our faith, the FOUNDATION God has set remains SOLID.  This FOUNDATION is the undeniable facts of God’s existence and His reward of those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

There are two promises of God’s protection of His people.  These promises are etched in the foundation like a cornerstone.

The first promise: THE LORD KNOWS THOSE WHO ARE HIS (Numbers 16:5).  God knows false teachers like Hymanaeus, Alexander, and Philetus.  While they may fool SOME of the people some of the time, they never fool God. God also knows everyone whose faith is real and based on the truth.  Remain faithful, and He will help you overcome and reward you when you do.

EVERYONE WHO CONFESSES THE NAME OF THE LORD MUST TURN FROM ALL WICKEDNESS. Here Paul paraphrased Numbers 16:26.  Though we do not do good in order to be saved, we do good in order to demonstrate our salvation, the change Jesus has made in our lives. A commitment to discipleship is part of the faith that saves.  As we learned again last week, turning away from wickedness is half of being a worthy worker.  The other half is pursuing good. Sometimes TURNING FROM ALL WICKEDNESS involves separating ourselves from people and sometimes it requires us to avoid places or circumstances that tempt us to do wrong.

  1. An illustration with household items. (20-21)

Paul contrasted two kinds of household items.  In order to understand the illustration, we must first see the LARGE HOUSE is as a symbol of the world in which we live.  In this world, people are either living for the Lord or not.  God made all of them, but not all of the people in the world are useful for God’s purposes. In many of our homes, we have one set of dishes for special occasions and another set for everyday use.  All the dishes are useful for serving food, but some of them are reserved for special uses.  The contrast between noble and ignoble ARTICLES (pots, bottles, pans, etc.) is a contrast of spiritual status and resulting usefulness to God.

The ones used for NOBLE PURPOSES are made of GOLD AND SILVER.  They are less numerous but more valuable in the sight of the Lord.  In the world, some people are “gold and silver” because they have faith and are obedient to God’s will.  Timothy is an example of a “noble article.”

The ones used for IGNOBLE purposes are made of WOOD AND CLAY.  These are common, worldly, and less valuable pieces.  They are not useful to God because they refuse faith and practice disobedience.  Hymenaeus, Alexander and Philetus are examples of “ignoble articles.”

Paul used similar imagery in Romans 9:21 = DOES NOT THE POTTER HAVE THE RIGHT TO MAKE OUT OF THE SAME LUMP OF CLAY SOME POTTERY FOR NOBLE PURPOSES AND SOME FOR COMMON USE?  The phrase THE SAME LUMP OF CLAY indicates that we share a common humanity.  Tragically, we do not share a common destiny.  As Jesus observed in Matthew 7:13-14, there will always be more people who do not refuse faith and service to the Lord.

Like a handy kitchen gadget, a follower of Jesus becomes a fit INSTRUMENT FOR NOBLE PURPOSES when he has, with God, cleansed himself from IGNOBLE PURPOSES.  NOBLE refers to doing what God has called you to do.  It is NOBLE to be obedient to God.  IGNOBLE refers to doing what you selfishly want to do, or what the world wants you to do; all kinds of disobedience.  Moreover, IGNOBLE refers to sinful acts because Paul wrote that the worthy worker must be CLEANSED of it before he is useful to the MASTER.

Having been cleansed, the worker is MADE HOLY and is thereby USEFUL TO THE MASTER AND PREPARED TO DO ANY GOOD WORK.  In this world household items never CLEANSE themselves (wouldn’t it be great to have dishes that washed themselves?!) and neither do people – not on their own, anyway.  God cleanses us from sin and its effects, but He waits for us to repent and ask His forgiveness.

This cleansing is part of what Paul means when he says we are to be MADE HOLY.  Moral purity is part of holiness and the other part is being set apart from worldly and ungodly things to spiritual maturity and godliness.

People who are MADE HOLY are then USEFUL to God, just as clean pots & pans are useful to a cook.  People who are MADE HOLY are PREPARED TO DO ANY GOOD WORK.  Truly good works begin with holiness.

Our aim is to be worthy workers.

      Let’s return to the train problem.  You may be interested to know that this is not merely an intellectual exercise, In 2003 Union Pacific dispatchers in Los Angeles, CA had to make a decision very much like this one.

Did you choose #1?  Five people are dead.

Did you choose #2?  Only one person is dead and you are among the 90% of people who made this choice when presented with this problem.

Did you make no choice or want to know more about the six people on the tracks before deciding?  Then five people are dead because you hesitated too long at the switch.  Not deciding is making a decision.

My point here is that everything you’ve done, every choice you’ve made, everything you believe goes into making that decision about the switch.  Life doesn’t always conveniently present us with choices that include a lot of time for research and weighing out values and deciding on priorities.

Spiritually maturing people will know God’s leading before the train starts barreling down the tracks.  They will have studied the word, been faithful in prayer, and experienced in good deeds.  In so doing, they will have replaced sinful instincts with godly ones and are better equipped to do, as Paul promised, every good work.

 

RESOURCES:

Zondervan Bible Commentary, Alan G. Nute

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, #11, Ralph Earle

A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Walter Bauer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem

 

False-hearted or True-hearted?

 

Get and keep the kind of heart God has for you.

Do you remember the flap caused a couple months ago when President Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway used the term “alternative facts?”  No?  Most of the rest of us have forgotten about that tempest in a teapot, but let me remind you briefly what happened.

While appearing on Meet the Press on January 22, 2017, Ms. Conway defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s exaggerations of the attendance at the inauguration, Conway stated that Spicer was giving “alternative facts”.  The media, still red-faced at Trump’s election victory, went ballistic.  One of the chief critics of Ms. Conway was former CBS Dan Rather, who you will recall was fired for making up his own set of “alternative facts” about George Bush.  More than a little hypocrisy?

One amusing side note: Rather compared “alternative facts” to the word “newspeak,” created as another name for “propaganda” by writer George Orwell in his book “1984.”  Three days later sales of “1984” had increased 9,500%, making it the number-one seller on Amazon.com.

What may surprise you is the phrase “alternative facts” is similar to a phrase used in Trump’s 1987 book, Trump: The Art of the Deal. There “truthful hyperbole” was defined as “an innocent form of exaggeration—and… a very effective form of promotion.” The book claimed “people want to believe that something is the biggest and the greatest and the most spectacular.” The ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, said he coined that phrase and claimed that Trump “loved it.”

I’m not here to praise or put down anyone except those who have the hypocrisy to pretend to be offended at somebody else’s lies when they tolerate their own or their favored politician’s.  That’s adding a lie to a lie.

I could joke about politicians and lying, but it’s too easy and distracts us from the point.  People can and do lie.  It should not be tolerated, but it seems pretty inevitable, given human nature and the current ethical condition of our culture.

The worst lies are the ones we tell ourselves.  They can set us up with a false security, insensitivity to the truth that can blind us to our need for healing.  Lies that lodge in the human heart are the hardest to dislodge.

BUT – the truth and only the whole truth – will set us free.  The One who is never deceived by the most sincere-sounding, heart-held lies is God.  Hebrews 4:12 says that His word exposes the inner-most parts of a human being, we cannot lie to Him.

We need to stop lying to ourselves and approach God with complete honesty and complete dependence on Him.  Only in the truth can we be saved.  We obey Him by holding the truth in our hearts as our highest priority.

  1. No one can please God with a False Heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10).

Context = God gave Jeremiah messages to His people while they were held captive in Babylon.  These messages explained their punishment and promised them restoration.  Bringing these messages cost Jeremiah a great deal personally.  Chapters 16+17 develop Jeremiah’s unhappiness.

Comment = We can be deceived, but God cannot.  We can deceive ourselves and be deceived by others.  Jeremiah was not deterred from telling the truth by his depressed feelings and thoughts.

THE HEART IS DECEITFUL.  In 17:1, he wrote that the sins of Judah were engraved on THE TABLETS OF THEIR HEARTS.  The word “heart” is used more than 50 times in Jeremiah.  This word picture shows, as he does again in verse 20, that the guilty people of God could not escape the truth; their hearts betrayed their guilt.  The word translated as DECEITFUL can also mean “tortuous” or “crooked.”  We complicate matters to suit us, to obscure the truth.  The people of Judah, for example, turned 10 Commandments into 650+ laws, complicating matters so thoroughly that the average person didn’t bother trying to keep the Law.

In our culture, we see the “heart” as the place of emotions while the “head” is the seat of reason.  In biblical culture, both of these inner aspects of human life are assumed to reside in the HEART.

ABOVE ALL THINGS.  Since the HEART is the origin of actions, the source of our attitudes and decisions, it can be rightly said to be the most evil thing.  (Exception: Satan?)  God wants us to know and feel how desperately wicked is the HEART that keeps God out.  People are increasingly rejecting the doctrine of hell because they are willfully ignoring how the human heart is DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS.

BEYOND CURE.  The word here is “sick,” so it is rightly translated as BEYOND CURE.  “Deathly ill” or “mortally wounded” might be a good English equivalent.

All of this to say this: a fundamental part of our faith is the problem of sin.  Sin is universal: every human heart is stricken with it; the only exception is Jesus.  Sin is BEYOND our ability to CURE it.  We cannot be good enough to merit a relationship with God or to solve our problem.  We need God to save us; that’s where Jesus Christ comes in.  Without first admitting personal ownership of the problem of sin, we cannot be saved.  We never get over ourselves.

WHO CAN UNDERSTAND IT?  No one but God knows the depths to which any heart can sink into sin or rise to righteousness.  To obtain what understanding we can grasp, we need two things indicated in this passage:

This verse conveys an essential truth about human nature.  We are prone to self-deception.  We need people close enough to us to help us see things that are invisible to us because of our self-deception.

There is a legitimate need for “emotional intelligence;” knowledge of emotions & their effect on us.  The more we know about people in general, the better chance we have of knowing ourselves.

Now, we go from anthropology to theology proper, stating no one can deceive God.  God sees beneath the surface.

I THE LORD SEARCH THE HEART.  The situation is desperate but not hopeless.  God is our hope.  He knows every human heart and judges in perfect justice.  For what is He searching?  For every evidence of faith.  For true commitment to Him.

AND EXAMINE THE MIND.  This word has also been translated as “bowels” or “kidneys.”  It refers to the inner person without being literal or scientific about the organs involved.  It can also be translated as “hidden depths,” the parts of a person that cannot be directly observed, only indirectly through their actions.  These “hidden depths” are not hidden to God.  As the writer of HBS wrote; “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  (Hebrews 4:13)

God rewards each person according to what He sees them doing.  Two phrases develop this.

REWARD EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO THEIR CONDUCT.  CONDUCT and DEEDS are the external manifestations of our internal priorities.  This is not to say that attitudes have no moral relevance, but is in line with biblical teaching that a person’s deeds are reflections of their nature.

ACCORDING TO WHAT THEIR DEEDS DESERVE restates the truth to indicate emphasis.  These verses are a warning to everyone who falsely claims faith in God and a promise to everyone who truly serves him.

  1. God is pleased with hearts that are entirely true to Him (Acts 11:19-24).

Context = Barnabas is an example of someone with a true heart for God.

Comment = God blessed the ministries of Barnabas and the early church for their true hearts.

God blessed the church in Antioch (19-22).  Antioch was near a large and ornate garden in which a temple to Daphne was located.  This was a center for culture and vice and became a byword for immorality.  In light of this history, it’s a work of God that this city became important to Christianity.  It was here followers of Jesus were first called “Christians;” it was the birthplace of missions to non-Jewish peoples (Acts 13:2), and the place where the Apostle Paul got his start in ministry (Galatians 2:11-13).  As verse 19 explains, Antioch was one of the places to which Christians fled when the persecution of the Church in Jerusalem got too hot.  In Acts 11:21, God’s blessing of the church is revealed by two expressions: THE HAND OF THE LORD WAS WITH THEM and A GREAT NUMBER OF PEOPLE BELIEVED AND TURNED TO THE LORD.

But the Mother Church in Jerusalem still held influence over the new churches.  When they heard that non-Jews had come to believe in Jesus too, the leaders decided to send Barnabas to check it out (22).

It’s hard to over-emphasize the historic importance of these events.  The first Christians considered their faith to be the fulfillment of Judaism.  Including non-Jews in the Church was not something they’d planned. The book of Acts records the Church’s difficult adjustment to this revolutionary concept.

Barnabas called on the believers to be true-hearted to the Lord (23).  Acts 4:36-37 mentions Barnabas as a particularly generous believer who sold his land and donated the proceeds to the Church.  “Barnabas” is a nickname that meant “Son of Encouragement.”  Acts 9:27 shows Barnabas standing with Paul when others doubted the sincerity of his conversion to Christianity.

After looking the situation over, Barnabas decided the outreach to non-Jews was a godly thing and was happy to see God at work.  Note the only instruction Barnabas gave them: TO REMAIN TRUE TO THE LORD WITH ALL THEIR HEARTS.  TRUE in this case refers to loyalty and honesty.   We can’t fool the Lord anyway, so we must be honest with Him and with ourselves.

God blessed the ministry of Barnabas (24).  Barnabas was praised as A GOOD MAN, FULL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT AND FAITH.  The church in Antioch would later commission Barnabas and Paul to go start new churches, reaching out to non-Jewish peoples (Acts 12:25-13:3).  His own ministry in Antioch resulted in several people being saved: A GREAT NUMBER OF PEOPLE WERE BROUGHT TO THE LORD.  Both Barnabas and the church in Antioch were important to the Lord’s work because their hearts were wholly and truthfully devoted to the Lord.

There’s an old joke which goes, “Today my parents read the new book I am writing.  They said the main character was not likeable.  It was an autobiography.”

While that is a little amusing, it’s a little uncomfortable too.  Sometimes we worry that people would reject us if they really knew us.  That becomes a reason to keep them at arm’s length, hide our inner self away and put on a false front.

The comedian Groucho Marx said, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
<Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/grouchomar128465.html on 3/24/17.>

The good news is, God has given us the truth in His word and His Son.  We don’t have to guess or make it up ourselves.  He has given us our church family to help us live with true hearts.  Let’s not make this more complicated by being false in any way.  A heart for God is only a true heart.

The Original ‘No Spin Zone’

(Please read 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 in your preferred version of the Bible.  I have cited the NIV below.)

The truth is better than ‘spin.’

“Spin” is a slang word that describes an attempt to change someone’s feelings about a thing by changing the words you use to describe or designate it.  It is a favorite tactic of the “politically correct” crowd – the “secular orthodox” – to influence public opinion.  (Have you noticed people don’t “think” anymore, they “feel?”)

It works on people who don’t think for themselves.  Here’s an example in a story told by Anne Watson.

Her great uncle Ed was a country lawyer by day and a moonshiner by night.  One day, a man came to Ed’s office and asked for his help with a criminal case – the sheriff had charged him with theft for stealing a pig.

“Oh,” said Ed.  “Did you do it?”

“Yeah,” his new client answered.

“OK,” Ed said, thinking.  “Where is the pig now?”

“In my smokehouse.  I got no money to pay for it.”

“Give me half the pig,” Ed said, “and I’ll get you off.”

This was done that night and the next morning, Ed and the pigstealer appeared in court.  When the charge was read, Ed’s defense consisted of the following statement; “Yer Honor, they ain’t any more of that pig in this man’s smokehouse than there is in mine!”

Making a lie more acceptable is what “spin” is about.

The prevailing culture in America is very dependent on spin.  Part of the problem is that spin is being used to widen the gap between the culture and the Church.  The influence the culture exerts on the Church is growing as critics and skeptics become louder and bolder.  What are we doing?

On the one hand, the Church has resorted to “spin,” the practice of hiding unbiblical teaching behind deceptive language.  Some churches have bought into the new orthodoxy of political correctness and have tried to hide the fact by pasting churchy-sounding words on the outside or adapting biblical concepts to approve their agenda.

Other churches have done the opposite – they have retreated into traditions and legalism, angrily rejecting all change and avoiding any dialogue.  The anti-church elements of our culture love this response.  Why?  If they get the Church to appear more antique and ill-mannered or force it to withdraw entirely, they have succeeded in silencing her.

What are we to do?  This has been on my mind and heart more than usual this week.  This morning I want to suggest a response to you, one that avoids either of the two extremes that are killing the Church in America.

In short, I suggest that the most precious thing the Church has to offer our communities and our country is Jesus Christ.  Every dialogue, every confrontation, every collision, is an opportunity to tell unbelievers the good news about Jesus.

There are two things we must do.

One, keep it simple.  Don’t allow the truth to be killed by qualifications or complicated by compromises.

Two, keep it true. Firstly, that means true to the Bible.  Without apology, the Bible is our objective but personal revelation of what is absolutely true.  The culture wants to deny that absolute truth exists.  We will not allow that.

Secondly, that means true to the social context.  As we will see, there are a set of appropriate and effective behaviors in the context of the Church and another set in the context of the world; they are slightly different.  Context also takes in our immediate surroundings and the persons involved.  This is not complicated, but it does require some sensitivity and benefits from some forethought.

Fortunately, we have an example set by the Apostle Paul.  He sets forth this position in 1 Corinthians 2, where he wrote to a troubled church and explained in plain terms what he intended to do with them.  Let’s take a look.

  1. The Apostle Paul dealt in the truth alone.

What Paul wanted to avoid was diluting the Gospel by resorting to spin doctoring.  He wrote, I DID NOT COME WITH what we might call worldly words or wits.  Paul explained this decision in three ways, the first being ELOQUENCE (1).  This is personal social power, interpersonal assertiveness accomplished with word plays and/or charisma.  He vowed not to rely on SUPERIOR WISDOM (1): rhetorical tricks or lies, exercises of mental assertiveness.  Finally, Paul eschewed  WISE AND PERSUASIVE WORDS (4), which can be understood as reliance on learning, reputation, education.  This is Paul’s advocacy for the purity and simplicity of the Gospel, not for “dumbing down” the intellectual content of the Gospel.

Instead, Paul told the Corinthians the plain truth.  This claim is also developed in three parts.  First, I PROCLAIMED…THE TESTIMONY ABOUT GOD (1).  This was Paul’s personal testimony of what God has done in his life and what he’d witnessed in the churches.  Second, I RESOLVED TO KNOW NOTHING… EXCEPT JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED (2).  This is a matter of keeping our focus where it belongs: on Jesus.  Third, he came to them WITH A DEMONSTRATION OF THE SPIRIT’S POWER (4); he had relied on God’s power, not his own.  There are at least three ways the Holy Spirit’s power is revealed in the personal experience of followers of Jesus.

“Conviction” is the work of the Holy Spirit on unbelievers to convince them of their sin and their need for repentance and salvation.

“Salvation” is the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.  It was accomplished in Jesus’ sacrifice and fully rendered in the empty tomb.

“Sanctification” is the work of the Holy Spirit on believers to draw them into deeper spiritual maturity; to make them more like Jesus Christ.

In this way, Paul demonstrated humility and focused on Jesus, not himself.  Here the Apostle used a pair of phrases.  The first is WEAKNESS (3). In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul referred fondly to his weaknesses as opportunities for God to demonstrate His strength.  The second is FEAR AND MUCH TREMBLING (3), a

common biblical phrase for trust in God, not self.

Do these two personal descriptions sound anything like the feelings you have when you think of witnessing or standing up for your faith?  If so, you’re in good company!  The Apostle Paul felt that way too.  Remember, it’s not about you anyway.  It’s about God in you!

Interestingly, Paul’s detractors said the similar things about him.  We learn this from the way he addressed their accusations in 2 Corinthians 10:10; FOR SOME SAY, “HIS LETTERS ARE WEIGHTY AND FORCEFUL, BUT IN PERSON HE IS UNIMPRESSIVE AND HIS SPEAKING AMOUNTS TO NOTHING.”  I guess they didn’t read the first letter, especially this passage.  The truth is, Paul could have preached assertively, exercising his obvious intellect.  Instead, he chose to preach the way he did so that he would not undermine the security of their conversion. This approach is in continuity with his teaching in the previous chapter: 1CT 1:27. BUT GOD CHOSE THE FOOLISH THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE WISE; GOD CHOSE THE WEAK THINGS OF THE WORLD TO SHAME THE STRONG.

Paul affirmed that the Gospel, all by itself, has the power to change lives.  It needs no adornment.  He explained his preaching and leadership style as having this objective: SO THAT YOUR FAITH MIGHT NOT REST ON MEN’S WISDOM, BUT ON GOD’S POWER (5).  If you and I do what we can do, we get the glory, but it’s not as big a deal.  If you and I do what only God can do, God gets the glory and it’s always a big deal.  Faith founded on a person is shaky; faith founded on God is steady.

As the apostle affirmed Romans 1:16, I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THE GOSPEL, BECAUSE IT IS HE POWER OF GOD FOR THE SALVATION OF EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES: FIRST FOR THE JEWS, THEN FOR THE GENTILE.  Any statement is more likely to be true if it points people back to God; if it glorifies Him.

  1. In our collisions with contemporary culture, we must stand on the truth alone.

What do we have to offer to the world around us?  Nothing less than the truth and nothing more than the truth.  The truth we have to offer is this: Jesus Saves Sinners.  Skeptics and critics will try to disprove or disavow any one of these three truths, but compromise here makes faith false.

How do we offer t truth to the world around us?  Two ways: in context and in compassion.

Paying attention to context can mean asking, “Which kingdom are we in? We are, first and foremost, citizens of God’s Kingdom.

Our primary behavior is love.

Our code of conduct is the Bible.

The aim of our code is to help each other find God.

Within our walls, we encourage discussion but don’t tolerate division or interference.  Differences of opinion must be resolved on the testimony of the Bible by means of the Holy Spirit.  Individuals submit to the authority of God as determined by the church as a whole.

We are, secondarily, citizens of the United States.

Our primary behavior is civility: mutual respect.

The code of conduct is the law.

The aim of the code is justice; equal opportunity to decide our own outcome and jointly decide the outcome of the country.

We realize that our American culture is an immigrant culture and as such it is always in tension, always being redefined.  Our faith, however, does not have be lead around by our culture.  We don’t have to submit to the latest trends and follow their fads.  When culture and law contradict God’s word, we stand firm on God’s word.  As Paul did, we stand firm on the word of God.  Whenever outsiders demand compromise, compliance, or silence, we must decide with Peter and John that it is better to obey God rather than men (see Acts 4:18).

In regard to compassion: start with positivity & love.  Note Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman: He established a conversation and began a relationship before He confronted her sin (see John 4).  Paul and the people of Athens (see Acts 17).  He used one of their landmarks as a symbol of what was wrong with their godless culture and presented Jesus as the solution to the problem they denied having.

Remember this universal statement of human nature: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Peggy Noonan was a speech-writer for President Ronald Reagan and has remained an advocate for conservative politics to this day.  Way back in 1992 she wrote an opinion piece for Forbes magazine entitled, “You’d Cry Too if it Happened to You.”  I heard this portion of the article quoted on the radio last week. It impacted me, so I looked it up on the Internet to share it with you.

“We have all had a moment when all of a sudden we looked around and thought: The world is changing, I am seeing it change. This is for me the moment when the new America began: I was at a graduation ceremony at a public high school in New Jersey. It was 1971 or 1972. One by one a stream of black-robed students walked across the stage and received their diplomas. And a pretty young girl with red hair, big under her graduation gown, walked up to receive hers. The auditorium stood up and applauded. I looked at my sister: ‘She’s going to have a baby.’

“The girl was eight months pregnant and had had the courage to go through with her pregnancy and take her finals and finish school despite society’s disapproval.

“But: Society wasn’t disapproving. It was applauding. Applause is a right and generous response for a young girl with grit and heart. And yet, in the sound of that applause I heard a wall falling, a thousand-year wall, a wall of sanctions that said: We as a society do not approve of teenaged unwed motherhood because it is not good for the child, not good for the mother and not good for us.

“The old America had a delicate sense of the difference between the general (‘We disapprove’) and the particular (‘Let’s go help her’). We had the moral self-confidence to sustain the paradox, to sustain the distance between ‘official,’ disapproval and ‘unofficial’ [service]. The old America would not have applauded the girl in the big graduation gown, but some of its individuals would have helped her not only materially but with some measure of emotional support. We don’t so much anymore. For all our tolerance and talk we don’t show much love to what used to be called girls in trouble. As we’ve gotten more open-minded we’ve gotten more closed-hearted.”

<Retrieved from http://www.peggynoonan.com/47/ on 4/29/16.>

Noonan’s point is that in becoming more “tolerant,” our culture has become less caring.  We spread our approval further but have become miserly with our love.

I mention this to restate the point of this message: The truth is better than ‘spin.’ To love in deed and in fact is better than loving in words.  And THAT is what the Church has to offer that the world does not have.  TRUE LOVE.