This text is related to a portion of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in which he is teaching about gifts, supernatural experiences and spiritual manifestations among the believers. Some believers were elevating certain gifs and experiences over others, and so Paul is writing to preserve the unity of the church by laying down some basic principles regarding spiritual gifts and their use. The larger argument goes on for three chapters, and you would do well to study it, understand and apply it , but for today, I just want to focus on a couple of principles.
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As I look at you today, late in the year 2017, I see many of you struggling in the faith, weak and weary, and it makes me wonder, “Is Christ enough?” Is Christ enough to save you? Is Christ enough to free you? Is Christ enough to deal with your sins? To satisfy God’s justice? To satisfy us? Is Christ enough?
Is Christ enough when you’ve let down your wife and your kids again? Is Christ enough when you’ve lost your temper? Is Christ enough when you close that computer browser after failing once again in the battle against lust? Is Christ enough when you are just so tired and feel that you can’t go on? Is Christ enough when someone has hurt you and you don’t know if you can forgive?
Sometimes the church doesn’t help. I know this. Yes, we proclaim that Christ is enough, but then we create a church culture in which we grade one another and ourselves on our performance and our pursuits, if not at times even our perfection. And I know that some of you leave church more weary and more burdened and feeling more condemned than when you came. We build a church culture in which our work for God so eclipses God’s work for us, that the message of the gospel is practically minimized and obscured, and we begin to form the secret conviction (though we would never say this) that Christ is not enough.
As I have done this series, five truths from the reformation to stand on, I’ve been investigating the controversy that split the church 500 years ago. And today we come to our 4th “Alone” phrase, “In Christ Alone.” The more I study the reformation and understand the practice and theology of the Catholic church, the more I am convinced that this is a truth that needs to be not only understood, but embraced, and set in our hearts at the deepest convictional level: that my salvation is found in Christ alone. That there is rest for my soul, because Jesus paid it all. Because he is enough.
As I’ve already said, as Christians we receive as one the benefits of knowing God, the assurance that the universe has a purpose, that life has meaning and that our individual and collective lives are being lived in fulfillment of God’s intent for us. “We are,” the scripture says, “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Yet its not only the sense of overriding meaning and purpose that God gives to our lives, but also, as we are part of the Body of Christ, we become part of God’s mission in the world, to exalt his Son Jesus Christ in every corner of the globe, and to seek and save a people for himself from every nation. He shares this mission with His Son, when He sent Him into the world, and His Son then shares that same mission with us: “As the Father has sent me”, He said, so now i send you”, and in the very first chapter of the book of Acts, the book we’ve been studying, Jesus gathered the disciples around him and told them, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to all the ends of the earth.” So we, the church, the called out people of God, are given not only a purpose, but a mission.
The first major section of Acts was to set in front of us the Jerusalem church as a model church, a church for all ages. The second major section of Acts was to demonstrate for us the new people that God is calling us to become, a church for all people. This section is not focused around a specific church or a specific city, but the focus of these chapters is the mission itself - we now see the church fulfilling the words of Jesus that we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
We are being sent to a new mission field - does that mean that we need to change our message? You hear this a lot in ministry, "If we want to reach people, we need to adjust the message to match our modern sensibilities." They were saying this 100 years ago. "Modern man doesn’t believe in these myths." The german school of theology sought to de-mythologize the texts. Theological liberalism battled the fundamentalists in the early 1900’s but while they won some of the seminaries like Harvard and Princeton, they lost the pews. 20 years ago it was John Shelby Spong, “Why Christianity Must change or Die” meaning why we must rid ourselves of the surface meaning of the texts of Scripture and our tradition and find the deeper truer truths - which of course were the same ones of the theological liberals 100 years before. In the past decade you have Brian McClaren’s “A New Kind of Christianity”. Today, you have calls for the church to change its sexual ethics, and emphasize the red-letter social justice-y parts of the Bible and not focus so much on the individual sin, and heaven and hell stuff. All of these movements sought to rebrand Christianity and repaint it in the image of the modern ethic. Amazingly, even though the stated motivation of each of these movements was to save the church for the next generation, each of these movements shared one thing in common, and that is … I’ll tell you at the end of the sermon.
What marks a genuine believer? Sometimes its hard to tell. I see you are at church but I don’t know your homes, your thoughts, your heart. Luke doesn’t record everything about the Jerusalem church for us, so what he does record is significant for us. Luke highlights the two things in the passage were looking at today, the generosity and the integrity of the Jerusalem church.
Heb. 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
Why join a church? The Book of Hebrews draws to a close with a description of the New Covenant Community, and a prescription that those who are called by the Lord be in community with one another in local churches.