Friday, July 31, 2015

5 Parting Commands

1 Corinthians 16:13-14 – 5 parting commands
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

Though skeptical of his son’s newfound determination to build bulging muscles, dad followed his teenager to the store’s weightlifting department, where they stood - admiring a new set of weights.  

“Please dad?!?!” begged the teen, “I promise I’ll use them EVERY day.”
“I don’t know son…it’s a pretty big commitment on your part…a commitment I’m not sure you are prepared to make,” dad answered.
“Puhleeeeeeze?!?!”
“They aren’t CHEAP either,” dad answered.
“I’ll use ‘em, Dad, I promise.  You’ll see.”
Finally won over, the father paid for the equipment and headed for the door.  

After a few steps he heard his son protest, “What?!?!  You mean I've got to carry them to the car?!?!”





It’s human nature, I suppose, to speak words of commitment so easily, but to forget we have to “carrying them to the car.”




Words, though powerful, are worthless without DEEDS attached to them.  Commitment is meaningless without the CONDUCT to back it up.  No matter what the devil tells you - Intentions are NOT just as good as ACTIONS.  

Nowhere is this DISCONNECT more common than church.
Over the course of 15 chapters, Paul has shown the Corinthians how their conduct betrayed the commitment they made when they professed faith in Christ.  

It was a hard letter to write.  No one enjoys confrontation.  

But for 15 chapters, Paul, with a heart of love, has not spared the rod of correction.  Even chapter 13, that great dissertation of love, was offered as a rebuke to the self-centered Corinthians.
It was his love for for Jesus… for THEM … and for a lost and dying world that motivated him to say these hard things to a church that was destroying its credibility in the community.
So, Paul brings his letter to a close by giving them 5 commands that sum up everything he intended to communicate in the previous 15 chapters.
1.  First, he tells them to WAKE UP!  Notice verse 13, “Be watchful!”  It is a Greek exclamation - “BE ALERT!”  It is a word that is used 22 different times in the NT to challenge Christians to be spiritually focused, as opposed to distracted, or even worse, indifferent.  

WAKE UP!!!




Paul couldn’t be MORE relevant.  Even a casual reading of 1st Corinthians reveals they were asleep.  They had substituted human reason for God’s Word.  They had reverted back to the sinful habits of their past – rather than growing in the grace and knowledge of God.  They had become argumentative and self-indulgent.  AND the DAMAGE caused by this haphazard approach to Christianity was irreparable.  

It was time they woke up!




Christians TODAY need to wake up too.  A lot can be lost when God’s people don’t take their calling seriously - when they are more focused on pleasing SELF than they are Christ.  Not only do we miss opportunities to serve the Lord - but think of all those friends we know who are USING our hypocrisies as an excuse for rejecting the gospel.  Think about the regret we will experience when we stand before the Lord and are shown how our attempts at having fun and fitting in - cost someone we loved their eternal destiny.
Some Christians are too focused on themselves to SEE the harm being done to their family… wasting years of Christian influence chasing after success, entertainment, and comfort.  And when we finally DO come to our senses - we wonder why our children and grandchildren won’t have anything to do with the church.  

Like the OT character LOT, whose Sons-in-law laughed at his urgent pleas to flee Sodom before the judgment of God  fell - those who know us can’t hear the urgency of our message because of our hypocrisy.
For far too long we have been asleep.  It’s time to wake up!!!
The New Testament tells us of 6 things we are to watch for:
FIRST, we are told to watch for Satan.  Peter said in 1 Peter chapter 5, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Satan is out to destroy your life and all that you love – to rob you of joy and ruin your influence, and he will use every entrance you give him -  to press his advantage.  
We are to watch for Temptation.  As Jesus said to His disciples in Mark 14, “Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation.”  When we aren’t watching, we are most apt to be deceived by sin.  

Watching requires us to take into consideration the lasting harm that can be done to our testimony if we do this thing.  Watching causes us to look BEYOND short term gratification to the long term consequences of our disobedience … to think of the grief it brings our God, when we so eagerly participate in the very sins that nailed His Son to the cross.
We must watch for apathy… that creeping coolness that sometimes overtakes our spirit.  The Church at Sardis had it.  They thought they were doing everything right.  They had the appearance of vibrancy and activity, but were completely unaware how dead they really were.  Jesus said, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.

Apathy

You just don’t seem to care like you once did - your zeal for God has been replaced by OTHER interests… and you find yourself just going through the motions.




We are to watch for false teachers too.  Paul told Timothy, “For the time will come when they will NOT endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned unto fables.  BUT WATCH THOU IN ALL THINGS!”  Today’s airwaves are filled with deceivers whose messages tell us we can have a relationship with God on our terms... Without repentance.  People with no spiritual discernment fall right in behind these pied pipers in $5,000 italian suits.




Fifth, we are to watch in prayer – Jesus said “watch and pray.” Why is it that we can do almost ANYTHING BUT pray???  We SAY we don’t have time to pray and read our Bibles, but we have enough time to tell the whole world what we had for lunch yesterday on facebook and post countless selfies to show the world how proud of ourselves we are … but we just can’t spare 5 minutes with God.
And sixth, the NT teaches us to watch for our Lord’s return.  Jesus said in Matthew 24, “Therefore be on alert (there’s that word WATCH), for you do not know what day your Lord is coming.”  
"OK Bro. Mike!  WE GET IT!!  If we are going to be the Christians we need to be, it’s time to wake up!"  

Thank you

2.  Secondly, not only must we Wake up, he tells us to Stand Up!  Paul says, “stand firm in the faith.”  Stand up for what you believe in!  Christians today are far too timid – we are afraid “someone might call us radicals or make fun of our beliefs - bless our little hearts - “somebody might hurt our feelings.”  

So we stand silently by and watch our world burn.  




Through our passivity, we are losing the battle for the souls of men.  Stand up for the truth!  God’s Word is non negotiable.  “Compromise” should not be in your vocabulary when it comes to the things of God!

The Corinthians were afraid to take a Stand.  The more popular position was to be “open-minded.”  

Don’t be naïve.  You aren’t doing anybody any favors by watering-down the gospel.  You won’t win ANYBODY to Jesus without a clear and resolute message.  

Doctrine is not up for debate.  The teachings of Jesus aren’t subject to change.  The Bible unequivocally states that there is but ONE WAY to heaven – not MANY ways.  There is but ONE TRUTH – not MANY truths.  Stand up for it!
To fail to stand makes one susceptible to ALL KINDS of error.  You’ve heard the cliche, “If you don’t stand for SOMETHING you will FALL for ANYTHING?”  Whenever we try to be inclusive and inoffensive at the expense of truth, we are making a huge mistake.  There will always be people who are offended by the teachings of Christ and His Church.  “Stand firm!”
3.  Third, he tells us to Grow Up!Wake up, stand up, and GROW up  when he says, “act like men.”  

At least three different times in the course of our study, Paul has referred to the immaturity of the Corinthians.  In chapter 14 he pleaded with them to "stop being childish."  In chapter 3 he said, “I could not speak unto you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.”  And in chapter 4, he spoke of his need to discipline them as children, threatening, “shall I come to you with a rod?”  

The reason for their troubles as a church is that they were immature – they had failed to grow in the faith.  It's not that they were YOUNG but that they hadn't GROWN.
What ARE the telltale signs of immaturity?  What does it look like?
Those who are immature are Demanding.  Like babies who cry when their diaper is dirty, their stomach is empty, or when they are just plain bored and want you to entertain them...

immature believers disrespect their leaders and disrupt the harmony of the church because nothing is more important than how THEY feel!  

They only think of themselves.  They are impulsive and ignore the long term effects of their decisions.   They compromise their values to earn the praise of ungodly friends.  

They long to please people who don’t truly care about them and resist those who do.  

Paul says, “GROW UP!!!”
Do you have any childish tendencies?

How DO you grow OUT of those things??  

Here’s what you do – Get into God’s Word and let God’s Word get into you.  

Peter said, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word that ye may grow thereby.”  Paul added, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness THAT the man of God might be PERFECT (or spiritually mature)…”
God’s word will provide the nourishment you need for growth.  It’s TIME to grow up!




4.  Fourth he tells us to SHAPE UP when he says, “be strong!”  

Everyone admires strong people.  We respect athletes and sports stars for their physical abilities.
We admire those who are emotionally strong - who have endured incredible difficulties and yet have that sweet, unflappable disposition that proves they walk with God.
We like strong LEADERS – we can’t abide indecisiveness in a moment of crisis or leaders who back down in the face of evil.
We admire strength.  

And because of that, we often see people taking short-cuts to strength – like athletes who use steroids to build muscles QUICKLY  – and ruin their careers AND their health  because they thought more of the applause of men than integrity.  
Understand - there are no shortcuts to spiritual strength.  It requires putting God first everyday.  You must have MORE than a FLASH of zeal … MORE than brief glimpses of devotion.  Just like the serious athlete driven by his desire for excellence - the conscientious believer strives daily to become more like Christ.  

Like Paul told the Philippians, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  It’s time we Shape Up!
5.  And then finally, after urging us to Wake Up, Stand Up, Grow Up and Shape Up, he tells us to “Soften Up” - he says in verse 14, “Let all that you do ⇒ be done in love.

The church today is rejected by society because we often come across judgmental and harsh.  They aren’t “feeling” our love.

Now understand, being loving does NOT mean that we close our eyes to sin.  Not at all.  Sometimes the most loving thing a person can DO is to confront another in their sin.  But when the sinner only feels condemnation rather than compassion, we have failed.

Love will help us be FIRM without CRUSHING people.  It will keep our resoluteness from becoming rudeness.  Love will prevent us from being self-righteous and condescending.  That’s why Peter said in 1 Peter 4:8, “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.”
Don’t be petty!  Love binds us together in spite of our disagreements … it will help us forgive each other’s imperfections.  Love is the ONE QUALITY that sets the church apart from all other organizations. Jesus didn’t say the world would know us by how right we are or how big and elaborate our buildings are.  No, He said they will know us by our LOVE.
We ALL enjoy RECEIVING love.  We want others to forgive US when we blow it… to give us room to be human and still remain loyal.  

But are we extending  THAT same courtesy to others?
5 parting Commands:

Wake Up
Stand Up
Grow Up
Shape Up
and Soften Up.

Is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart about any of these??  What are you going to do about it?  


Don’t look at anybody else – look at yourself.  Would the Lord have you make some changes this morning?  We are going to give you that opportunity RIGHT NOW...