Last week we discussed the idea of what the church needs to be doing to grow like the church of the first century. One cannot read through Acts without seeing that the church grew by preaching the gospel to the lost; then by encouraging and exhorting one another to stay in the faith. The church began with prayer – and prayer is vital for the church so we remember that we are NOT in this by ourselves, but God is actively involved in helping us to do what he has commanded. So often we may become discouraged because we do not see result from our efforts (we will discuss this in the lesson this morning), and we must remember that God is with us. Then, we need to constantly put forth the effort (every one of us) to build one another up.
To do this, we need to see the VALUE OF EVERY PERSON. In Romans 14-15 Paul discusses the conflicts and disagreements brethren may have with one another in the church. Stronger brethren, who are more mature and have grown in their faith, may look down on brethren who are not as mature as they are, and wonder why some have not grown. Weaker brethren, who may look up to some of the stronger brethren, may be encouraged to sin against their conscience if they engage in a practice they believe is wrong, yet they see the other brother doing. So, Paul emphasizes that the stronger need to be willing to give up their rights (in this context, eating food sacrificed to idols) for the good of the weaker; the weaker do not need to judge the stronger on the basis of what they think is right or wrong. Paul said in Romans 14:15 “Yet if your brother is grieved because of your food, you are no longer walking in love. Do not destroy with your food the one for whom Christ died.”
Beloved, our brothers and sisters may be immature, they may be disagreeable, and they may be obnoxious – but remember that Jesus died for them as he died for you. WE ARE A FAMILY! When the enemy attacks, we need to close ranks and be there for one another. How valuable are you to God? How valuable is the person with whom you may disagree? What right do you or I have to hurt, discourage or denigrate a brother or sister in Christ? The answer is – “I don’t have that right.” Remember that they are as important to God and you or I.
In Romans 14:16-17 we then read, “Therefore do not let your good be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The essence of Christianity is not external but internal. If we focus on the things that are eternally important, we can put up with external faults and problems others may have.
How many churches have been split over trivial matters? Don’t be sidetracked by minor issues. STAY FOCUSED ON WHAT’S REALLY IMPORTANT! How often have we been upset about trivial things that will not make a difference in eternity? It is not about eating and drinking – but living righteous lives, having peace with God and others, and having joy in the relationship we have with God and others. Sometimes I (we) focus to much on the negative things said and done, and not enough on eternity. If we knew that we would die today, I guarantee you we would not be concerned about bills or anything else but making sure that we are where we need to be with God.
Doing Our Best: A Message for Older Christians
We have in our congregation some of the most wonderful older Christians imaginable. They inspire our faith by their dedication. We often see them attend services when they are in pain. They smile even when they hurt. They arrange all their plans around the services of the church. Even a Ladies’ Bible Class takes priority over personal plans; and visitors on Sunday are left at home, if necessary, so as not to conflict with their commitments to worship. Time and again we have seen their shining examples of faithfulness, and we delight in it.
There are others who are almost exactly the opposite. They have “retired” from God’s service. They project the attitude of “God will understand.” “Surely He does not expect faithfulness from me anymore.” They can go most anywhere else, but not to the services of the church. They break our hearts and discourage others by their bad examples. We are not nearly so concerned about what the church needs to do with them, as we are with what we fear God is going to do with them on Judgment Day. Out of concern for them, and to encourage the faithful, let us share these observations . . .
ONE . . . There is no retirement from God’s service. Death is the only release. Faithfulness to the end of life is required of us all (Matt 24:13).
TWO . . . If you can go anywhere, you can go to worship. Going to the grocery store and to visit friends is just as demanding as church services, and far less rewarding. You might be surprised at how good you would feel all week long, if only you will make a special effort to meet with fellow Christians in worship.
THREE . . . Being unable to attend every service does not excuse you from services you could attend. Truly God understands. He does not expect a thing beyond your ability. But He does expect your best. So, when you are unable to attend, do not feel a moment’s guilt because of it; but do not let it hinder you from returning the first time you do feel like it.
FOUR . . . Age may reduce your talents, but it will never eliminate all of them. It is remarkable what some Christians of advanced years are still doing in God’s service, and a card or call of encouragement may lift a troubled soul. A smile and a good example are priceless. Moreover, your own life will be richer because of what you do for others. Stay active doing what you can do for God and others.
FIVE . . . Age or infirmity must not become an excuse for unfaithfulness. Why, when you are so near that “other home,” will you risk it all by neglect? You must keep your faith strong, and you do that best through faithful attendance at the assemblies. In doing otherwise, you deprive yourself of spiritual strength.
SIX . . . You are preparing for your funeral now. What the preacher says over your body will not mean nearly as much as what other people –and God– remember about the way you really lived.
THINK ON THESE THINGS!
Bremen Bulletin 12/05/ 2018