jump to navigation

The Forgotten Couple (A Sunday Morning Sermon) October 21, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Acts, Jesus, Religion, Sermons, Teamwork.
add a comment

SERVANTS IN ACTS – AQUILA AND PRISCILLA – SERVING AS A FAMILY

Acts 18:24-28

 

When one reads the New Testament, it is striking how few couples are mentioned in the first century church. We find men, both married and single, who are prominent and we find women who are prominent in the church but we find very few couples. Of those few, Aquila and Priscilla, especially stand out.

 

There is something else that stands out in the New Testament and that is that there are very few instructions of family members. There is a reason for this. Paul and James and John and Peter and Luke and the other writers of the New Testament are writing to a larger family, the family of God, the body of Christ, the Church. Usually, they assumed that what they were writing to the church should be applied to the family. In fact, when they are writing to the family, we find that it is always in the context of the local church. We are not going to be able to look at these verses this morning but what we are going to do is look at Aquila and Priscilla and see what principles that were written to the church at large and how they practiced these principles as a couple.

 

In fact, that is why they seem to be singled out as a couple. They practiced the principles of God’s Word as a couple. They were of one mind in spiritual things. Certainly, this is the ideal for each and every one of us but if you are not able to be of one mind as a couple in spiritual things, it is still possible for you to apply the principles of the Word of God to your life that Aquila and Priscilla applied to their lives.

THIS COUPLE WAS HOSPITABLE.

They Exhibited The New Testament Principle of Hospitality to Strangers. That is the meaning of the word – “love strangers”. The Bible makes it clear that we are not to pull back from each other, even from those believers who we do not know. The leadership of the church is commanded both in 1 Timothy and Titus to be hospitable. Hospitality in the lives of Abraham and Lot and Rahab is shown to be signs of their faith in God. Paul included a passion for hospitality in the lives of the believer as a characteristic of a believer, who is a living sacrifice. A couple of times during the past two years we have preached on this subject. Have you applied what you have learned from God’s Word? Is your attitude toward people an attitude of love?

Now you may ask, what difference does it make? Why does it matter if I make it a point to talk to someone different every week at church? Why does it matter if I seek fellowship with those who are not my closest friends in the church? Why does it matter if I open up my home to visiting Christians? Why does it matter if I show spiritual interest in other people? What difference does it make if I visit or call those who cannot or do not show up at church on Sunday morning?

THE REAL “PILLARS” OF THE CHURCH 

Their Hospitality in Corinth to Paul (Acts 18:2) aided the establishment of the church. “When Paul first reached Corinth he was experiencing a great deal of discouragement.” At Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, Paul had preached the gospel and then was run out of the town. He went to Athens and the response was under whelming. He comes to Corinth, alone because he had sent Timothy and Silas to Thessalonica to make sure that they had remained in the faith. This couple took Paul in gave him work and gave him a home. They sustained him until such time that he was able to renew his strength and throw himself again fully into the work of preaching the gospel of Christ to the city of Corinth, which he did for the next year and a half. Who are you helping and encouraging so that they might be able to minister more effectively in the future?

Their Hospitality in Ephesus to Apollos (Acts 18:24-28) resulted in the transformation of a man. Aquila and Priscilla had moved to Ephesus with Paul and had remained there. Although they were Christians, they continued to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath and hear the Word of God. A visiting preacher by the name of Apollos came to town. This man was a powerful speaker and preached the message of John the Baptist and how that related to Jesus being the Messiah. That was the baptism to which he had committed himself. There was something, however, that was missing. Perhaps Apollos did not know about the resurrection of Christ. Maybe he was not aware that Jesus was not just the Messiah but God Himself. It is possible that he did not understand the implications of the cross. One thing is for sure, Aquila and Priscilla explained the missing component and Apollos was transformed.

Their Hospitality in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 6:19: “The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house.”) and in Rome (Romans 16:3-5b: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. Likewise greet the church that is in their house.) within the Church. Because they consistently and constantly hospitable, whether in Corinth or in Ephesus or in Rome, wherever they were they were open to the people of God and had a positive impact on others throughout the whole region of Asia Minor and Greece and Italy. Being hospitable next week will not make a difference. One time going out of your way to encourage a fellow believer has limited value. However, when you day in and day out show the love of God to others, you will have an impact beyond what you could ever do with finances and great gifts like preaching or teaching. One of the greatest needs of the church today might be a revival of love and hospitality among God’s people.

HOSPITALITY MEETS EMOTIONAL AND SPIRITUAL NEEDS. 

The two greatest emotions felt when people come to church are often fear and loneliness. Fear that they will be embarrassed and loneliness because no one seems to care whether they are there or not. A friendly church is not one where you greet the same people week after week with great joy. That is a “cliquey” church. If perfect love casts out fear, then let us show God’s love by casting out fear and loneliness through hospitality to others.

PARTNERS IN THE LORD’S WORK 

The New Testament Principle of Partnership in Ministry as shown by Their Move from Corinth to Ephesus (Acts 18:18) As Paul’s Fellow Workers (Romans 16:3). When you join a church, you become more than a member. You become a fellow worker. Now what is the task of the church. Reaching the world with the gospel. Everything that we do here is to have as its ultimate go the transformation of men and women, boys and girls through the message of Jesus Christ. That is the basis on which we be rewarded according to 1 Corinthians 3:5-15.

I am afraid that we sometimes misunderstand what it means to be rewarded when we stand before Christ. Just as it is impossible to do enough good works to please God and get Him to forgive us of our sins, it is impossible to do enough good deeds and to avoid enough sins and to have a good enough attitude to get Christ to reward us. Our reward is based on how we build others up in Christ Jesus.

 

The basis of our reward being in a large part based on our impact on the lives of others cannot be underestimated. Paul wrote the Thessalonians and said that they were his crown of rejoicing at the coming of Christ.

It is interesting that both Paul and Apollos, the planter and the waterer were sustained by they same two people: Aquila and Priscilla. If Paul and Apollos are rewarded for the transformation of the lives of the Corinthian believers than surely Aquila and Priscilla will not be forgotten.

MY WIFE’S THANK YOU…

There is no insignificant work in Christ’s kingdom. When we were on deputation, my wife used to give her testimony to the churches in the form of a thank you. She would tell how that Edgar and Oleta Mitchell came to their town and started a church in their home and how that the young St. Onge family was saved in that little house church and how that from that church came missionaries to German-speaking Europe and to Argentine and to Canada and leaders of other churches came from that little house church but that all the credit was not to go to the Mitchells but to the dozens of churches and hundreds of believers who supported them financially and prayed for them daily and weekly and monthly. My wife was never able to say thank you to those people who supported the Mitchells but she was able to say thank you to those in other churches who were supporting missionaries and praying for missionaries around the world. The Mitchells planted and watered and God gave the increase but certainly those churches and individuals will be rewarded also.

THE GREATEST PRINCIPLE

The New Testament Principle of Expounding Christ Accurately (Acts 18:24-28). Once again we come to the guiding light of our Christian life. It is possible for an unsaved person to be hospitable, to show love to strangers. It is possible for them to partner together with others for the common good. It is not, however, possible for them to expound the gospel of Christ, as Luke puts it, “more accurately.”

I understand that it is possible to be saved without full knowledge of many of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. When I was saved at the age of eight, I did not understand what the Virgin Birth of Christ. I did not understand the meaning of Justification and being made righteous in Christ. I did not know that the Holy Spirit came to live in the heart of the believer or what the Body of Christ was. What I did have though was a very clear picture of my sin and my inability to do anything about my sin but that Jesus through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead guaranteed salvation from the lake of fire to all who trust Christ. That is the more accurate understanding of Jesus Christ that is absolutely essential to salvation.

 

As we have already seen, Apollos knew the Scriptures but did not have a fully accurate understanding of who Jesus is. It is amazing that Apollos was willing to listen to this couple but he did. Spurgeon tells of a young man with great gifts and ability but with a different attitude who accompanied a minister friend to the city jail to observe his friend preach.

“…As the minister looked at the audience, he preached to them Jesus with so much earnestness as deeply to impress his companion. On their return home, the young man said, ‘The men to whom you preached to-day must have been moved by the utterance of such truth. Such preaching cannot fail to influence.’ ‘My dear young friend,’ answered the minister, ‘were you influenced? Were you impelled by the words you heard to-day to choose God as your portion?’ ‘You were not preaching to me, but to your convicts,’ was quickly answered. ‘You mistake. I was preaching to you as much as to them. You need the same Saviour as they. For all there is but one way of salvation. Just as much for you as for these poor prisoners was the message of this afternoon. Will you heed it?’ The word so faithfully spoken was blessed of God.” from My Sermon Notes, Volume 3, Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Apollos heard the message and his ministry was changed. The change is evident in 1 Corinthians 3. Apollos is no longer building on the foundation of John’s baptism but on the foundation of Jesus Christ. The reason Paul could write that the church in Corinth has all knowledge was because both the planter and the waterer built on the foundation of Christ. It is vitally important that people understand who Christ is.

The popular thought today is that the only way to keep our young people from leaving the church is to make church more appealing to them. That will not work in the long run. There is nothing wrong with trying to make a church service enjoyable or even more culturally appealing. We desire every week to put our best foot forward in our church service but that will not change people’s lives. They need to see Jesus more accurately. They need to understand Him more fully.

What to do when you are in doubt about an issue? July 29, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Body of Christ, Character, Christian Liberty, Judgment Seat of Christ, Romans, Sermons, Spiritual Emotions, Teamwork.
2 comments

Back from vacation…I’m interrupting the Sunday morning series on God’s Word to deal with an important issue.

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARE IN DOUBT

Romans 14:1-15:7

 

INTRODUCTION: When Christ died for us, He saved us from our sin and gave us a new nature. That is what Romans 1-8 is all about. In Romans 12-16, Paul describes how that new nature is to be lived out. Living God’s love out in your life affects every area in your life including those issues where the Bible does not clear up every doubt that you might have about that issue. That is the subject of chapter 14 and the first part of chapter 15.

 

BEGINNING WITH THE END 

Paul ends his instructions on doubtful issues with the instructions to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us. This is the general principle that we are to apply when someone disagrees with us over a doubtful issue.

 

It is important at this juncture to define what a doubtful issue is. A doubtful issue is any issue in which I am convinced in my mind that there is freedom but that other believers with whom I have close contact feel there is not this same freedom.

OKAY, GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE. 

We have two examples in this passage.

 

Romans 14:2 mentions that some believe that all things edible are lawful, but others for spiritual reasons eat only vegetables.

Romans 14:5 mentions that some believe that all days are the same, but others for spiritual reasons observe some days as being holy.

 

There are a lot of these types of issues.

  1. Some believe drinking alcoholic beverages in moderation is lawful, but others for spiritual reasons practice total abstinence.

  2. Some believe that Sunday is no different than any other day of the week, but others for spiritual reasons observe Sunday as the “Christian Sabbath”.

  3. Some believe that each Christian should vote his conscience; others for spiritual reasons prefer to vote either Republican or Democrat or perhaps even not at all.

  4. Some believe that corporate prayer in a small group is relatively unimportant, others find it to be a necessity for our spiritual growth and fellowship.

  5. Some believe that all types of music can be used for the glory of God in public worship, others believe that we should limit our worship music to a relatively small selection of types.

  6. Some believe that the mode of baptism is unimportant, others feel for spiritual reasons we should practice baptism by immersion only.

  7. Some believe that there is freedom in how we educate our children, others believe that only public schools or Christian schools or home schools are legitimate methods of education.

  8. Some believe that holidays like Halloween or the pagan practices that have been integrated into our Christmas and Easter celebrations are harmless, others believe that they are dangerous to one degree or another.

  9. Some believe that there is some freedom in the matter of divorce and remarriage, others believe that divorce and remarriage are forbidden in every case no matter the circumstances.

These are all issues that in our fellowship have been discussed at one time or another during the past two years. These are all issues over which good Christians disagree. There is debate as to what the Bible teaches in these areas. In the minds of some there is doubt as to that the Bible teaches in these areas.

AN ISSUE TO WHICH THERE IS NO DOUBT 

As we have seen already, there is no doubt as to how we are to treat the opposing side. We are to receive each other in this area of doubtful issues just as Christ has received us.

 

  •  

      We are to receive, we are to welcome as honored friends, according to 14:3, those believers who disagree with us, because they have been received by God. This is independent of how they treat us. This is independent of any offense we may feel they have committed against us. Why? Verse 4 tells us why. He is God’s. God will take care of him or her if they are wrong. That is the only basis on which we can deal with each other. Only God can determine who is truly right or truly wrong and we should leave it to Him to take care of.

  • How did Christ receive us (15:7)? The word implies hospitality, to be welcomed as a friend. When we receive Christ as Savior we are received as honored friends into His kingdom and that is how we are to treat those who disagree with us in these issues over which there is doubt. We find this same word used twice in 14:1-3. There are two things that are important to understand from these two verses.

SO HOW DOES THIS WORK?

Verse 1 gives us the practical application of these principles. If you have a broader understanding of Scriptures than those who are on the other side of the issue, receive them, welcome them as honored friends. Don’t debate them (verse 1). Don’t despise them or hold them in contempt (verses 3 and 10). Do not grieve and destroy your brother or sister in Christ (verse 15). Don’t dissolve the work of God (verse 20). Don’t cause them to stumble (verse 21).  

OBJECTION #1

Does that not make us a slave of those who disagree with us if we submit or we acknowledge our differences as legitimate differences. Look at verse 18. We are to be slaves in these matters, slaves of Christ. We do that, according to verse 19, by pursuing peace and edification. The word “pursue” is used in other places to mean “persecution”. We are to chase peace and edification like a hound dog trying to tree a ‘coon. This is not passive. This is very, very active. All you have to do to understand this, is to lay in bed at night and listen to a pack of ‘coon dogs in the distance chasing a raccoon or a ‘possum. They get closer and closer and louder and louder and more excited and more excited, that is the way that we are to pursue peace and edification of those with whom we disagree, without debating them but rather, if necessary, submitting to them.

OBJECTION #2 – BUT THAT IS A TERRIBLE BURDEN

You are correct! Not only are we to pursue peace but according to Romans 15:1 we are to bear with the scruples of those with a stricter conscience than ours, not by pleasing ourselves but by pleasing, i.e., accommodating ourselves to the opinions, desires, and interests of others. Paul does not pretend this is easy. The word “bear” implies something burdensome, something heavy, something that is perhaps exhausting to carry. That is why the picture of Jesus pleasing us, accommodating Himself to our interests, bearing our reproach in 15:3 is such a beautiful picture of what we need to do. In the same way that Christ bore our sins for our interest we are to bear the opinions of others for their good and their edification.

OBECTION #3 – HOW ABOUT THEM? 

This does bring us to a very thorny problem. What is the responsibility of the person with the stricter conscience? Are those with a less strict conscience at the mercy of those with a stricter conscience?

Romans 14:3b answers this question for us. Just as those with a broader understanding of the issue are not to despise those with a stricter understanding, those with a stricter understanding are not to judge, not to criticize, not to look on them as a criminal or to dispute with them as before a court of law. When they do this, even if they are right in their opinion, they are doing several things…

TAKING THE PLACE OF CHRIST

According to verses 4 and 10-12, the believer with a judgmental attitude has taken the place that belongs only to God. The place of judgment. The place of evaluation. Obviously, the Bible teaches that we can and should evaluate others to see if they are qualified for certain responsibilities or to know if they are believers of the truth or not but it is left to Jesus Christ alone to judge our opinions and how we lived them out. That is not my place and that is not your place.

CHRIST DIED FOR UNITY NOT UNANIMITY

According to verses 8-9, the critical believer has not only taken the place of God but he has attempted to destroy the unity for which Christ died. Christ died to save us from our sin, He died to give us an eternity with Him but He also died to make us one body in Him. He died that we as a body of believers might be united together in Him. Verse 15 warns us not to destroy with our critical attitude, those for whom Christ died. Romans 15:5-6 sums this up for both sides of the issue: “Be like-minded according to Christ.”

THE QUESTION FINALLY ANSWERED

There is a third group that is addressed in chapter 14. First, there are those with a broad understanding of an issue. Then, there are those with a narrow understanding of the issue. Finally, there are those who are not sure where they stand on an issue. There are two commands to this group. These commands apply to all of us but they are especially appropriate for those who are in doubt, those at whom the title of this sermon is directed.

ESTABLISH YOUR CONVICTIONS

Command #1 is given in 14:5—Be fully persuaded in your own mind. Do not let there be a shadow of a doubt about your position. Investigate, try to understand the issue. Paul expands on this concept in verse 14. He says, “I know and am convinced, persuaded, not just by logical arguments but by Jesus Christ that the opinion I hold is right.” He says though, “There are others who are not so convinced and if they are not convinced then they should stay away from the broader position.” Why? Because in verse 20 it is evil, it is bad, for one to partake, to be a participant of something of which their mind is not convinced that it is okay.

DON’T PARTAKE UNTIL YOUR CONVICTIONS ARE ESTABLISHED.

This brings us to the second command. It is implied in verses 22-23. “He who doubts is condemned, is damned if he eats.” If you are not convinced, don’t you dare follow the broader understanding of the issue. That is simple but that is the way that you should look at issues for which you are not convinced in your mind about the truth.

What is certain is that as a believer, whatever my opinion is, I am to fulfill the law of love in everything I do. There is not one area in my life, in which I cannot express the love of Christ. When I give up my rights the way God wants me to give up my rights, when I refuse to criticize and judge and condemn, that is, view others with the attitude God wants me view them, when I honor as a friend those believers, even though they differ with me on various issues, I am showing God’s love in my life. It does not really matter what your position is, if you have the stricter or the broader position or no certain position at all, you are to love your brother as Christ has loved you.

Last year I preached from this same chapter and mentioned a number of issues, many more than I have mentioned this morning that raised the eyebrows of a number of people. One of those was mode of baptism. In that area, I have a stricter conscience than some other believing Christians. I am not talking about liberals but people with solid Christian credentials. I believe they are wrong. The constitution of this church holds them to be wrong. I must follow my conscience but my attitude toward them must be Christian. Perhaps we cannot work together in the same church because of this issue but I am not to judge them, that is Christ’s responsibility.

AN INVITATION TO THE FAMILY OF GOD

We have talked today about some family matters. I trust that you understand that we have a wonderful family and Christ is the head of our family. The only way to become a part of His family is to be received by Him as an honored friend.

The only way to be received by Christ is to understand that you are a sinner. Like a sheep gone astray, your end is doom. You are spiritually condemned by God but Jesus bore your sins in His body on the cross so that you might become righteous, acceptable before God. Jesus paid your sin debt, was condemned, and punished for your sins. When you trust Christ as Savior your debt of sin is paid in full and you are received into the wonderful family of God.

Will you trust Jesus today and be received into His family?

1 Humor and 2 History Links July 19, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Abraham Lincoln, Book Reviews, Civil War, German, Humor, Teamwork.
add a comment

I am occasionally reminded that not everyone reads sermons. The following is for the rest of you.

Humor first!

http://www.fireandknowledge.org/archives/2007/07/17/teamwork-stupidity-abbey/

For the Civil War buffs:  http://www.discerningreader.com/review/manhunt/

A wonderful mix of German history and Russian geography: 

http://strangemaps.wordpress.com/2007/07/16/149-the-volga-german-assr-1924-1941/