Faithlife Sermons

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“What do you have that you did not receive?
If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
Our contemporaries, and likely we ourselves, esteem the rugged individual.
We imagine that we are distinct from everyone else.
We are taught in elementary school that there is no one exactly like us.
Biblical Christianity challenges conclusions we may draw from this concept, however.
Whenever we speak of a church, we understand that we are speaking of a body.
Moreover, we are taught that we do not simply “join” a congregation; we are placed within the assembly of God’s own choosing.
We are not placed within these assemblies in a capricious manner; rather, we are divinely appointed to bless those with whom we unite.
BACKGROUND FOR THE STUDY — One of the woefully neglected areas of instruction provided to God’s professed people in this day is the study of ecclesiology—the doctrine of the church.
Unfortunately, whenever we hear the term “the church,” we have been trained to think of an amorphous, indefinite entity to which all who believe belong.
Unquestionably, the preponderance of occurrences of the term in the New Testament refers to a local congregation.
It is not my intent to invest time reviewing all the instances of the occurrence of the term in the New Testament.
What is vital is that we understand what God has done in the life of His people in order to ensure that they are built up, encouraged and comforted!
Listen to a vital, though neglected, portion of Paul’s Letter to the Church at Corinth.
“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:4-11].
When one is saved, the Spirit of God takes up residence in the life of that individual [JOHN 14:15-17].
From what is written in the passage referred to moments ago, it is apparent that according to His own will God Himself gifts each individual believer.
Let me put this in practical terms.
As a Christian, you are a gifted individual.
More than that, you are a gift to that congregation where God has placed you.
There are no inferior Christians; each is important.
There is another point to consider.
Throughout the pages of the New Testament, there is no such creature as an unchurched Christian!
God places Christians in a particular congregation where that one is to appointed to serve.
Make no mistake; the child of God is saved to serve.
We tend to focus on the personal benefits of salvation, often neglecting the broader responsibility to invest our gifts and our lives in the lives of our fellow believers.
God expects us to serve.
The service we are appointed to provide is the exercise of the particular gifts God entrusted to each one of us—gifts for the benefit of the assembly where we are placed.
Focus once again on one verse in the passage I just read.
“To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:7 NET].
God gifted you precisely so that you could benefit your fellow believers; this is your assignment as a Christian.
Iterating what has already been said, God gifts each believer and His gifting is to equip the people of God to serve one another within the Body where each one has been placed.
Failure to serve one another is perhaps the greatest deficit of contemporary Christianity.
We come into our churches with the baggage imposed through the world’s training—training that teaches us of the necessity to be individualists; and we attempt to impose that attitude on the Body of Christ.
We are trained to be served, and we appear to believe that serving others is somehow demeaning or unworthy of a redeemed individual.
However, as Christians, we were saved and set where God chose so that we might serve others.
Every saint is a servant.
Jesus spoke often of serving others.
Assuredly, Jesus spoke of those who followed Him as His servants.
Near the end of His time with His disciples, Jesus taught them, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.
If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” [JOHN 12:26].
On another occasion, when the disciples had been arguing amongst themselves about their relative importance in the Kingdom work the Master had assigned, Jesus seized the occasion to instruct them.
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors.
But not so with you.
Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves?
Is it not the one who reclines at table?
But I am among you as the one who serves” [LUKE 22:24-27].
Recall yet one other time when the disciples were again jockeying for position within the Kingdom of Heaven.
Despite trying to keep their dispute from spilling over and drawing the attention of the Master, Jesus became aware of their discussion.
Perhaps they had grown boisterous; more likely, it was because Jesus was God and knew what was in their hearts... Calling them, He once again used their dispute as an opportunity to teach them.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
It shall not be so among you.
But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [MATTHEW 20:25-28].
Pointing to the Master, Paul reminds us of Christ’s position among the churches.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” [PHILIPPIANS 2:5-11].
The Apostles identified themselves as servants as they opened their various letters.
[2] Consequently, they urged those reading these letters to adopt voluntarily the attitude of servants.
Here are a few examples of such calls to live as servants.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” [1 PETER 2:16].
“Though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them” [1 CORINTHIANS 9:19].
“He who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord.
Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ.
You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men” [1 CORINTHIANS 7:22, 23].
“Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life” [ROMANS 6:22].
I believe it will be beneficial to remind you of one of the difficult sayings Jesus delivered.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’?
Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’?
Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded?
So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” [LUKE 17:7-10].
Clearly, the Son of God expects that those who follow Him will serve at His command.
We call Him “Lord,” and so He is.
The tragedy of that statement is that the term “Lord” has become a rather esoteric term—sort of ecclesiastical argot referring to a distant deity.
Thus, it has been emptied of its power in the lives of those who commonly employ the term.
In modern parlance, Jesus is Master; He is ruler, king, sovereign.
We miss a vital point in the prayers of the first saints.
After Peter and John had been arrested, threatened and released, they went back to those members of the Jerusalem congregation who were gathered for prayer.
Take note the prayer offered up by the believers after Peter and John informed them of all that had taken place.
The believers prayed, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers were gathered together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
“for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus” [ACTS 4:24-30].
Note to Whom their
My text informs me that they prayed, “Sovereign Lord.”
It is a translation of the Greek term Déspota.
We get our English word “despot” from this Greek term.
The word occurs ten times in our Greek New Testament.
Seven of those occurrences the word is translated “Master” [3] in the translation I use; twice, it is translated “Sovereign Lord” [4]: and once, it is translated “Lord.”
It should not be surprising, therefore, that contemporary translators of more recent translations of the Bible into the vernacular choose the English word “Master” to convey what was communicated through the prayer of these early believers: the word “Master” conveys the power of the Greek term more appropriately than most other choices.
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