Building Community I Corinthian 1 August 2007 am
1 Corinthians 1:1-1:3
The story is told about a man who survived for twenty years on a deserted island. When they found him they were astonished to see all that he had created. Left to his own, he had created a self-sufficient habitat with everything he needed to live comfortably.
As they toured the island they noticed all the impressive structures he made. In one corner of the island was a grand building overlooking the lagoon which he called, “Home.” Across the lagoon was a tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky.
The rescuer asked, “What’s that building?”
“Oh,” the castaway said, “that’s my church.”
As they neared the other end of the island they saw another tall white building with a spire that reached up to the sky. The rescuer paused and said, “That looks familiar, what’s that building?”
The castaway responded, “Oh, that’s the church I use to belong to.”
There’s a certain degree of truth to that story. It captures the spirit of American individualism.
Our culture does not encourage commitment - not in marriage, not in the workplace and certainly not in the church.
We live in a world where the only thing most people are willing to commit to is having things their way.
>>That was the problem at the church in Corinth.
…One group of people valued the leadership of Paul. They would say, “Paul’s our man. He started the church. We’re old school! We like the one who started it all!” Another valued the gifts of Peter over Paul. They felt Paul was inferior. They claimed Peter is the “Rock.” “Why would you listen to anyone other than the man upon whom Jesus said He will build His church?” Yet another said, “You all have it all wrong! Apollos is the real man. He is cultured, he is an Alexandrian! He is gifted in ways Paul and Peter could never imagine.”
No, the people of Corinth allowed personal preference to get in the way of unity.
-- become a ‘Me Church;” a church were everyone looks out for their own interests and not the interests of others;
A church were partiality overrides unity;
A church were being heard & winning an argument is more important than listening and winning others to Christ.
They lost their focus, they lost their purpose, and as a result, they lost their witness and effectiveness in the world.
It’s a common but sad story.
Churches all over the country are torn apart, not by issues of doctrine or theology, but the color of the carpet, the style of music or personality conflicts.
@@And in the process the church stops being the church and looks more like a country club; a place where people gather together because of their similarities, they all cheered for the same leader.
@@And in other ways they became more like a city council meeting; a place where everyone is intent on protecting their turf at all cost.
We are going to focus on building community.
We want to take a look at why God values unity over individuality.
We want to discover what builds unity and what can destroy unity.
We want to ask what’s so valuable about the church?
Why is it important?
First of all, the church is NOT this building.
We call this building a church, but the Bible never uses the word that way.
The word church literally means, the assembled ones or the ones gather together (ekklesia). It does not refer to a building but to people.
In other words the church is not a building, it’s a COMMUNITY.
It’s a community brought together by one thing we all hold in common, a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
That is the glue of the church, it’s the foundation of the church – it’s called grace – it’s called forgiveness.
We share God together.
Definition: Christian community is a group of people built upon an UNCOMMON unity in Christ.
In a world where individualism reigns supreme, God works against the grain calling us to an uncommon unity.
We say it’s uncommon, because the unity of the church should be unlike anything the world can offer.
It is unlike anything the world can offer because it’s foundation is a crucified Messiah.
**God came to earth set aside his needs so that you and I could have our ultimate need met, a relationship with God.
And all God asks of you in return is that you do the same for one another.
And as a result in verse 4 it says, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
The church is built upon a crucified Messiah, someone who set aside His needs for the needs of others.
And if that attitude is good enough for God then it’s good enough for us.
The church is a community built upon an uncommon unity in Christ.
*We are a place where personal agenda’s are crucified upon the cross of self sacrifice.
So what is the church supposed to look like?
It looks like a group of people who are seeking to put the needs of others ahead of their own.
They are servants.
They watch out for one another, they care for one another, they encourage one another.
In this church you can’t get to know everyone equally, and God does not expect that.
But you can get to know some. You can connect with a few people and make it your goal to build them up.
To write them a note when they are missing, to say a word of encouragement when their down, to take them out to eat when they are lonely.
*God is calling us to something unique – something special. He is calling into an uncommon unity.
In verse 2 Paul gives us a four part description of the church, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours:
There are four things we want to observe:
1. The church is a DIVINE community.
Paul wrote this letter to “the church of God.” Circle the words - OF GOD.
What does that mean?
It means the church does not rise and fall over us.
The church is not great because you belong to it.
…As much as I think you are a great group of people and I love spending time with you.
We are not a great church because of the people who attend.
God is not impressed by our level of education, our accumulation of wealth or our great personalities.
Our church is valuable because it belongs to God.
It’s His idea.
And as a result He loves the church. He calls the church His Bride.
The sad thing is many Christians don’t feel the same way. Though God created the church and loves the church, many Christians want nothing to do with her.
The Barna Research Group reports that in the United States about 10 million Christians have not been to church in the last six months. Though nearly all of them say their spiritual life is important, 10 million of them want nothing to do with God’s bride.
But imagine how painful it must be for God. To know that the children He sent His Son to die for and adopt, don’t like His bride. They’re all for Jesus, but they don’t care for His wife.
I don’t know about you but - if you don’t like my wife, in the words of a Texan – “Yah Ain’t Gonna Like Me!” You can’t separate the two of us. When you say something that hurts her, it hurts me. On our wedding day we made a commitment in the name of the Trinity, to put the needs of one another ahead of our own. We entered a covenant of self-sacrificial love.
God feels the same way toward the church.
Now the church is not perfect. But guess what? Neither am I! And you know what? That makes no difference to Beth – it might annoy her from time to time but my wife does not love me because I am perfect. That should come as no surprise. But despite the fact that I am imperfect, she continues to love me. That’s called grace!
God feels the same way.
The church is special not because of who we are but because of who we belong to!
We belong to God!
There are many things unflattering you can say about the church. But remember who she belongs to – remember who loves her – remember who died for her – remember who created her.
I hear people say, “I don’t go to church, the church is full of hypocrites.” To which I respond, “Full, it’s not full! There is always room for one more!”
Is the church perfect?
By no means! As long as I am a pastor there will always be one church with a regenerate sinner in the pulpit.
No the church is not perfect, but it’s God’s.
2. The church is a LOCAL community.
Paul writes to “the church of God IN CORINTH.” CIRCLE – in Corinth.
This is the primary way the word church is used in the NT. It refers to a local gathering of believers.
When God created the church, He gave the church an address. 1908 Blowing Rock Blvd.
He created the church to be something we can see, touch and experience.
God, Himself, the Bible says is Spirit. A spirit doesn’t have a physical form that the human eye can see, it’s formless. We don’t have a category for a person like that in our mind.
That is why God created the church, to be a physical reflection of His presence.
God is Spirit, thus He gathered together a group of people to be a physical, tangible reflection of His presence.
The church gathered reminds us that God is real, He’s living, He’s active, He’s working among His people.
The church is a visual aid to remind us, God is here.
I hear people say, “I don’t belong to the local church, I belong to the invisible church.”
…Meaning I am a Christian, I am part of the universal body of Christ, but I won’t commit….I see no value plugging into the local community of faith….To which I say, when you get sick who visits you – “invisible people.” When you tithe what do you give – “an invisible check?”
Hey, that’s easy, sign me up! It’s easy to commit to something invisible, it’s easy to make a commitment when nothing will be required of me.
No one to keep you accountable, no one to ask you how you are doing, no one to say, “Your character is leaking!” That’s a comfortable commitment, isn’t it?
Have you noticed that God is not satisfied with those types of commitment?
Once we commit to Him, He’s not content with our declaration. He is not impressed by our words! He wants to SEE your commitment.
Do you remember what happened to Peter after he denied Christ three times?
Jesus sat him down – looked him straight in the eye and said, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter says, “Yes!” How does Jesus rely, “Prove it! Feed my sheep.”
Is that insensitive? Is it wrong for God to ask us to put our faith into action?
Peter just poured out his heart to Jesus and Jesus wants evidence? Why?
Because it is easy to say, "I love you" – what God wants to see is love with skin on it.
Peter was the same guy who said, “I will never deny you!”
Jesus told him in three days you will forsake me. What was Peter’s response? “Never! Now way! It will never happen!” His words were easy, but the carry through was hard! Peter failed.
God wants to take our faith to the next level.
How does He accomplish it?
He places you in an environment where you can be tested.
…He plugs you into a community filled with imperfect people, people with rough edges and baggage. And once He drops you right in the middle, He will ask you to grow and NOT BE a spectator. He will ask you to give of your time, your talents and your compassion. God is always taking our faith to the next level.
1John 4:20, “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”
God is not impressed by our words, instead He applauds our action.
He is looking for evidence.
That is why the church exists.
It is a physical, tangible place where your commitment to Christ becomes evident.
It is a place where faith becomes visible and we live out what we say we believe.
As a result, the church should be unique. It should stand out in the world.
That is what Paul says in verse 2, “to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.”
3. The church is a UNIQUE community.
As we said before, the church is called the Bride of Christ.
How do you look at your bride?
When she is coming down the aisle, what do you see?
Do you focus in on the one hair that is out of place or the one area of makeup that is uneven?
No, you don’t see her imperfections – you see all the reasons why you fell in love! You see her beauty.
When God looks at the church, He doesn’t see her flaws. He sees all the reasons He fell in love, He sees a perfect reflection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Do you know that God looks at you the same way He looks at the church?
When God looks at you… He sees His Son, He sees Jesus Christ.
Gal. 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”
Circle the words – IN ME… That is where Christ is, right now! He is in you.
When God looks at you, He sees His Son. When Jesus’ died for your sins, His character covered you.
Your life is hidden in Christ.
As a result we have been “sanctified,” or made holy in the eyes of God.
That is a one time event. It happened the day you trusted in Christ.
God set you apart. Since that day God no longer sees the mistakes you have made, instead when He looks at you He sees Jesus. Your life is hidden in His life.
The SECOND way God sees you is built of the first.
…When God sees you, He sees a work in progress.
Just as my wife sees me! She does not focus on my mistakes though she is not content with them. If I stayed the same way I was when we got married our marriage would have been in trouble.
I had some rough edges that needed to be worked out, I was immature. I grew because her love looked past my flaws.
God sees us the same way we are a work in progress.
We have to live out what God has worked in.
As Paul says, we are “called to be holy.” We must reflect on the outside what God has done on the inside. Our task is to remember who’s we are! We share a unique identity.
Russell Christoff is likely not a familiar name. He is a very unknown actor and model. His only body of work that you might recognize was a small picture found years back on cans of Taster’s Choice instant coffee. He was the guy smelling the aroma. Do you remember that picture?
In 1986, when he took those photos, he was given $250. He was promised that if the photos were used they would pay him $2,500. For 15 years his face sold their product and the odd thing is – he never recognized himself! For 15 years he never realized it was his picture that graced the front of that can. He didn’t drink instant coffee! I guess no one in his family did.
One day, as he walked down the aisle, he looked and there he was! Once he recognized himself he did what any true American would do – he called his lawyer. And in 2002, Tasters Choice settled with him for a sum of $15.6 million dollars.
It pays to recognize yourself!
The excitement in living the Christian life comes from realizing our full identity.
We are perfect in Christ!
We are a work in progress.
The church is UNIQUE; it is unlike anything the world can offer.
The last idea is found at the end of verse 2, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours:
4. The church is a UNIVERSAL community.
Though the church is local (it has an address), it’s also universal.
To be universal means it includes all believers, at all times and in all places.
The church is inclusive, no one can be excluded.
There only one thing that can exclude someone from membership in the church and that is unbelief.
The only thing God can’t work with is a lack of faith.
If you have faith, God can work with you! No matter what you have done, who you are or where you come from. If you have faith, God can make something out of your life.
The writer of Hebrews says, “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists…” (11:6)
Faith in Jesus Christ, and faithfulness, are the only standards that can divide. Everything else that separates us was destroyed on the cross. Jesus came and knocked down the man made walls of self-promoting division.
Instead the Bible says, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28).
Circle the word – ALL ONE
2Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”
God is impressed by only one thing, faith. But to get there we need each other. The number one complaint of the average American is loneness.
Despite all the advances in communication people still feel the pain of isolation.
God says the church is the answer. Don’t go it alone.