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#22 Make Room In Your Hearts

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                      “MAKE ROOM IN YOUR HEARTS

                   (A Sermon Series from 2 Corinthians)

Westgate Chapel 10-7-07                            2 Corinthians 7:2-4

Proposition:      The local church is people with hearts engaged in love for God and for each other.                                                                                                        

i.    introduction

-     On October 29, 1941, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, visited his old high school to hear the traditional songs he had sung there as a youth, as well as to speak to the students.

-     IT became one of his most quoted speeches….maybe one of the most quoted of all time.

-     IT was right in the thick of WW II….at a time when the battle could still have gone either way.

-     AND he said,

      “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

-     THAT speech was recorded and has been captured on a CD.

-     AND if I came over to your house some day this week, right after you got home from work….

*     and you parked your nice car in the garage

*     and got out of your work clothes and put on something comfortable, like a nice fleece track suit

*     and we broke out some hot apple pie and ice cream

*     and dropped into a couple of recliners and leaned back to listen to this speech

      “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never.”

-     I AM going to suggest to you that it would not have the same impact, or seem quite as crucial sitting in our recliners as it did to those who heard it in 1941.

*     Those who laid awake at night listening for the air raid sirens and the buzz bombs overhead.

*     Those who were uncertain that Britain had the military equipment or strength to win the war.

*     Those whose fathers, uncles and brothers were already dying in the trenches of Europe.

*     Those who were listening to the taunting daily radio broadcasts from Nazi Germany threatening the annihilation of Great Britain and calling for their surrender.

-     TO these people, those three simple words (never give in) meant everything…and would ring in their hearts for the next four years while the future of the civilized world hung in the balances.

-     I AM going to apply this same principle to the first seven words from the apostle Paul in our passage in 2 Corinthians 7:2. Paul writes,

        “Make room for us in your hearts!” (2 Corinthians 7:2)

-     WE sit back in our padded comfortable sanctuary seats in modern day America….no serious persecution for our faith, no severe hardships, for the most part living pretty comfortably.

-     AND Paul’s words, “Make room for us in your hearts…” sound simple, a little syrupy, they maybe even make Paul seem a little needy.

-     THAT is because you weren’t there in that historical moment to feel the impact of those words.

-     WHEN you realize their context, those words are huge….possibly the key to the future of the church in Corinth.

ii.   MAKE ROOM for us IN YOUR HEARTS

-     IN many ways the city of Corinth was the chief city of Greece in Paul’s day.

*     In size, in commerce, in culture, and in religion…Corinth had 12 massive temples to many of the popular gods of the day, the temple of Aphrodite one of the most famous in the world.

-     THE apostle Paul had stopped in Corinth around 51 AD on his second missionary journey and through him, Jesus built His church in this strategic Greek city.

-     THE mere presence of this fledgling church immediately challenged the dominion of Satan over the city so much so that one day, during the season that the church was being planted, a riot broke out against the Christians.

-     THE very existence of the church in that city announced that the Kingdom of God was present….and according to what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2, the kingdom was present in a demonstration of God’s power.

-     THE external opposition in the early days of the church’s life got so severe that Jesus had to personally appear to Paul in Acts 18:9-10 and say to him,

      “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you…” (Acts 18:9-10)

-     BUT the external opposition seemed quickly to die out and in a short while things settled down quite nicely for everyone in the church in Corinth. …so when Paul writes his letters to them some four years later, he is able to say to them,

*     1 Corinthians 1:4 says that God’s grace was given them in Christ Jesus.

*     1 Corinthians 1:5 says that in everything they were enriched in all speech, knowledge and testimony.

*     1 Corinthians 1:7 says that they were not lacking in any spiritual gift.

*     And when the apostle Paul left after 18 months in Corinth, they were blessed by the learned Apollos, then Titus, and then Timothy as pastor.

-     BUT, in spite of these blessings and the manifest presence and power of God in their lives and ministries, the church soon faced a very different enemy bent on their destruction.

*     There was a lot of in-fighting between factions over loyalties to their favorite church leaders….resulting in division.

*     There were internal jealousies that were causing tensions and strife between people.

*     Some inside the church were not content with the simplicity of the Gospel and had separated themselves from others because they viewed themselves as too intellectual for what was happening in the services.

*     There was division between the haves and the have nots in the church.

*     There was division over how church discipline needed to be handled.

*     Some of the differences between them had become so severe that the disputes were being played out in the local court system.

*     Some were indifferent to the consciences of those weaker in the faith and flaunted their freedom by eating meat sacrificed to idols, actually stumbling the faith of the weaker ones among them…and indifferent about it.

*     The internal struggles between members of the church had become so intense their communion services became a place where God broke out in judgment on some of them with sickness and even death.

*     The operation of the gifts of the Spirit had been turned into one-upmanship.

*     And now some had even turned on their founding pastor, Paul, and had launched a series of unfounded accusations against him….

-     That he was too overbearing with them in his leadership.

-     That his teachings had put a hardship on them economically by separating them from the businesses that supplied the pagan temples with products they needed.

-     That he had likely used mission offerings for Jerusalem for his own needs.

-     That his call for church discipline was excessive.

-     That he had proven unreliable re: his promises to visit them.

-     THINGS had turned nasty in Corinth….and what they didn’t realize was that their ability to survive the spiritual battle they were in was hanging in the balances.

-     THE work of God was being sabotaged from within the church itself.

-     WHY was this internal turmoil threatening the life and future of the congregation?

1.   Because the only place that God anoints and blesses is that place where brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.

      “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! 2 It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes. 3 It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.” (Psalm 133)

2.   Because a house divided cannot stand against the attacks of the enemy. It is one of the most basic principles of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that in Matthew 12:25,

      “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.” (Matthew 12:25)

-     Satan has no direct authority over God’s people to move against us…other than what we provide him and his demons by any ungodly choices….and division in family or church is one place where our choices will bring down the work of God.

-     THE local church, for all of its weaknesses is still God’s method for discipling all nations.

-     WE learn from the New Testament that in the local church….

*     We are members of each other.

*     Our lives are intertwined and inter-dependent.

*     None of us can say we don’t need another part of Christ’s body….great or small.

*     When one rejoices we all rejoice.

*     When one suffers we all suffer.

*     Our lives have been joined together by none less that Jesus Christ, bone, sinew, muscle, flesh….we are the Body of Christ.

*     We are, not just as individuals, but together in each local church, the temple of the living God.

-     SO, what happens in our relationships and our interaction is of the highest importance.

-     NO wonder the New Testament says,

*     Be at peace with one another.

*     Love one another.

*     Be devoted to one another.

*     Give preference to one another.

*     Be of the same mind with one another.

*     Build up one another.

*     Accept one another.

*     Care for one another.

*     Greet one another with warm affection.

*     Be kind to one another.

*     Forgive one another.

-     NOT because these things would be nice….but because they represent the evidence of a changed heart and life.

-     THEY are evidence that God is at work in that church.

-     SO, now do the seven words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:2, make sense?

      “Make room for us in your hearts!” (2 Corinthians 7:2)

-     THERE is no alternative!

-     FAR from some trite sentiment, our spiritual survival depends on us making room in our hearts for each other.

-     YOU see, being in a local church is much more a matter of the heart than it is just,

*     membership,

*     putting money in the offering,

*     teaching SS

*     singing in the choir

*     attending Sunday services.

-     IT is a matter of the heart engaged with God and with His people.

-     JESUS died on the cross to purchase for the Father, and eventually present to the Father, each local church.

-     HE purchased it. It belongs to Him. It is His….His bride.

-     IT is not mine to treat as a career advancement. It is not yours or mine to kick around or lash out when we are ticked off by something or someone.

-     IT is precious to God.

-     YOU can see the church is precious to the apostle Paul.

*     To the believers in the local church in Rome Paul says,

-     I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you and I long to see you (Romans 1:8, 11-12)

*     To the believers in the local church of Corinth, Paul says,

-     You are our letter, written in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:2).

*     To the believers in the local church in Galatia, Paul says,

-     My children, with whom I am in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians 4:19).

*     To the believers in the local church in Colossae, Paul says,

-     We have not ceased to pray for you, and to labor on your behalf, striving according to His power which works mightily in me. (Colossians 1:9 and 29)

-     SO, it is no small thing for the apostle to appeal to the Corinthians for the second time in the last two chapters,

      “Make room for us in your hearts!” (2 Corinthians 7:2)

-     THEN, because the accusations against him are hanging out there, and because there is more at stake than his personal reputation, he adds in verse 2,

*     we wronged no one…in the exercise of his apostolic authority in their lives.

*     we corrupted no one…by teaching a flattering and easy message as the false teachers had been doing, corrupting the Gospel.

*     we took advantage of no one…by using the Gospel or the ministry for personal gain.

-     THOSE would have been legitimate reasons for closing their hearts to him…so he takes the accusations off the table for the sake of the ministry (not his personal defense).

-     AND asks them to open their hearts to him…because that is the only way the ministry of the local church prospers…with open hearts one to another.

 

iii.  YOU ARE IN MY HEART

-     NEXT, in verse 3, he assures them that they are in his heart…this was a mutual love relationship.

-     THE local church is so much more than its programs, services and preaching to Paul.

-     IT is hearts, bound together by love for God and for one another.

      “I do not speak to condemn you, for I have said before that you are in our hearts to die together and to live together.” (2 Corinthians 7:3)

-     PAUL had just devoted much of 2 Corinthians 6 to calling the Corinthians to separate themselves from the world and live holy lives.

-     IN his previous letter he had demanded that they dis-fellowship one of their members for unrepented sin.

-     THIS was some of the reason for the criticism against him that he was too harsh, too authoritative.

-     SO, since local church life is a matter of being in each other’s hearts, it was important to Paul that the Corinthians know that he was not condemning them with his strong words….but that they were in reality in his heart, in death and in life….to the end.

iv. YOU ARE MY JOY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BATTLE

-     PAUL then closes this subject in verse 4 by assuring the Corinthian believers that they were a source of joy to him in the middle of all of his afflictions.

-     LOOK at verse 4,

      “Great is my confidence in you; great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort; I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction.” (2 Corinthians 7:4)

-     THE physical distance between them was not going to affect how he felt about them.

-     THE accusations made against him by some in the church was not going to change his feelings toward them.

-     THIS was the church of Jesus in Corinth.

-     AND it was Jesus who had said, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

-     SO Paul can express great confidence, even boast about the work of God amongst them….even though he is more than aware of her weaknesses.

-     AND when he thinks about them, even though he was facing all kinds of trials….just the thought of them brought him great joy.

-     IT was the body of Christ.

v.  CONCLUSION

-     I WOULD like to wrap this message up by challenging you with four things:

1.   If you are just on the fringes of the life of Westgate Chapel, what is keeping you from getting all the way in?

2.   The place that God protects, blesses, directs, and anoints His people is the local church. If you need help finding your place in this body, please call the Discipleship Department. They stand ready to help you decide what is next for you.

3.   If something has happened that has caused you to close your heart to the people of God here….either ask for forgiveness if the fault was yours or offer forgiveness if someone has offended you.

4.   If you have not yet given your life to Christ, this would be a great day to be born again, and become a member of Christ’s body.

-     THE writer of Hebrews sums up our priorities living in a dark world getting darker, and says,

      “…not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:25)

 

ALTAR CALL

Salvation

Water Baptism

Next steps in discipleship

Membership

 

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