Fortifying the Foundation
God's Blueprint For His Church • Sermon • Submitted
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Fortifying the Foundation
By Jeff Strite
Summary: Jesus is the foundation of the Church. A unified church fortifies that foundation. How do we avoid causing division? How do we handle the divisive person? Check out these thoughts from our Family Minister, Scott Jewell.
(This is a sermon by our associate Scott Jewell concluding our sermon series "God's Blueprint For His Church")
Jeff started this series a month ago telling us about an episode of “This Old House”. It was about a young couple who purchased a 1906 church building in San Francisco to convert to a home. When they got inside, it was discovered that the foundation was bad- you may recall that the central beam was resting on a block of wood which was resting on a block of concrete which was resting on a half wall. Turns out that half wall was improperly constructed, especially being in an earthquake zone. They had to rebuild the wall, fortify it with plywood shear walls, then literally bolt the structure to the foundation so it would endure future earthquakes.
Why go back to Jeff’s opening illustration today? That’s what Paul did as he completed his letter to Titus. He had begun by pointing to Jesus as the foundation and now he returns to fortify the teachings of that foundation, promoting unity in the church. (read )
To fortify the foundation- don’t get caught up in things that cause division. Satan is the Father of Lies and he knows if he can divide God’s people he can keep us off mission. Paul once again addresses false teachings meant to divide the church. He mentions "not so specifically" controversies, genealogies, arguments and quarrels of the law. I say not so specifically because it’s not immediately clear what these things are. From the cultural background, we see two groups trying to infiltrate and divide the church.
1. Jewish believers trying to impose Jewish ways upon Gentile believers. You’ve got to be circumcised, eat kosher, observe specific holy days.
2. Beginnings of Gnosticism are also seen taking root here: adding mythical names to the messianic genealogy- line of super Christians, maybe angels, tying themselves to Jesus.
I don't want to dwell on this aspect too long because, as Paul says, these discussions are unprofitable and useless.
The Christian Churches/Churches of Christ have adopted an excellent slogan that pertains to this: In essentials, unity…in opinion, liberty…in all things, love. So what are the things that are essential to our faith, on which things must we stand? Here are the things that we hold to be true- listed on our website (churchchrist.net)- about us- we believe…
...the Bible is the inspired word of God (),
"a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" ()
...every person has worth as a creation of God (), but that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" ()
...forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life are available to those who believe in Christ as their Lord and Savior ()
...becoming a follower of Christ involves repenting of our sins, confessing Jesus as our Lord (or master), and being immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins ( and )
...the church is the body of Christ on earth and exists to save the lost and build up the saved. ()
...Jesus will return soon to judge the earth & make a new home for those who belong to Him ()
And what matters should we consider to be matters of opinion? Short answer- nearly everything else, yet we often let ourselves get caught up majoring in the minors. In our own movement- splits over instruments, missions, musical style, chairs, carpet. I even know of once church that couldn't agree on the color of the roof shingles, so they made one side green and one side red and to my knowledge they still sit on the side where they know their color is over the ceiling, even though they can't see it.
It is the last part of the saying that helps us avoid the unprofitable and useless discussion- in all things love. Iron sharpens iron- it’s good to hash things out from time to time. It’s when we forget to season our conversations with the love of God that we run into problems. We need to remember that we’re on the same side- God’s winning team- as we discuss. Captain America: Civil War- Avengers have a falling out over who controls and holds group accountable. An epic fight takes place between Team Iron Man and Team Captain Rogers at an airport. As the battle rages around them, Hawkeye pins Black Widow to the ground. She asks, “We’re still friends, right?” He answers, “Depends on how hard you hit me.” You see, as Jeff showed us last week, we are all a part of God’s winning team. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll agree on every last point. On same team- how we act as we disagree is just as important as what we disagree about. At the end of the discussion, need to be able to take off the gloves and shake hands as brothers.
When we operate with the slogan- In essentials, unity, in opinions, liberty, in all things, love. We can make sure we’re not becoming the person of division that Paul goes on to address in next vss. (read )
Paul gives Titus instruction for dealing with a person that is determined to be divisive. Similar to Jesus’ instructions found in (read text).
When your brother has sinned, go to him to work it out (note - your brother has against you) (Jesus)
Warn a divisive person once (Paul)
Take along one or two others (Jesus)
Warn them a second time (Paul)
Take it to the church, treat as pagan or tax collector (Jesus)
Have nothing to do with them (Paul)
In this day and age, these instructions may seem harsh. In a culture that often values numerical growth, it can be difficult to stand up to someone and say enough is enough, even when it’s needed. It’s doubly hard when it’s a brother in Christ because you don’t want to cause friction in the family. Worst case scenario- the divisive person moves on to another church in the area and continues in their ways, doing damage to another part of the body of Christ. A few things to consider:
1. It’s not your fault when a divisive person must be confronted. Paul points out to Titus that the divisive person has brought this on themselves. He describes them as warped and sinful- self-condemned.
2. Paul isn’t asking something of us that he isn’t willing to do himself. He instructed the church in Corinth to remove a brother for sexual sin so that his soul might be saved. He informed Timothy that he had handed Hymenaeus and Alexander over to Satan so they could learn to not blaspheme.
3. Your goal is to win your brother over. Each step is taken in hopes of reconciliation. Even taking the drastic step of asking someone to leave the fellowship is done to give them the opportunity to realize what they are missing and turn back to God, restoring the relationship.
Example of living out this process- I shared an example of a time in a previous ministry we had to walk a member through the discipline process resulting in his restoration.
The long-term unity of a church whose one foundation is Jesus Christ is worth the short-term departure of a brother who insists on bringing division. As unity is achieved and maintained, the church is able to focus on its mission. (read )
Notice the various names mentioned there in vss. 12-13. Paul describes a team effort- each person had their role.
Artemis or Tychicus were coming to Crete so that Titus could get a break. With all the contention that had to be dealt with, Paul knew that for Titus to continue it could result in burning out and then Titus would be useless to continue in ministry. Paul was sending in the relief pitcher to carry on Titus’ work.
Zenas and Apollos were likely serving as mailmen for Paul at this time, possibly even delivering this letter to Titus. Paul directs Titus to provide for them so they could continue on their journey, probably delivering other letters written by Paul.
Finally, there is a reminder to prepare people to do what is good. The result is that urgent needs are met as people live productive lives. Do we want to be united in this church? Let’s focus on doing good. What are those things?
1- Spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing our faith with all who will hear. You see, we have been entrusted with the best message this world can ever hear. It’s up to us to make sure they hear it.
2- Training up believers to maturity in faith. It’s the reason we have Sunday school for all ages as well as youth group and Bible studies throughout the week. How can you live for God unless you take the time to know Him?
3- Meeting the needs we see around us. We’ve got several ministries started for just this purpose. The food pantry and benevolence ministries help provide for those who seek assistance. It was amazing to see the number of people who came when we hosted the clothing giveaway last month. Now we’ve opened the doors for a monthly meal and invited the community to join us and eat. All of these are great ways to meet people, give them a hand up, and introduce them to Jesus. And I know many of you have had opportunity to do good for others on an individual level. Never stop seeking to do good for others. A friend of mine would always say to people, “We’re Jesus with skin on for the people we meet today. To what Jesus will you be introducing them?” -Kevin Pigg
The church is founded on the good news of Jesus Christ. The fact of His death, burial, and resurrection extending grace to you and me. We fortify that foundation when the world sees us united as one, representing Jesus Christ to the world so that through us they see Him.
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