28/02/2007

Paul and the Church (part 1) - Sam Storms

I have just got back from a truly awesome final evening session at Life in the Spirit. God has been moving in power, feeding through the word, restoring vision and filling with the Holy Spirit. A dear older brother shared tonight that he had been seeking the Lord for many years for the gift of tongues. Tonight, at aged 70, the Lord met with him and he spoke in tongues. Isn't God good!! Never give up on Him. He desires to give good gifts to those who ask Him.

In terms of the teaching - it continues to be excellent. In order to make sense, I need to keep my reports in some kind of order. So, I am looking back now to the second session yesterday (27 Feb) morning, when Sam Storms taught. This really was a key message - renewing mind and setting fire to the heart. It was also deeply challenging concerning our commitment to our Saviour and His glorious cause.

So here it is (it will benefit more to follow in your Bible!):

Acts 20v17-38

Introduction

Key verse: v24. We are so devoid of this attitude.

The conference theme is maturing the church. The church will grow into maturity, if we take heed to the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. The life and vision that captivated his heart and conduct here in Ephesus is a pattern for leaders to follow. Church will never attain maturity until leaders embrace the values here.

There is so much advice and so many books on the church as different people have sought to diagnose what ails us and prescribe the answers. All share a common theme, a “re-ing” of church: re-imagining, re-envisioning, re-structuring etc. But we should not be interested unless the “re-ing” takes heed of NT patterns, and grounds itself in them. God is not interested in any ideas that do not gather His people into local assembly according to the patterns in His word.

The church is in a dire state. But God loves and is committed to the local church. He gave His Son to die for her; He cares for her. And He has given us His word and spoken clearly to us our about our responsibility as His body and to us as leaders. These things are to be reproduced in our day so we can turn world upside down.

Some people say that the cause of our problems is doing church according to the New Testament. It is said “Times have changed and culture has changed and church must change to embrace culture; church should not offend sensibilities.” Of course we do need to be aware of our culture, but the only answer is for them to see the glory of God in the face of Christ. That is seen in the people of God gathered in covenantal relationship, with God in their midst. It is not for us to follow the culture of NT, rather to bring to bear on our culture the principles that governed the early church and Paul and the other apostles.

So this message will examine Paul’s conduct and theology. 6 observations.


1) Paul refused to exploit his authority and gifting for monetary gain

See v18, 22-23, 33. He coveted nothing. He had every right to be supported. But Paul chose to suspend that privilege. He didn’t want any chance of an accusation of being in ministry for the money. Next to sexual infidelity, a mercenary spirit will destroy credibility of church and ministry and is a reproach to the name of Christ and hinders the church’s maturity. Poverty is not a gift of God, but illicit gain obtained by means of the gospel is a tremendous sin. Paul was never tempted to hold back because he didn’t want to offend the givers.


2) He willingly sacrificed his own personal comfort for the spiritual welfare of the church

See v19, 22-23, 31. Why does he mention tears and trials? Tears from the pain of rejection, and offences, over ingratitude, sin and idolatry, compassion (v31), people’s lack of commitment to the body. Compare 2 Cor 11. Yet Paul never gave a second thought to it so that he could glorify Christ. Paul mentions these things because it is normal Christian living. If haven’t experienced tears and trials then you have not really got your hands dirty in the ministry.

The problem today is that the church believes it exists for its own comfort, to avoid suffering and minimise inconvenience. Then it constructs theology justify this.

Suffering by itself is not a virtue, but: Col 1v24 “for your sake”, Matt 5v10-12 “for righteousness’ sake”, Acts 5v41 “for His name”, Rom 5v3 “produces perseverance… character.” These are things morally superior that can only be attained through the battles of suffering. If you don’t cherish something more than ease, and treasure more than comforts or conveniences of society then this passage seems nonsense. If you don’t see something so precious in itself that it transcends suffering, you will not endure. You will be bitter and resentful. We need to take the long view. If your church saw that in its leaders we will see energy and zeal in them.


3) He refused to let anything get in way of his involvement with people

See v19-20 – ministering to the people. He taught, preached, counselled and lived among them. See 1 Thess 2v19 – “you are our glory and joy.” Heb 6v10 – serving the saints is how we honour the name of the Lord.


4) Faithfulness and perseverance in bearing witness to the gospel of grace was more important to Paul than staying alive

See v24. He said “I die daily” (1 Cor 15v31). We cherish our lives, jobs, money, status more. We say we would die for Him because we never have to; we won’t even go across the street to share the gospel with our neighbour. “It is a shameful thing to be so gripped by living, that we lose the reason for living.” The only reason to live is to fulfil the call of God.

We get to this place by understanding what the gospel of the grace of God is. We have lost it today. 2 Cor 4v3-6 says the gospel is the knowledge of the glory of God in face of Jesus Christ. We see the glory through hearing and reading. So Act 20v24 – Paul testifies to the glory of God in the gospel. The majesty and blinding beauty of God is bound up in preaching the gospel. We are not to peddle like a salesman and bargain (adulterate). It is not mere words, but the glory of God – no matter how inarticulate we are. Nothing is more important!


5) Faithfully proclaiming the whole counsel of God to declare the gospel of grace

Shrinking back from the whole counsel of God has eternal consequences – v20,27. There may be distasteful subjects to you or your hearers which expose sin, expose traditions, threaten your status within the community, but Paul was not going to hold back. The question is whether the teaching is profitable, not whether it is popular. We must never allow culture or comfort to dictate the terms of what we teach. If society sets the agenda then we will be indistinguishable from it. We are not to be isolated, we are called into the world, but don’t let society tell you what you can tell it. The only thing that will ultimately penetrate hearts is the revelation of the beauty of God in the face of Christ. Make sure there is a message no matter how it is presented.

What does “whole counsel of God” mean? See Rom 6v17 – standard of teaching, a body of teaching that all Christians embrace. 2 Tim 1v13-14 – a pattern of sound words, a body of truth, theological realities apart from which we cannot live as the church. We must never downplay doctrine. Of course we don’t go out of our way to be offensive – the gospel is offensive all by itself!

We are told not to pursue knowledge about God! But my satisfaction in God is in direct proportion to my knowledge of Him. I cannot delight in that of which I am ignorant. People say “I don’t want the truth of Jesus, I just want Jesus.” But you can’t love Jesus without propositional truth about Him. What Christ do you believe in?

The consequences of not declaring the whole counsel is that we would be guilty of the blood of the people (v26-27); Paul was not guilty of that. I don’t want to stand before the judgment seat of Christ having left those to stumble. V28-30: failure opens the door to theological wolves.


6) The whole counsel of God alone has the power to build up and sustain the people of God

See v32. The power of the word. It’s what God uses to impart your full inheritance in Christ. We are suffering a loss of confidence in the Word of God; a lack of faith that God can do great things in our lives through His word. But look what the Word is and does:
1 Peter 1 v23-25: imperishable;
Rom 10v17: the word gives more faith;
Rom 15v4: endurance of scriptures;
Rom 15v13: joy and peace in believing (revelation of God in scriptures).

The Spirit restricts His faith giving ministry, peace producing, joy-evoking work to the Christ-exalting Word. We need to lay ourselves in way of His allurement, where He can captivate us. There are other ways (prayer, worship etc) but the primary way is through the Scripture. Look, read, and see -
1 Thess 2v13
1 Tim 4v6
1 Pet 2v2
Ps 19v10-11, sweeter than honey.
Ps 119v14, 16, 20, 24, 40, 47, 72, 97, 103, 111, 127, 162, 167.

2 comments:

Paul Schafer said...

Peter,

Was there an MP3 for Sam Storms message? I am collecting his free online sermons.

Sincerely,
Paul Schafer
College Station, TX

Peter Day said...

Hi Paul

I don't believe there are MP3s. Sorry. There were normal audio CDs available though. I can give you details of the company that did them if you e-mail me (daypjr@hotmail.com).

I'm half-way through sorting out my notes of the second message in this series from Sam Storms, so I should be posting soon.

Peter