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THE CHURCH MUST BE AN EXAMPLE TO THE COMMUNITY THEY SERVE

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

17 OCTOBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

2 Samuel 12:14
Psalm 99:1-5
Acts 7:59-60
        8:1
        26:9-11
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Last week we talked about how we can have peace only if we learn to love one another; and how, through this love shining forth from us, we can make all our tomorrows better than any yesterday.

The "good ole days" can never be better than the glories of tomorrow, if we continue to grow in Jesus Christ and become of like mind with Him.

Today, we are going to continue with this train of thought, and discuss how and why the church must be an example to the community it serves.

Most of us have observed how most people seem not to acknowledge God in their lives – unless they have a serious problem.

We also may have observed how many of these same people will make all kinds of vows to God, if He will just answer their prayers as they requested; and if He does answer, and they no longer have that serious problem, they quickly forget about their vows.

There are many prison and battlefield conversions. There are many who come forth at the altar-call in a revival meeting, or at a Billy Graham crusade; yet few remain steadfast afterwards.

The basic problem is that the vast majority of any community don't recognize who God really is, and how awesome is His Majesty.

Basically, they look at God with indifference – out of sight, out of mind.

But the psalmist of Psalm 99 remembers who God is and that we should worship Him at all times. Note the first 5 verses.

1. The Lord reigns, let the peoples tremble;
He is enthroned above the cherubim, let the earth shake!

Did you notice that the psalmist didn't refer to the Israelites only, but calls upon all peoples, that they should tremble before the awesomeness of God?

2. The Lord is great in Zion,
And He is exalted above the peoples.

Can we see the problem in our own society, where many people exalt other people, or themselves, above God?

Most likely, they wouldn't admit this to us if we asked them, but we can see it by the way they live their lives.

3. Let them praise Thy great and awesome name;
Holy is He.

We have called in similar ways to the people of this community, but few have responded.

Why?

Let's continue; and we should be able to answer this question for ourselves.

4. And the strength of the King loves justice;
Thou hast established equity;
Thou hast executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.

God did indeed establish all this in Israel, and in this nation of ours, but we have perverted much justice and righteousness in our land, as did Israel.

The vast majority of all peoples want justice and righteousness, and love and peace; and many will come to a place where they can find it consistently.

But if they can't see it, they won't know where to go.

5. Exalt the Lord our God,
And worship at his footstool;
Holy is He.

This is the call to all believers: that we do it not only formally in the church, but also at all times out of the church; for the only way that others are going to see us truly exalting the Lord is when they see it in all aspects of our lives.

Some of us might be saying, "How can we do this?"

In Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, he gives them and us a place not only to start, but the framework upon which to build. Let’s look at 1:1-10.

1. Paul and Silvanus and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

First of all he greets them in love, just as all of us should with everyone we encounter.

But with the Thessalonians, he builds his love upon theirs, and they built it upon his and that of the others with him. Note what he says next.

2. We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers;

3. constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,

4. knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;

5. for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.

Does our community see in us the things the Thessalonians saw in Paul and Silvanus and Timothy?

Do they see it at all times?

Do they not only hear the gospel message from all of our lives, but do they also see it in the way we individually live before them, in the way all of us live before them?

For each and every one of us must remember that we are ambassadors of God and of this church.

Do they see the power of God's love and the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives?

Does the way we live convict others of their ungodly ways of life, even without our saying a word?

I'm not going to answer any of these questions for you. Each of us has enough intelligence to do it for ourselves.

Each of us knows how Godly we really are.

Each of us knows the example we make before others.

All of us know that we have room to improve and build upon what we already have.

And hopefully, all of us recognize that the people of this community watch us, to see if we are sincere in our faith; for they, too, want hope in their lives.

6. You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

7. so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

8. For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything.

He has no need to say anything, but he says it anyway, as a way of encouragement.

And I know there are people who have come to this church because of the example we have set before them; and there are others who have left because of it, because of being convicted of their ungodliness, and because of not being convicted of our seriousness.

But, fellow ambassadors, we must not lose sight of the fact that there are many people in our community who need what the Lord is offering them though us.

They need the unconditional love God that extends to the whole of creation, including every person, every animal, and to the environment in which we all live.

If a survey were made of the people of this community, what do you think they would say about us, and why they come or don't come to this church or to others?

Would the analysis of this survey allow us to remark as Paul does about the Thessalonians?

9. For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,

10. and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

There are a lot of people in our community who don't live as though they have been delivered from the wrath of God.

So there still remains a lot of work to do, both within this body and within the community.

The important thing is that we set the proper example for the community.

If they don't follow our example or listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, that is their problem and not ours, as long as we have sincerely done our best.

Do you remember the message God sent to David after he had his affair with Bathsheba?

Listen to what Nathan the prophet told him in 2 Samuel 12:14.

14. "However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die."

Probably the biggest problem we have as Christians, in general, is that we don't think of the reaction others will have to our ungodly acts.

Since David was to set the example, as we are to do today, we are in essence responsible for the ungodly acts that others commit when our acts set the wrong example.

Perhaps one of our constant prayers should be, "Lord, please help me not to do anything that will cause someone else to stumble, or to not commit their life to you."

And if we think about Paul again, we must remember the examples set by the Christians he was persecuting – examples that helped turn him from Saul to Paul.

As with the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:59­60 and 8:1 –

59. And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!"

60. And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep [meaning he died].

8:1. And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.

Even though Saul was in hearty agreement at the time, he nevertheless witnessed the way Stephen died: without any malice, and only with love for those stoning him.

If Stephen can love those who are putting him to death, shouldn't we, as fellow Christians, also love everyone, even our enemies?

Do you remember what Paul said to King Agrippa, in Acts 26:9-11, about those believers he had persecuted before his conversion?

9. "So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.

10. "And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests [but not from God], but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.

11. "And as I punished them often in all the .synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities.

The reason Paul was so furious is because they wouldn't blaspheme.

How easily we Christians today fail even the simplest tests of our faith.

To set the proper and consistent Godly example in this community and elsewhere, we must put the Lord our God first and foremost in our lives.

Probably many will fight against our faith and example, as did Saul, but remember: He eventually committed his life to the Lord.

And most likely, there are several people in our community, right now, looking at us as Saul looked at the Christians in his day, who will themselves come to the Lord, if we set the proper example.

How have people been seeing us?

How will they see us tomorrow?

Lord, as we leave here today, don't let these questioning thoughts leave us, but set them always before our eyes, so that we seriously consider the examples our actions will set, before we act.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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