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WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A COMMUNITY OF FAITH?

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

19 SEPTEMBER 1993

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

Psalm 78:1-8
Proverbs 1:5-6
Isaiah 51:4-8
        55:3

This morning we are going to look at a few verses of Hebrew wisdom poetry, that answer the question, why is it important to have a community of faith?

Let’s begin by looking at our preparation verse, Isaiah 55:3.

3. "Incline your ear and come to Me.
Listen, that you may live;
And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
According to the faithful mercies shown to David.

God is calling us to listen, that we may live, not just here upon this earth, but eternally.

Additionally, God has indeed established an everlasting covenant with all of us who have listened, even with repentant sinners such as David.

And each of us has heard this call again today, because we have gathered together as a community of faith to hear it.

However, this does not imply that everyone who is gathered together here or in some other house of worship is truly listening.

The community of faith are those who hear the word of God and act upon it.

But there is a much more immediate and practical side to this question of why we need a community of faith.

Is there anyone gathered here who is satisfied with the moral standards that our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have to face?

Is there anyone gathered here who doesn't wish for a better life for their children, than the life we have had?

Since our answer to these questions is, "No!", then we need a way of improving things, don't we?

We can each try to do our best in our own homes, but we and our children leave our homes and encounter life situations that can be harmful.

We simply can't do everything on our own; we need to work together, and together we can change things for the better.

And we begin with our community of faith, the church, and other like minded groups that seek to make this a better world for ALL of God's creation.

Let's take a look at another passage from Isaiah, 51:4-8.

4. "Pay attention to Me, O My people;
And give ear to Me, O My nation;

Has anyone ever spoken to you when you knew they were talking to you, but because your mind was occupied elsewhere, you didn't really hear what was said to you?

That's the state of mind that Israel was in when Isaiah spoke forth these words for the Lord.

They were doing “their own thing,” and not paying any attention to the will of the Lord their God.

So God says, "Pay attention! Pay attention! Listen to Me!"

For a law will go forth from Me,
And I will set My justice for the light of the peoples.

Those things that are not of God are said to be in darkness.

When we are in darkness we stumble and fall.

But God will light our way and chase away the darkness; that is, if we will let Him, by listening to Him and paying attention.

5. "My righteousness is near, My salvation has gone forth,
And My arms will judge the peoples;
The coastlands will wait for Me,
And for My arm they will wait expectantly.

If God's own people won't listen, he will reach out to others who will.

Try to imagine yourself in God's position:

6. "Lift up your eyes to the sky,

Don't just look up to the sky, but spiritually lift up your eyes to the sky, so that you can see as God sees.

Then look to the earth beneath;
For the sky will vanish like smoke,
And the earth will wear out like a garment,
And its inhabitants will die in like manner,
But My salvation shall be forever,
And My righteousness shall not wane.

7. "Listen to Me, you who know righteousness,
A people in whose heart is My law;
Do not fear the reproach of man,
Neither be dismayed at their revilings.

Do we hear what the Lord is saying to us?

Are we really listening?

I pray so; for if we are, then our heart is so filled with love, which fulfills the law, that we can never do anything without love.

We, in effect, become God's love to everyone around us, whether human or non-human, and even for the whole of creation.

In that love, there is no fear; and even though we see much evilness around us, it has no real effect upon us, for we see its source, and we have the power to overcome it.

8. "For the moth will eat them like a garment,
And the grub will eat them like wool.
But My righteousness shall be forever,
And My salvation to all generations."

So much for ourselves; but what about the generations that follow us?

Psalm 78:1-8 speaks of this, and of how the community of faith has existed since God first gave us His revelations.

Thousands of years ago, before writing was perfected, people handed down the messages of God from generation to generation.

They did it by what has become known as "the oral tradition," or a way of remembering and repeating something, much as we do with our favorite songs today.

But the more we rely on the written word, the less we rely upon our memories to act upon God's word in every one of our day to day situations.

It is the community of faith that helps to hold all this together, and passes it on.

1. Listen, O my people, to my instruction;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

This could be the call of anyone of us to our children, or to people in our community.

It could also be the call of a pastor to the congregation.

But more importantly, it is the call of God to each and every one of us.

Note what we are told next:

2. I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,

3. Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.

4. We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

The psalmist is reminding us that unless we are educated in the ways of the Lord, much of what we read in our Bibles and are told about will be mysteries to us, for we won't understand it.

I have heard several of you make similar comments following a sermon or a Bible study, in which the light of the Lord had shown upon a previous mystery.

And you have said, "I always wondered what that meant." Or, "I'm glad you explained that, for it had always troubled me."

Our little children are always asking, "Why? Why?"

How much better they feel when we are able to answer them intelligently.

How much better their lives will turn out, if they have a heart and soul that is filled with the ways of the Lord.

Why should our children be deprived of anything in life, because of a lack of learning, knowledge, and wisdom?

It’s as we are told in Proverbs 1:5-6.

5. A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel,

6. To understand a proverb and a figure,
The words of the wise and their riddles.

If I were to speak to you in the language of pilots, or engineers, or chemists, much of what would be heard by you would sound strange. It would appear as a riddle – something that requires deciphering.

And such it is with spiritual things that move about us as invisible as the breeze; that is, unless we have the eyes to see their presence, and the ears to hear their whispers.

But we all have the power to learn to perceive and understand their mysteries, their riddles, their previously dark sayings of old.

If we are wise we will seek wise counsel; and the church, the community of faith, is to act as that wise counsel, with each of us contributing the insights the Lord has given us, that we never again have to be in the dark.

Let's go back and listen to what the psalmist has been telling us in Psalm 78:5-8.

5. For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,

Which we can see and learn about from the pages of our Bibles.

Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should teach them to their children,

And they have obeyed the Lord by doing the best thing they could: they preserved what God had commanded them by writing it down, that all who were willing to learn could see it and study it.

6. That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,

7. That they should put their confidence in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments,

8. And not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not prepare its heart,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

We have produced a generation that is becoming more and more like these fathers presented to us at the end of this passage.

We have produced a generation that doesn't respect God's standards of living, that isn't filled with love and respect and peace; a generation that seeks its own way in life, and justifies its actions by creating new moral standards; a generation that is going the wrong way on the narrow road that leads to heaven.

But if we are wise, we can stop this trend.

We can change the direction in which our society has been going.

We can shine the light of God's wisdom upon this generation, and the one that is growing up, so that all will see the right way to go.

This is what it means to be a true community of faith.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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