Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
BUILDING A CHURCH ON THE PROPER FOUNDATION
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 JUNE 1988
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 65:1)
“I permitted Myself to be sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I permitted Myself to be found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here am I, here am I,’
To a nation which did not call on My name.”
If we were to consider building a new church building, we would most likely desire it to last a very long time.
Therefore, we would make proper preparation. We would have it designed by architects and engineers. It would comply with all of the building codes. We would even have the soil conditions below the proposed building analyzed to ensure that a proper foundation would be built.
But this still doesn't get us a new church.
We have to raise the money to pay for it, engage the contractors and suppliers to do the work, and only then can the work properly proceed.
And before we can begin to form and pour a proper reinforced concrete foundation for the church, we must do some site work.
We have to clear away all of the trees and brush from the building area, strip off the topsoil, do some rough grading and excavating, and then, and only then, can we begin to work on the foundation.
And if all of this is not done properly, the foundation may fail, causing the whole church to collapse; and great will be its fall.
But this sermon is not really about a physical church building. It's about we who believe and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. This is the true church.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the firm foundation on which a church must be built. But even this firm foundation may collapse if the proper preparation is not done first.
The basis of this preparation is our own willingness to submit totally to God's will, and do all that He desires us to do.
This will clear away all of the thorns and thistles and other brush and trees that stand in the way of our beginning to properly build.
This also separates the true creation and heavenly will of God for the concessions He may reluctantly allow in this corrupt and fallen world.
We are to do this so that we can fully live in our Fathers heavenly will here on earth as it is in heaven, just as Jesus taught us to pray.
There is a simple way of determining whether or not we are doing this; in God's creation, and in heaven there is no pain, or suffering, or death, so if we do everything in our power to eliminate anything from our lives that cause or contribute to any pain, suffering, or death, we are to turn away from it.
And remember that this applies to the whole of God's creation: to all our fellow human beings, to all the animals, and to the world we live in.
Our submission to God will also remove a great deal of dirt from our lives so that there is room to pour in the foundation of God's Word.
And once the foundation is completed, the floor poured, and the building finished, the dirt is, for the most part, kept out.
Note that I said that the dirt is kept out for the most part, and not completely.
Unless we are willing to perform proper maintenance, the dirt will begin to come in again and build up; and decay and deterioration will start to destroy the church.
This is what is happening to most of the churches in our country.
They slowly let back in the evil things of this world; those things that cause pain, suffering, and death.
Our Old Testament lesson for this morning spoke of the preparation work within ourselves before we start to build upon Jesus Christ.
And our New Testament lesson speaks of our ongoing maintenance program.
Psalm 111 is an acrostic poem. That means that the first letter of each line begins with a different letter in the order of the alphabet. The Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters and this poem has 22 lines. The opening "praise the Lord" is not part of the acrostic portion of the poem.
It is as if to say that every part of God's word is included in the Psalm, for all of His Word is formed from these 22 letters.
Let's take another look at it:
1. Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart,
In the company of the upright and in the assembly.
This is the beginning of our preparation. Within the church, we are to openly
praise and thank God for everything He is and for everything He has done, and
This is the encouragement that we all need. It can not be faked, or it will
do no good. It must be in truth and from the heart.
2. Great are the works of the Lord;
They are studied by all who delight in them.
God has laid His whole plan out before us. If we study it, and delight in it, and follow it, we will build properly.
3. Splendid and majestic is His work;
And His righteousness endures forever.
All of God's works are noteworthy; and if we follow His example, and build upon His righteousness, our work will last forever also.
4. He has made His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
God loves us and desires us to follow His example. And if we do this, then what we do will also be remembered.
5. He has given food to those who fear Him;
He will remember His covenant forever.
6. He has made known to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
God is giving us everything we need and most of what we desire; and all that we don't get now, we will later either lose our desire for, or we will have it abundantly.
Those things we receive will last forever; if we hold fast to God, we will not lose them.
7. The works of His hands are truth and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
8. They are upheld forever and ever;
They are performed in truth and uprightness.
We can trust in all that the Lord tells us. Nothing He says or does is unjust. The plans for building His church are sure. If we follow them, it will last forever, for we will have done our proper preparation for the setting of the foundation.
9. He has sent redemption to His people;
He has ordained His covenant forever;
Holy and awesome is His name.
God sent His only begotten Son to redeem us, if we will accept Him and His gift. And when we do, we are assured of everlasting life.
Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which men may be saved, for holy and awesome and wonderful is His name.
This is the only way to ensure that we are building our church on a firm foundation.
10. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments;
His praise endures forever.
If this is where our heart and mind is set, then we will have no trouble in all that we do, for we will have done the proper preparation.
Perhaps all of this was done in the building of our church, but perhaps something was left out.
And if something was left out, does that mean that the church might fail?
It could mean just that, if it is allowed to remain lacking in that essential part; but with proper shoring and excavation, we can underpin our foundation and make it almost as good as new.
And at the same time that we are doing this work, we should also do our renovation and maintenance work.
Let's begin by taking another look at our Colossians 3 verses:
5. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.
Whether it is our own body, or the body of the church, it is important that we are on guard against things such as these.
6. For it is on account of these things that the wrath of God will come,
If we allow such things to enter our body, it has the same effect as rust and
mildew on a building. If left unchecked, it will bring everything into a state
7. and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.
When we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are to leave these practices behind; but sometimes we allow some of these things to creep back in.
This creeping in can be directly into our own lives, or through our toleration of others who are participating in such practices. In either case, the body becomes weaker.
8. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.
We are not to accept it. We are to rebuke it. We all just have to realize that our house will never be in order without this kind of housecleaning.
9. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,
10. and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him
11. – a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian,
Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
As we do our housekeeping and maintenance, we are renewed into the image of Christ Himself.
It doesn't matter who we are, or what we have done; once we accept Christ on His terms, He is faithful to accept us on an equal basis with all other believers.
12. And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;
13. bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
This is that convicting part, for it points more at those who don't forgive a sinner who repents, than it does at the sinners for what they have done.
This is the kind of living in Christ that will underpin a crumbling foundation and begin to renew a church. But there is more that we must do:
14. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.
15. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.
We should never be afraid of loving one another in Christ and showing that love in our lives, for that will be the cement to bind us together.
And as we let the love of Jesus Christ enter into us, we will also find that we will have an infilling of His peace.
Therefore, we should express our thanks to Him and to those around us.
16. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
And where does all of this thankfulness come from?
It comes because of our salvation.
Every one of us knows that we are sinners and don't deserve to go to heaven and commune with a holy and righteous God. But because of our faith, our repentant heart, our belief in Jesus Christ, and our willingness to live in His will, He has accepted us.
Thus we are thankful, and we desire to understand more of God, so we read and study more of His Word, and then we begin to desire to share the good news with others.
With this revelation, the Holy Spirit will breathe new life into the church.
As this happens, we will more and more desire to come together and share the things on our hearts with each other, and God, in love.
And if there is something that we don't understand about the things in our lives or about our personal relationship with the Lord, we should share them as well, for you will not carry the burden alone.
Thus we also grow, and the church will be brighter and newer looking than the day it was first put together. Each day it will be newer, if we continue our proper maintenance.
17. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.