Each sermon is published in large print for use in preaching, and for easy reading by several people gathered around the computer monitor.
DO WE LOVE EACH OTHER ENOUGH TO CORRECT EACH OTHER?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
9 SEPTEMBER 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Psalm 115:1)
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Thy name give glory because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth.
Last week we talked about the importance of each of us being a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God.
That was a personal matter.
Today we are going to see, in part, how the whole congregation is to function in our relationship with the Lord.
And in a similar way, we could extend this understanding to our whole nation, and to even the whole world.
Psalm 115 speaks of the way we should pray and consider our relationship with God. This psalm is liturgical in nature, meaning that the leader or chorus would sing a verse and the people would respond; but it is difficult to determine where these breaks occur.
Therefore, as we read this psalm, let each of us consider our self as both leader and attendee, for in reality we are both.
And as we read, I would like you to consider the state of our nation today, in comparison to that of Israel's when this psalm was written.
Let's begin with the first three verses:
1. Not to us, O Lord, not to us,
But to Thy name give glory
Because of Thy lovingkindness, because of Thy truth.
2. Why should the nations say,
"Where, now, is their God?"
3. But our God is in the heavens;
He does whatever He pleases.
We should observe very carefully, particularly from the first verse, that the people recognize their own sinful nature and that they are unworthy of God's glory, for they say, "Not to us, O Lord, not to us.” They desire that God be glorified, and not themselves.
Remember also that God is glorified through His obedient children.
They realize the ungodliness of their society and are praying for God's intervention, that He would at least do something that would stop the talk of the foreign nations that say, "Where now is their God?"
Israel's ungodliness has led the nations around them to consider them as themselves and our God the same as their idols.
Haven’t we been doing similarly in this country? By our actions and words, haven’t we dishonored God in a similar way, as to cause nonbelievers to belittle our God, as well?
We are to be God's stewards, His ambassadors, His servants, that are charges with protecting the whole of His creation, which includes every other human being, the other animals, and the environment.
Yet our society has continued to rape and pollute the environment, and commit the most horrible atrocities on billions of animals every years for unnecessary food, clothing, research, and so-called entertainment.
And let us not forget our warring madness.
Perhaps we also should be praying as the remnant of believers in Israel did.
But we also must remember, as did the Israelites, that God is still in control and knows what He is doing.
We should also know that our prayers do at times cause God to change His mind, as parents change their minds at the request of their children.
Then in verses 4-7, they recount what non-believers do, whether or not they are (in name only) Israelites or Christians, as we should consider:
4. Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of man's hands.
5. They have mouths, but they cannot speak;
They have eyes, but they cannot see;
6. They have ears, but they cannot hear;
They have noses, but they cannot smell;
7. They have hands, but they cannot feel;
They have feet, but they cannot walk;
They cannot make a sound with their throat.
Today we may not make as many idols in the likeness of humans or animals, though there are some in this country who do just that.
What we do is make idols of other things in our lives, as is the case with many of those who are not in church this morning.
Sure, we have all kinds of excuses for what we do; and when considered in a worldly sense, they are valid.
But when considered in a Godly sense, they are idols, nevertheless.
Our first step in truly being Godly is to admit what is ungodly, and repent of it and not try to excuse it away.
For the fate of those who do not turn from their idolatry is described in verse 8:
8. Those who make them will become like them,
Everyone who trusts in them.
If we continually turn from God, and in good times say that we don't need God and the Church, where will we be when bad times come?
Thus they sing of a desire for all Israel to turn back to God and be holy unto Him, as we should be doing.
Listen to verses 9-11, and see if it doesn't apply to our nation as well, and
even to our own community:
9. O Israel, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
10. O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
11. You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord;
He is their help and their shield.
First the plea is made to the nation of Israel as a whole, then to the priests, the house of Aaron, for they too have not trusted in the Lord their God and served Him, as many of our priests and pastors also have not.
Then the plea is made to all who still have reverence for God, to make a stand for Him and trust in Him.
Have we made that stand before others?
Have we encouraged them to return to the Lord their God and trust in Him?
Put a marker in this passage, for we will be coming back, and now turn with me to Exodus 19:18-25.
God knows all about human nature and how easily we forget about Him. Thus He wants us to remind each other that we are to obey God's commands and serve Him.
As we read verses 18-22, note how God reminds Moses of this:
18. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.
19. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with [a voice that sounded like] thunder.
20. And the Lord came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
21. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, "Go down, warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish.
22. "And also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them."
Did you notice that God has commanded Moses to warn both the people and the priests?
But consider Moses. He has just climbed up to the top of this mountain, and the first thing God does is tell him to go back down and warn the people not to come near, and to consecrate themselves.
Listen to what Moses answered in verse 23:
23. And Moses said to the Lord, "The people cannot come up to Mount Sinai, for Thou didst warn us, saying, 'Set bounds about the mountain and consecrate it.' "
God has told us a lot of things that we are to do and not do, and we don't follow them all, do we? The same was true of Israel.
Moses answers, as most of us would: "You told them once, what more can I do?"
But God knows the intent of our hearts, and reminds Moses again. Note verses 24-25:
24. Then the Lord said to him, "Go down and come up again, you and Aaron with you; but do not let the priests and the people break through to come up to the Lord, lest He break forth upon them."
25. So Moses went down to the people and told them.
God reminds us of these things, because He loves us and wants us to freely choose to be with Him.
Sometimes people don't like what I say and, unfortunately, even think that I am personally accusing them of something; but I believe that God commands us to remind each other when we turn away or are on the verge of doing so.
This is all part of being a true church.
I make mistakes and I appreciate the reminders I get, both from the Lord and from others, so that I may turn back and be a stronger Christian.
Believers are not islands unto themselves. We are all a part of a greater body.
And our body needs to be reminded to keep itself in shape and to wash away the dirt we accumulate.
Before going back to Psalm 115, turn with me to Matthew 18:15-20, and hear how the Lord Jesus tells us to keep our body in a holy and acceptable manner.
Let's begin with verses 15-17:
15. "And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.
16. "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.
17. "And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.
We so often confuse the passage of Matthew 7:1, "Do not judge lest you be judged,” as being more important than this one; but when taken in context, as we discussed last week, they work together, if we do what we do in love.
God wants us to remind each other that we are to live holy lives acceptable to Him.
Listen to what the Lord says about this in Matthew 18:18.
18. "Truly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Do you remember what we were told in Psalm 115 about idol worshipers? That God gives them over to their evilness?
Well this is exactly what Jesus is telling us here in this verse.
If we bind up sin, for what it is, here on earth, if we don't try to excuse it, if we repent of our sins and turn back to the Lord, then God will bind up that sin in heaven and protect us from its effects.
But if we let the sin loose here on earth, and even excuse it away by allowing it to exist in our presence or by saying nothing about it, then the Lord says He will also loose that sin in heaven and take away our protection from it; and we who say we believe will become like the unbelievers around us.
Something tells me that this is already going on today!
If the pastor doesn't remind the people and the people don't remind each other and the pastor, we will become no different than the sinful world that is going to hell.
God wants so much more for us.
He doesn't want this to happen to us.
He loves us!
And even if most of the church doesn't listen, God will protect those who do listen, as we are told in verses 19-20:
19. "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.
20. "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst."
What Jesus is telling us is nothing new; it has been that way from the beginning.
Let's return to Psalm 115 and see how the psalmist expresses the same thing, beginning at verse 12:
12. The Lord has been mindful of us; He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.
13. He will bless those who fear the Lord,
The small together with the great.
14. May the Lord give you increase,
You and your children.
15. May you be blessed of the Lord,
Maker of heaven and earth.
16. The heavens are the heavens of the Lord;
But the earth He has given to the sons of men.
This is God's grace!
Everything that is around us, He made for us to cherish and enjoy.
And society has been making a mess of it.
But if we repent and seek the Lord, He will indeed bless us.
Why is it that we turn so easily away from that which is right, and seek that which is evil?
I suppose if we could answer that in a way we would all accept, it wouldn't happen.
But we seem not to want the truth about God, so we often reject His word.
Listen to the final results that the psalmist expresses (17-18):
17. The dead do not praise the Lord,
Nor do any who go down into silence;
18. But as for us, we will bless the Lord
From this time forth and forever.
Praise the Lord!
The choice is ours; if we die in our sins, we will not have another chance to praise the Lord.
But if we seek the Lord at all times, we will be able to praise Him forever and ever.
I also pray that you were in agreement with that last verse: "But as for us...."
Are you one of the "us" that will bless the Lord now and forever?
If we are, then we shouldn't mind if one of our fellow Christians reminds us that we are doing something that is ungodly, and that we should return wholeheartedly to the Lord.
In fact, we should rejoice greatly that they loved us enough to tell us, and we should love them in return.
What a wonderful church this would be.
For soon we wouldn't have to remind each other so often. We would just naturally do what God wants us to do, because we would love Him as He loves us.