The Lutheran Church of the Triune God

7th Sunday after Epiphany                                                                              February 19, 2017

 

1 Corinthians 3:10-23                         A Church with a Real Future

 

Dear fellow redeemed: 

*   In his book "The Purpose Driven Church, Rick Warren tries to assure Christian congregations that

            their church can have a real future.

            It happens, basically, when you assure the newcomer that your church is his church.

*   His platform is said to be based on the great commission. 

            But if you take a closer look, his principles are not simply to reach out to the lost, but to ask them

            to reach out to us. 

             "Tell us who we need to be, what we need to do, for you to come to our church." 

            What's going to offer you a sense of freedom and make you feel welcome?

*   "It is my deep conviction that anybody can be won to Christ" Warren says, "if you discover

            the key to his or her heart. (And) the most likely place to start is with the person's felt needs."[i]

*   To put it in simple terms, we are to evangelize people on their terms, making it "as easy and

            attractive as possible" for them to become Christian.[ii]  And we can do so by having a weekly

            service that's specifically designed to appeal to the unbeliever. 

*   In response, we might say, yes, the church will address the needs of the community in

            every way we can.  We want to reflect Christ's mercy.

*   However, the chief purpose of the church is to preach the Gospel. 

            Think about those who came to Jesus for something other than the Gospel and forgiveness of sins.  

            When the Lord sensed crowds were coming to get their felt needs met, he left and preached elsewhere. 

*   Jesus did not view himself as having come for the purpose of meeting felt needs.

            He actually rebuked the crowds for coming to him for this reason.[iii]  "Do not labor for the food

            that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life" Jesus told them (John 6:27).

 

A Church with a Real Future is a church that understands Christ's purpose for the church.

*   Three things come to our attention from today's reading

            A church with a real future is built upon Christ and his Gospel.

            It offers the believer real freedom. And it's where you have a real sense of belonging.

*   First, a word about Christ and his Gospel.

             "For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Christ Jesus"

           St. Paul declares.   He speaks of the doctrine recorded by the apostles of the church. 

           A true church with a real future is a church which professes the teachings of Christ.

*   It explains the longstanding tradition to recite one of the church's creeds during the divine service. 

            As we confess our faith, we're telling both God and the visitor from the community that we trust

            in what Christ has done on the cross to pay for our sin and secure our salvation.

 

No other foundation will do.  In fact, any other foundation that is laid can only be seen as defective.

*   "Now, if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay,

            straw—each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it . . . by fire."

*   Now there's a warning against preaching anything but the Gospel.

            These flammable materials consist of all teachings and methods of growth that rely on human wisdom.  

*   You consider the platform of the so-called purpose-driven church; that the most effective

            outreach to that prospective member is to discover the key to his heart.

*   It's assuming that his heart will put two and two together.

            If only the church can persuade this person to enter through those doors and believe this is his church,

            well, he'll believe the Gospel.  He'll trust in his Savior for forgiveness!

*   However, a person' heart is by nature sinful and unclean.

             "The sinful mind is hostile to God" (Romans 8:7) Paul informs us.

             "The Word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing" (1 Corinthians 1:18).

 

There may be no wonder why many so-called purpose-driven churches have grown like weeds.  

You get to join our church on your own terms; without the slightest understanding why you're there.

*   Imagine the story of the three pigs but with a twist.

            You know the story reads.  The pigs with the house of straw and sticks escape the wolf's huffing

            and puffing, finding refuge in the third pig's homemade of bricks.

            They've come to their senses.  This is the only place where they can find safety.

*   But what if you're oblivious to the wolf?  In real life, (I'm speaking of the church) you more

            frequently find the third pig moving to the church where the first or second pig reside.

*   In real life, the story has a tragic ending. 

            People expose themselves to the fierce wolf, the devil, by assembling in that structure that's

            destined to fall, for they've tried to add to Christ's foundation which consists of his Gospel.

            To make the Gospel more appealing, they've added gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, or straw.

*   Then again, we too may seek a faulty foundation.

1)               We don't want the sermon to accuse us of our sin. 

            We want to feel good with who we are.

2)               We don't want to hear those doctrines that were drilled into us those grueling years of catechism.  

            The preacher should keep it more light, more palatable and appetizing.

3)               We don't want to measure our health as a congregation based on whether we hear the truth in its purity. 

            We want to gage our fitness based on whether we're getting along.

 

A Church with a Real Future is laid upon Christ and his Gospel.  And with a real future comes real freedom.  

*   Through the message of forgiveness of our Savior who died for us, we're free to live lives,

            which are not only pleasing to God but beneficial to those we serve.  "Do you not know that

            you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?" Paul asks.

*   Coming to mind for many of Paul's original readers, would be the Jerusalem temple, which was both

            massive and beautiful.

*   But they should know as believers in Christ that they are even more beautiful.

            Nothing is more precious in God's sight than when we acknowledge our Christian freedom;

            that we may adorn and build up the church with our finest contributions. 

*   "If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us"! (1 John 4:12) John writes.

 

But sadly, many people lose sight of their Christian freedom.

*   The Corintians had developed a fascination for Stoic philosophy which spoke of a much different freedom.  

            The teaching on free will maintained that man was capable of being rational in all aspects of life.

*   Unfortunately, as a result of their ego, many of the Corinthians had become complacent and their

            values were turned upside down.  Figuring they were rational; in control of their fate, they often

            justified doing as they pleased.  

*   We may be reminded of today's culture where being educated and permissive often go together.

            True morality is not what God has revealed in Scripture as his will. 

            You're truly moral if you've learned how to be at peace both with yourself and those around you.  

            You respect each other!

*   Paul is quick to rebuke. "Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this age,

            let him become a fool that he may become wise.  For . . .the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,

            that they are futile."  

*   And unfortunately, we too may become futile in our thinking. 

            We're concerned not so much with the wages of sin and being free from sin's guilt.

            We're concerned about being free from what our sinful nature will bring on us today. 

            Will I beat this cancer, outlast my heart disease, overcome my arthritis?

*   But even if we outsmart and outlive most of our friends, if that's our only goal in life, it's futile.  

            For sooner or later we all die.  "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

*   Real freedom is to become free Jesus' way.  You're willing to become a fool that you may become wise. 

            You acknowledge your sin before God. 

            You trust in God's Word to make you "wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 3:15).

 

A Church with a Real Future is built on Christ and his Gospel.  

And as a result of having a real foundation and real freedom, you have a real sense of belonging.

*   "For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or

            the present or the future—all are yours."  

*   Last week we commented on the strive in the Corinthian congregation. 

            Those who demonstrated they really belonged were those with a better gift, a better pastor.

*   But the truth is, it doesn't matter who you are in the church.  Everything's yours!

            Everything upon which you depend, the Lord provides. 

            You want a sense of belonging?  Forgiveness, faith, and salvation are yours! 

*   Unfortunately the phrase "all things are yours" had held a different meaning for many in Corinth. 

            The stoics, believed every person contained a tiny spark of the divine.

*   You could discover that you were a fragment of God himself if you lived that absolutely rational

            life rather than a life based on passion.  That's when you realized you had access to all things. 

*   Today people talk about rights; not as God-given but as inherent.  It hasn't occurred to them that

            either you have rights because God has given you these rights, or you have them because you are God.

*   However, they might express it, people believe they possess what can only be regarded as Godlike

            qualities.  "Inasmuch as I am living and breathing, it is my right to have access to what others have

            access to.  If it's yours it should be mine too!"

 

The problem, of course, is not everyone can get their way.

*   Having determined this the apparent solution in Corinth was to back a certain leader you believed

            had the most authority. 

            If they got behind Paul or Apollos or Cephas, who is Peter, things would go their way.

*   In the church, today, you seek out that position on a board.  You become a voter. 

            You have a voice. And in so many cases, your right to speak up has nothing to do with promoting

            the Gospel. It's about getting your way.

*   Eventually, as mentioned earlier, it can affect the very fabric of the church service.

             "Maybe you're making the newcomer feel welcome.  But what about me and my needs?!

            Isn't this still my church!?  But you've taken away what's most precious to me!"

*   And so, you're left with a choice.  Complain about your rights being neglected; how you have

            no ownership, or quit the church.

 

But it's so senseless!

*   A Church with a Real Future is where every real need is accessible to every Christian!  "For all

            things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours."   

*   In the church, no one is deprived, for there is but one right that need concern us; that we may

            live and exist in this world as God's children, and that he will nurture and sustain us in the faith.

*   If you're ever feeling like you have no voice in the church, you may talk to your pastor.

            But also, consider this:  Right here in the divine service we have everything we need. 

*   We have Holy Baptism which works forgiveness and rescues from death and the devil.

            We have the Gospel which is "the power of salvation for everyone who believes."

            We have Holy Absolution where we may confess those sins burdening us and be relieved of our guilt. 

            We have the Lord's Supper, where in addition to receiving forgiveness we're given strength to live a

            new life in Christ.

*   And we have our Savior to thank.

             "For all things are yours . . . And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's."

*   Christ, that is to say, gave up his rights.  Although, being in very nature God, the Lord subordinated

            himself to the Father, placing himself under the Father's authority.

            So, that we might have a share in his rights, having a place in his kingdom, Jesus made no claim to his

            rights as God's Son, but submitted to the will of his Father.

*   It didn't matter that everything was his as he is the Lord God.

            So that we might have everything necessary for life everlasting, he'd become the have-not giving up

            his life for us.

 

The implication is clear.

*   If you're a newcomer, you don't have to jump through any hoops before you sense you belong. 

            We don't have to convince you that you are a part of us. 

            As a congregation, we don't have to compete with other churches that claim they're more in tune

            with the needs of the community.

*   Because here each and every one of us has access to every spiritual blessing.

            Everything Christ purchased for us on his cross he provides for us in his church.

 

It's what's called the purpose-driven church. You reach out by assuring that prospective parishioner that

you will make him feel at home in every imaginable way.  You will make your church his church!

*   But guess what?  Triune God is not your church, nor is it my church. 

            It doesn't belong to that somebody who's just moved into the neighborhood. 

            This is Christ's church.

*   And yet that can alleviate every single concern we might have about the future.

            You've asked yourself, "What's going to happen when Pastor Preus retires? 

            Will the next pastor be successful interacting with the community?  Will he connect with those

            who live a little further away, and who appreciate the more traditional service?

            Do we need to be concerned about closing our doors in a few years?

*   Well, of this I may assure you.  Where the church is built upon Christ and his Gospel; where the church

            offers you freedom from sin and a sense of belonging with the sharing of Christ's gifts, that church and

            this church has a real future!  Amen.

 

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

 

                        A Church with a Real Future

   I – A church with a real future is built upon Christ and his Gospel.

  II – A church with a real future offers the believer real freedom.

 III – A church with a real future is where you have a real sense of belonging.

 



[i] Ibid, p. 219.

[ii] Ibid, p. 185.

[iii] Book Review of the Purpose Driven Church; Paul Alexander, 9marks.orgreviewpurpose-driven-church-rick-warren.