Good morning and welcome to worship! Thank you for coming! Your presence is a great encouragement to the worship team, the hospitality team, the Sunday School teachers, the other worshipers around you, to me, and believe it or not even to the Lord himself.
You see he loves you. He created you to be part of his family along with the Son and the Holy Spirit. He wants you to be a partner with him in the salvation of the world.
Today we continue our sermon series on the resources God has given us to meet the challenges in the New Year. The first is living worship. No matter what happens in 2016, we commit ourselves to “Love the Lord our God will all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.”
Can you imagine the challenges that will face the person who wins that $1.5 billion power ball lottery? Will it end up being a blessing or a curse to that person and their children and grandchildren? How would you survive a test like that?
The second resource God has given us is growing faith. God’s desire is to train and equip us for the spiritual battle that is ahead. Last Sunday I asked, “Are you willing to grow and learn? Or are you so prideful or insecure that you need to project the façade that you have it all together and don’t need any help?” Will you commit yourself to regular worship and getting involved in a prayer and Bible study group where you can grow deeper into your faith?
Today we look at the third resource the Lord has given us. We call it serving fellowship. God’s purpose is to build us into a team. He wants to teach us to trust each other, rely on each other rather than trying to go it alone.
Satan understands “divide and conquer”. His purpose is to isolate and divide us so that he can hunt us down and do us in. But the Lord has a better idea. He created us in his image. This means that just as God is One God in Three Persons; so the Body of Christ is One though we are many. Let’s open our Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12.
The church in Corinth was a mess. Everybody did their own thing without consideration for anyone else. Rather than serving each other, they exploited each other. Rather than encouraging and affirming each other, they condemned and judged each other. Rather than cooperating, they were always competing. Rather than fulfilling their responsibilities, they demanded entitlements. In the name of grace, they indulged in the grossest depravity.
They coveted the spiritual gifts that God gave through the Holy Spirit for the sake of exalting themselves. But seemed oblivious to the fact that God had given them these gifts to serve others. We begin our study at verse 4. Paul writes…
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” 1 Cor 12:4-6
This is obvious when we look at the football teams that will be playing today. Each player has a different skill set, but there is one team. To win they must complete/not compare or compete or complain about the differences between them. Every player must join his teammates in coming together and functioning as one Body if they are to have any chance of success. The same is true for us as a congregation - whether that congregation is in ancient Corinth or Whitefish, Montana in the 21 century.
Jump down to vs 12. Paul writes, “The body is a unit (one), though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.” 1 Cor 12:12
He goes on. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Cor 12:13
The city of Corinth had 250,000 people in it as well as 400,000 slaves. It was a seaport filled with people of every religion, every nationality, every social-economic class. Just like what happened at Pentecost, all kinds of people had been touched by the Gospel. They had given their lives to Jesus, been baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. But they didn’t think, smell, dress, or act alike. They had different traditions/values. How could they ever be One?
That’s an important question for us. Our great grandparents wondered if Swedish and Norwegian Lutherans could ever be one, worshiping together in the same place. In the south, they wondered in black and white Christians could worship in the same house.
To be honest, the things which divide us today are far less dramatic that the things that divided these early Christians in the church in Corinth. Jesus promised when he was lifted up, he would draw all people to himself. Our unity is in him. It still is.
Paul goes on, “Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.” It would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 1 Cor 12:14-17
The sense organs of the body are like antennae. A wise body pays attention to these. We ignore them at our peril. In a marriage, a family, a church, each member has a different antenna. Some sense things others are oblivious to others. How foolish to blow off the warnings that come through those who are able to sense things we are not.
At the same time, we need to be aware that our eyes, ears, sense of balance can be deceived. Airplane pilots are particularly aware of how dangerous it is to fly by the seat of your pants. Eyes, ears, your sense of balance can be mistaken. We need the whole body to evaluate the information our sensory members give us in order to respond appropriately.
Paul goes on. That’s why, “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” on the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.” 1 Cor 12:21-22
In the football game today, there will be no perfect players, no perfect teams. Neither are there any perfect churches, or perfect staff or church members. “But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.” 1 Cor 12:24-25
How amazing! The Lord has put our team together the way he wanted it to be. Who are we to judge the teammates he has given us! Instead of complaining, fighting, condemning each other, Paul says, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the Body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Cor 12:26-27
Christ Lutheran is an amazing congregation. Our unity is in Christ. By his grace, we are committed to LIVING WORSHIP and that has resulted in GROWING FAITH. Many of you are involved in weekly Bible Studies and in prayer teams. Many of you take time for daily devotions and prayer. The fruit of your GROWING FAITH is evident in the ways you care for each other and the many ministries that continue to bubble up from this place. By God’s grace, you are a SERVING FELLOWSHIP that is blessing the lives of thousands of people.
It’s not an easy task. It requires dying to ourselves so that Jesus might live in us. Paul writes in Ephesians 2 “It is by grace that you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Eph 2:8-10
Jesus told us there is still much work to be done. If you haven’t opened your heart to Jesus and invited him to be Lord of your life, do so today. Difficult times are coming. Until you commit yourself to love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, you won’t be ready.
If you’ve never taken the time or the risk to join a Bible study or prayer group so that you can begin to grow in your faith, do it now. Tough times are on the way and the Lord wants you to be trained and ready.
If you’ve always let somebody else do the work for whatever reason, it’s time to change that. God has something he needs you to do. He’s gifted you to do it. If you will commit your way to him, he’ll show you what it is and you will be ready when the tough times come.
A recent psychology journal reported that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from chronic loneliness that is leading to medical problems. This particularly true among our youth and our seniors.
It seems our cyber connections are aggravating more than solving this problem. What are we missing? I believe its purpose and fellowship, its working and serving together in Jesus name to advance his kingdom rather than our own.
God has gifted us all and called us to participate, to serve, to invest our lives in a purpose greater than ourselves. We were created to do work that matters for eternity. We were created for fellowship with God and with each other. And that fellowship happens when we join God’s team and begin working with him and for him.
Maybe it’s volunteering for a job here at the church, maybe it’s volunteering for a job in the community outside the church. But God has something for you to do. If you are willing, you will discover your work will not only bless others, it will bless you. And the fellowship you experience with God and with each other will heal your loneliness.