Be The Church

What would you be willing to do for $10,000,000? Two-thirds of Americans polled would agree to at least one, some to several of the following:
  • Would abandon their entire family (25%)
  • Would abandon their church (25%)
  • Would become prostitutes for a week or more (23%)
  • Would give up their American citizenships (16%)
  • Would leave their spouses (16%)
  • Would withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%)
  • Would kill a stranger (7%)
  • Would put their children up for adoption (3%)

It seems pretty amazing to us that many American could so easily be swayed by $10 million dollars. I’m sure that for some it wouldn’t even need to be $1 million. The crisis that I see here is a crisis of integrity. For some they can be had with a price. Is it that way in the church? Does the church live a life of integrity?

Let me share some findings from Christian pollster George Barna:

§ Churches and parachurch ministries have made divorce a widely-discussed matter in the past two decades. Yet, a majority of born again adults do not believe that divorce is a sin (excluding cases in which adultery is involved).

§ For the typical adult in America, the number of movies they watch during the year is greater than the number of worship services they attend.

§ Adherents of non-Christian faiths are twice as likely as born again Christians to engage in fasting for religious purposes.

§ Born again adults who have been married are just as likely as non-born-again adults who have been married to eventually become divorced

§ Faith has had a limited affect on people’s behavior, whether related to moral convictions and practices, relational activities, lifestyle choices or economic practices

§ Just half of all Protestant Senior Pastors (51%) meet the criteria for having a biblical worldview. The criteria are believing that God is the all-knowing and all-powerful creator of the universe who still rules it today; that Jesus Christ never sinned; that Satan is real; that salvation is received through faith in Christ, not by good deeds; that every follower of Christ has a responsibility to share their faith with non-believers; that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; that absolute moral truth exists; and that absolute moral truth is described in the Bible.

§ A mere 7% of born again adults tithed last year.

§ Born again Christians and adults who attend Christian churches are more likely than atheists, agnostics, and adherents of non-Christian faiths to buy lottery tickets.

§ Half of all adults are so satisfied with their spiritual life that there is nothing at all they wish to change or improve in the future. Another one-quarter listed changes that were quite general or not personally challenging.

§ Most Americans do not accept the notion that they are engaged in a spiritual battle. This is fueled by the widespread rejection of the notion that Satan is real, that salvation is by faith alone, and by the common acceptance of the idea that there are multiple paths to salvation. This also partially explains why only half of all self-described “Christians” are not “absolutely committed” to the Christian faith.

Barna states, “People’s religious beliefs change very little, if at all, after the age of 12, but the way in which they apply those beliefs to their lifestyle and societal situations, and the degree to which they allow their faith to affect their behavior, is constantly shifting.”

This morning we conclude a five week series titled, “Five Things James Would Say to the Church.” We are going to start in James 2:14. What have we discovered so far?

  1. Submit to God; Resist the devil; Draw near to God; Repent and confess, humble yourself before God.
  2. Get Back to Your Roots
  3. We Exist in a Community of Faith
  4. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

This morning James would tell us to be the church. What do I mean? We are going to take a look at it in three parts

First, let’s take a look at James 2:14-25:

14What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.

25In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If the Wesleyan Church is going to be the church, we need to have Be a Church of Action. James makes the claim that it is impossible to be a Christian and not put your faith into action. If were to widen that to the church, it’s impossible to be the church and not be a church of action. Some of you wonder why I emphasize missions the way I do. This is part of the church in action. I said last week, we can’t go everywhere, but we can be a part of the kingdom work everywhere in the world through missions. This is faith in action. This is the church in action. This is part of being the church. This is why we need to be involved in our community. Remember this from what I read earlier, the common acceptance of the idea that there are multiple paths to salvation. This is part of the culture we live in. The culture says there are multiple paths to salvation; that my truth is just as correct as your truth. It says a lot for our witness when we can work together with churches of other denominations, even when we disagree on non-essentials. We the community sees us working together with other believers, it increases our witness. This is faith in action. This is the church in action. We need to be a church that does what it says it believes. James says that faith and actions work together. He goes on to say that Abraham’s faith is made complete by offering his son Isaac. Our faith as a church is made complete by our actions.

The second part of being the church is in the area of speech. Let’s continue in James 3:1-12:

1Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.

3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt[f] water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

The second part of being the church is integrity of speech. I really think the word speaks for itself this morning. How many have ever said, “I wish I could take that back.” Isn’t the power of words amazing? I know just this week; I’ve said things to my family that I have had to apologize for. We’ve heard it in scripture, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” James is getting back to this double-mindedness issue. If our heart isn’t right, then it’s going to show in our words. One of the issues the church (the church universal) is fighting is in the area of hypocrisy. Do we say one thing and do another. Do we say one thing when we are with one group of people and another when we are with another group? James tells us that we can’t do it. (But we do it anyway) He says that it just should not be. We should praise God one minute and curse our brothers the next. How can we do this?

We need to (as James has reminded us) to control our tongues. We need to have integrity in our speech. This is part of keeping our whole bodies in check.

So to be the church, we need to be a people of action who have integrity in our speech. Is there anything else? Let’s take one more look at James 3:13-18:

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

If we are to be the church, we should be a people of action who have our speech under control, AND be wise. James says in chapter one, “He who lacks wisdom should ask for it.” He now tells us how to acquire that wisdom. A church that is seeking to build the kingdom of God should be:

  • peace-loving
  • considerate
  • submissive
  • full of mercy
  • full of good fruit
  • impartial
  • sincere

James finishes off the section by saying, “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.” My prayer is that Preston Wesleyan will be about the business of building the Kingdom of God. We have just begun the part of our journey entitled Preston Wesleyan Church. Each one of us is called to build the kingdom of God, not just the pastor but each one of us. Let’s review the five things we’ve learned over the past five weeks.

1. Submit to God and draw near to Him. Live of life of confession and repentance and He will life you up.

2. Get back to your roots; Take care of the less fortunate and keep yourselves from being corrupted by the world.

3. Be a community of faith; pray, sing, anoint, and confess to one another. In the process, be apart of the greater community of faith.

4. Simplify, simplify, and simplify in order to advance the Kingdom of God.

5. Be the church that God has called you to be by being a church of action, in integrity of speech and a church of wisdom through being peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, full of good fruit, impartial, and sincere.

If you follow these, Preston Wesleyan Church will be the church that God wants it to be. Will you endeavor to follow His lead?

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