Sunday, March 22, 2009

Romans 15:14-16 - Four Marks of a Healthy Church

I went to Clinton High School in Clinton, S.C. Back in the day, I was the manager of the varsity football team. We were called the Clinton Red Devils. Legendary six-time state champion Coach Keith Richardson taught me a lot of things about life and work and commitment and even a few things about faith during the years I was privileged to serve him.

On game day, we had what they called Skull. During Skull, all the team sat together and went over final instructions before suiting up for the game.

The coaches would remind the team about their opponent, about plays they might call, and might show them a few film clips, followed by a time of quiet, intense focus when Coach Richardson would remind us of what he called the Clinton Intangibles. They were statements like, “Block and Tackle.” “Defeat is mental.” “Champions make goal line stands.” “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” “The team with the fewest mistakes wins.” “Big Team, little me.” “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” “Blood and guts and bust their . . . “ How did that one get in there? [1]
Anyhow, today we are going to see what God’s word teaches us about being a healthy church member, or perhaps we could say, some Intangibles about a healthy church. Turn with me to Romans 15 and we will get started.
Pray and Read: Romans 15:14-16
Contextual Notes:
The early church, after a long and bloody time of persecution, came up with four marks of the church which they placed in the Nicene Creed: One, Holy, catholic (universal), and Apostolic Church. The Reformers named two marks of a healthy church. They taught that the church existed where there was right preaching of the Word and right administration of the ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Long before either the Reformers or early church's marks, the Apostle Paul gave four marks of a healthy church here at the beginning of Paul’s Epilogue in his letter to the Romans, the Magna Charta of the Christian faith.
Today we will look at these verses to see what those four marks of a healthy church are.
We all have heard that the church is not the building. It is not the service you attend. It is not an institution or denomination. The church is people who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior gathered together. Since the church is people, it is each one of us here. We are the church. Therefore the quality of the church lies in the quality of the church membership, not in anything else.
As we look at these marks of a healthy church today, I want to encourage you to listen asking yourself how you compare to what the Scripture calls healthy, because like my high school football coach said, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Key Truth: Paul wrote Romans 15:14-16 to remind believers that they should live good lives, know and teach the Word of God, serve their communities and world, and have a vision for missions.
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about what kind of members make a healthy church.
Sermon Points:
A Healthy Church Has Members Who:
1. Live Good Lives (HEART) (Romans 15:14)
2. Know the Word of God (HEAD) (Romans 15:14)
3. Serve their community and world (HANDS) (Romans 15:16)
4. Have a vision for missions (FEET) (Romans 15:16)

A Healthy Church Has Members Who:
  1. Live Good Lives (Romans 15:14) (HEART)
a. Full of Goodnessἀγαθωσύνης: “filled with goodness” The idea is of generosity.
b. Not that there is good in any man -- Romans 3:12 tells us that no one is good, not even one, but our goodness comes not from within us, but from Christ dwelling in us. That is a big distinction, because if you are church member without knowing Christ as your Lord, dwelling in you, then there is no goodness to draw on in an eternal or real sense. You may be nice and do some things in the church, but you are not saved.
c. This goodness was Known. Paul thanked the Roman Christians on their well-known goodness in Romans 1:8, saying that their faith was being reported all over the world.
d. APPLICATION: So what about you? Are you known as a good, kind person. Are you generous in action and speech? Are people scared to speak to you in the mornings because they don’t know how you’ll be when you get to work? Are you full of goodness? Do you cheat on your taxes? Do you slip around on your spouse: Do you lie to get your sale quota in? Are you one of those who snips off the cashier? Do you treat the people who work for you like machines you drive or like people whom God has given you responsibility for? Don’t you understand that the way you act at work reflects not just on you but on your Lord? That the way you treat an employee, the way you speak to your supervisor, the way you take home tools and office supplies reflects on your church?
e. Perhaps you think that outsiders don’t pay attention to that, but I guarantee you that the folks at the convenience store know more about what is going on in your church than a third or more of your members do. And I heard it and you’ve heard it: “If that’s the way he acts and he goes to church, I’m not going there.”
Galatians 5:22-23: 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Matthew 5:16: 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

A Healthy Church Has Members Who:
2. Know the Word and can teach it (Romans 15:14) (HEAD)
a. Complete in Knowledge – “having been filled with all knowledge”
b. Instructed in doctrine – They were not Biblically illiterate. These people knew their Bibles, and almost all of them were illiterate. They could not read and write. They were slaves and had no rights.
2 Peter 1:12: 12So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.
c. Competent to instruct one anotherνουθετεῖν “being able to teach / admonish each other”. The Lord calls us to be able to teach, but this word means something more than standing up in front of a Sunday School class. It means encouraging or admonishing.
d. APPLICATION: It means sitting over lunch and encouraging a fellow believer about her wayward child and praying with her. It means loving someone enough to tell them there is a better way to live than getting drunk and high every weekend and telling him about what Jesus did in your own life. It means inviting a young couple over to your house for supper and to talk about the Lord and what He has done in your lives together, how He has held your marriage together in spite of yourselves.
Hebrews 5:12: 12In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!
e. Verse 15: Paul knew that these intangibles were things that the Roman church needed some encouragement in, some admonishing, some friendly reminding. Peter did something similar in a letter at 2 Peter 1:13 -- 13I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body,

A Healthy Church Has Members Who:
3. Serve their community & world (Romans 15:16) (HANDS)
a. Minister of Christ Jesus to the nations – “a servant minister of Christ Jesus to the people groups” λειτουργὸν – is a state servant, official, used Romans 13.
b. APPLICATION: In real ways, you are an official representative of another Kingdom that is coming to take over this earth one day. You are a representative of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of the Son. There are a great number of ways you can be right now serving in hands-on, practical ways. During the Katrina recovery alone, the NC Baptist Men and the NAMB served millions of meals and rebuilt several thousand damaged homes. You can serve right here in town in many ministries that your fellow church members know about. Let me encourage you to do that. Some of you battle depression. Do you know why most of you do? Because you spend too much time thinking about yourself. If you’d get up each morning and say, “Lord, how can I glorify you today” rather than, “How do I feel this morning?” you would see your depression evaporate. Why? Because you would be doing hands on service, and serving others gets your mind off you and onto things that matter, things of the Kingdom.

A Healthy Church Has Members Who:
4. Have a vision for missions (Romans 15:16) (FEET)
a. Priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God – “serving as a priest the gospel of God” ἱερουργοῦντα ierourgounta – found only here in the NT. This word includes the Intercessory role of Priestly prayer.
b. Getting people saved, into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ
c. ILLUSTRATION: Dennis Aggrey and the Jesus Film in Lofa
d. APPLICATION: If you can’t physically go, you can sit before the Lord as an intercessor on behalf of the nations. The IMB has resources for praying for unreached people groups who have no chance to hear the message of Jesus Christ. If you are not at least praying for the nations, why aren’t you?
e. The GOAL is winning as many as possible from as many ethnic groups as possible
f. Gentiles might become offering acceptable to God – sanctified by Holy Spirit – “the offering of the nations might become acceptable, being consecrated by the Holy Spirit.” Paul is offering the Nations to the Lord as an Offering to Consecrate. The nations are offered as living sacrifices offering themselves in conversion and allegiance.
g. APPLICATION: If you are retired and in good health, why are you wasting your life playing golf and fishing when you could be investing your life in the Kingdom for the salvation of souls, for investments that will never crash, that will never need a stimulus, that will always gain? You’re a young person, and missions seems like something so far beyond your abilities that God would never call you. It is just that kind of life which the Lord is calling you to. Everyone is called to be part of Christ’s Great Commission. It isn’t just for the trained professionals. It is for everyone. And when the opportunity comes to do more than you ever dreamed you could in a mission trip or something similar, trust God to take you past your dream for your life into His dream for your life.
Numbers 8:11: 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the LORD so that they may be ready to do the work of the LORD.
Romans 12:1-2: 1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Isaiah 66:20: 20 And they will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD -on horses, in chariots and wagons, and on mules and camels," says the LORD. "They will bring them, as the Israelites bring their grain offerings, to the temple of the LORD in ceremonially clean vessels.
Matthew 28:18-20: 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Revelation 7:9: 9After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
Today we have talked about what a healthy church member looks like. We have talked about what kind of HEART – HEAD – HANDS – FEET they should have: What kind of a Church member are you? Where do you need improvement? Won't you respond to Him today?