AGCC Sun. a.m. 6/29/97
(see also: 8/17/86)
Philip. 4:21-23; John 1:12-13; I John 3:1-2
INTRO: The Church is one of the
most unusual institutions on Earth! People can be a part of it for just about
any reason they want, even the wrong reasons if they choose. It has no products
to sell, its income is strictly based on what people feel like giving it! You
cannot make anyone do anything for the organization if they choose not to do
something. You can't really "fire" Christians. It has all the marks of failure
by a business standpoint, yet it is the longest enduring institution around!
Unfortunately, what God intended it to be and what it has become are often
ILLUS: Dick Halverson, the Chaplain of the Senate, notes:
In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and
women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved
to Greece where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to
Rome where it became an institution. Next, it moved to
Europe where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to
America where it became an enterprise.
-- Bruce and Marshall Shelley, The Consumer
Church, p. 109.
So what should the Church look like? The Bible calls us "Saints"...wow! Yet,
isn't the Church full of broken people?
ILLUS: During Vacation Bible School last week my wife had an
experience with her primary class that she says she will never forget. Her class
was interrupted on Wednesday about an hour before dismissal when a new student
was brought in. The little boy had one arm missing, and since the class was
almost over, she had no opportunity to learn any of the details about the cause
or his state of adjustment. She was very nervous and afraid that one of the
other children would comment on his handicap and embarrass him. There was no
opportunity to caution them, so she proceeded as carefully as possible. As the
class time came to a close, she began to relax. She asked the class to join her
in their usual closing ceremony. "Let's make our churches," she said. "Here's
the church and here's the steeple, open the doors and there's..." The awful
truth of her own actions struck her. The very thing she had feared that the
children would do, she had done. As she stood there speechless, the little girl
sitting next to the boy reached over with her left hand and placed it up to his
right hand and said, "Davey, let's make the church together." This story may be
seen as a parable of our search for oneness in Christ: to put our inadequate,
handicapped lives alongside the lives of others and to pray, "Let's make the
church together." --James
S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc,
1988) p. 275.
This is the Church! All Saints...all needing each other!...all loved by
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that all those who are born again are "saints", and that we are called
upon to love one another and spur each other on to maturity in Christ. There is
great joy in being a part of the family of God!
I. POSITION OF SAINTHOOD 4:21, Jn. 1:12-13; I Jn.
A. Inclusive 4:21a
1. Notice that Paul does not say to "some of the saints in Christ" but to "all the saints in Christ".
a. In some denominational circles you cannot be declared a "saint" unless several of the following apply:
(1. You have a long history of tremendous sacrifices that can be documented.
(2. Some kind of unexplained miracle can be proved to have occurred by your life or work.
(3. You're work touched many many people.
(4. You're dead with no blemishes on your life!
b. The qualifying statement here to declare someone a "saint" is "IN CHRIST" ...not some vague perfect life with attending miracles!
2. The Church is not a place for some saints, it is meant to be a place where all those who are in Christ are saints!
a. and this shared life is what brings joy to our sainthood!
b. together the Church is a body of saints that can light a dark
ILLUS: In a certain mountain village in Europe several centuries ago, a nobleman wondered what legacy he should leave to his townspeople. At last he decided to build them a church.
No one saw the complete plans for the church until it was finished. When the people gathered, they marveled at its beauty and completeness. Then someone asked, "But where are the lamps? How will it be lighted?"
The nobleman pointed to some brackets in the walls. Then he gave to each family a lamp which they were to bring with them each time they came to worship.
"Each time you are here the area where you are
seated will be lighted," the nobleman said. "Each time you are not here, that
area will be dark. This is to remind you that whenever you fail to come to
church, some part of God's house will be dark." -- Church Bulletin Bits
3. It is not the end result that determines our "sainthood" , it is the starting point that determines it, "in Christ" .
a. This is where the "joy" part comes in...we can already rejoice in the fact that in Christ we are already "saints" !
b. Our calling is to live out this life of joyful sainthood! Everyone
"in Christ" is included!
B. Identity 4:21b; Jn. 1:12-13; I Jn. 3:1-2
1. It is not just "Saint Peter", "Saint Paul", "Saint John", ...it is also "Saint Dennis", "Saint Bevie Jo", "Saint (fill in your name here!)"
a. We are identified as "saint" when we are identified with Christ!
b. This is the promise of John 1:12: "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God--"
2. This is a marvelous truth...and it is where the joy comes in...we marvel at the fact that we are saints at the moment of new birth, not after our death! Notice the joyful expression in I John 3:1 "How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!..."
a. It isn't that we are always perfect after our new birth, but the title "saint" is not preserved for perfect people, but for forgiven people!
b. "Sainthood" is a CALLING, not just a
ILLUS: When translator Des Oatridge, working in Papua New Guinea, came to the words "born again" in John's Gospel, he asked his native co-translator to think of a good way to express it.
The man explained this custom:
Sometimes a person goes wrong and will not listen to anybody. We all get together in the village and place that person in the midst of us. The elders talk to him for a long time. "You have gone wrong!" they say. "All your thoughts, intentions, and values are wrong. Now you have to become a baby again and start to relearn everything right."
It was the answer Des was looking for. Today
the words of John 3:3 in Binumarien read, "No one can see the Kingdom of God
unless he becomes like a baby again and relearns everything from God's Word."
-- In Other Words,
3. Paul could call all those in Philippi "saints" and also those who were with him "brothers" even if they had never met each other. 4:21
a. They all shared the same identity in Christ..
b. They are all "saints", they are all "brothers" in
II. POWER OF SAINTHOOD 4:22
A. Imitate 4:22a
1. There couldn't have been two more diverse groups being joined here by Paul:
a. The Church at Philippi which was enduring ongoing persecution by both Jews and Romans.
b. And the "Brothers" with Paul in Caesar's household!!!
c. How ironic that Paul links them together as "brothers" and "saints"!
2. How did these proud elite Romans in Caesar's household become "saints"?
a. No doubt they had learned to imitate Paul's life and perspective once he led them to Christ!
b. Paul had to show them the way...and he did this by example....
c. How is your example...are others encouraged to treat others like
"saints" from your example?
ILLUS: A missionary returning home after many years of service was asked, "Tell me what you found when you arrived in New Guinea."
"Found? I found something that looked more hopeless than if I had been sent into a jungle of tigers."
"What do you mean?"
"Why, the people seemed utterly devoid of moral sense. If a mother was carrying her little baby and the baby began to cry, she would throw it into the ditch and let it die. If a man saw his father break his leg, he would leave him by the roadside to suffer by himself. They had no compassion whatever. They didn't even know what the word meant."
"Well, what did you do for them?"
"I thought it best to show them my faith by my works! When I saw a baby crying, I picked it up and consoled it. When I saw a man with a broken leg, I sought to mend it. When I found people distressed and hungry, I took them in, comforted them, and fed them. Finally they inquired, 'What does this mean? Why are you doing this for us?' Then I had my chance, and I preached the gospel!"
"Did you succeed?"
"My friend," said the missionary, "when I
returned home on furlough, I left a church!"
3. The power of sainthood is that when we practice the life of Christ we lead others into doing the same.
a. It is vital to the JOY OF SAINTHOOD that we live a joyful life in Christ that celebrates God's love and forgiveness in our lives by extending it to others.
b. Though the proud Romans gave the Christians a hard time, there were "saints" in Caesar's household that became "brothers" to the Church in Philippi because of the influence of the "SAINT PAUL"!
c. These high level Romans imitated God's grace in Paul's life...they also
send their greetings to "all the saints"...now being a part of the
"saints of God" themselves!
B. Impact! 4:22b
1. The impact of one "saint" named Paul created many other "saints" in an unlikely place...Caesar's household!
a. This is the power of God's grace in our lives!
b. People don't have to be impacted by the lives of long dead saints that few can identify with, they can be powerfully impacted by those who are "living saints" today!
ILLUS: A minister filling in for a teacher of a young boys' class asked, "What do you think Jesus was like?" Doubtless the pastor expected an answer like: He was a good man; He was a poet; He was a carpenter; He was like God. But no. One little fellow raised his hand and replied, "I think Jesus was like my Sunday School teacher."
Has anyone ever compared your demeanor and
deeds to those of Jesus?
2. No doubt Paul's use of the phrase, "ESPECIALLY those who belong to Caesar's household" indicated the novelty of this group wanting to wish their fellow "saints" a special greeting.
a. Though persecuted by Roman rule, they had "brothers" in the very home of the Roman ruler, Caesar's household itself!
b. The impact of example by Paul was deep. These Romans want to make sure that their greetings are sent by Paul...they want to be first in wishing them God's best.
c. This is the whole idea of being a "saint"...to impact positively
others around us by God's grace.
III. PROMISE OF SAINTHOOD 4:23
A. Investment 4:23a
1. What has God invested in order for us to become saints: His grace!
a. without this we would be anything but "saints"!
b. and we should always remember that this is the reason we can be called "saints", it is not that we deserve the title, it is that it is bestowed upon us all who receive Christ as a gift...it is undeserved favor, the very meaning of the term "Grace"!
2. We need to see each other through God's grace...or it will be hard to see "saints" sometimes!
a. Not only will it be hard for us to see others as "saints", but it will be hard for others to see us as "saints" if we fail to let God's grace be at work on both ends!
b. It is a perspective too easily forgotten!
ILLUS: A husband and his wife arose one Sunday morning and the wife dressed for church. It was just about time for the service when she noticed her husband hadn't moved a finger toward getting dressed. Perplexed, she asked, "Why aren't you getting dressed for church?" He said, "Cause I don't want to go. She asked, "Do you have any reasons?" He said, "Yes, I have three good reasons. First, the congregation is cold. Second, no one likes me. And third, I just don't want to go.
The wife replied, wisely, "Well, honey, I have
three reasons why you should go. First, the congregation is warm. Second, there
are a few people there who like you. And third, you're the pastor! So get
dressed!" --James S.
Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)
3. We need to learn to appreciate God's grace in our lives, and in the
lives of the other "saints" we fellowship with...we are in this together
B. Impression 4:23b
1. God's power of grace at work in us has a deep impression on our soul...notice the final line of this book: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen"
a. As it impresses itself upon our spirit, it will impress those around us that we are "saints"!
b. God's grace will strike a familiar chord in our heart that will enable
us to love each other as well as experience the joy of sainthood!
ILLUS: When Richard the Lion-hearted, one of the famous old-time
British kings, lay in prison in a foreign land, his favorite minstrel traveled
all over the country looking for his master, and everywhere he sang the king's
favorite song, knowing that if the king heard it he would respond. At length the
minstrel came to the castle where the king was imprisoned, and sang there. The
king heard the song, and took up the melody, and the minstrel knew that his
master was there. He carried a message in song. -- GBF Hallock, 100 Best Sermons (N.Y.: Geo H. Duran Co, 1923), p.
2. If God's grace is in us...it can be shared with others through us.
a. As this flows in both directions the Church experiences the JOY OF SAINTHOOD!
b. The Church is a place for joyful people...certainly the Church of
Philippi and SAINT Paul experienced this...so can we!
CONCLUSION: The Church is one big "HAPPY" family...or at least it is suppose to be! All Christians are "saints", albeit not necessarily perfect ones, but ones that God is perfecting! There is a real joy in sainthood because we all belong to God. The song, "What a fellowship, what a joy divine..." is a reality! Love the brethren, be a saint, would you!?