11/25/12- “The Need for a New Church” 2 Cor. 4:16-18 Video of this sermon (click here)16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
|What I find missing today is hope and direction. These are two things Paul says that Christians especially have. Our advent devotional is all about hope because Christmas is hope- and advent is waiting on that hope.
About 20 years ago, before email was common, and before everything you wanted was on the internet, I bought a portable TV with antennaes for Christmas. I thought when I went to conferences, or even at a football game I could catch the news and latest scores and replays. I had saved up for it, it cost more than I want to admit, and now it is worthless. Oh, the broadcasts are still around, Television still exists, but this analog TV with no adapter for cable is worthless. Not too many years ago, I had dial up phones that are no longer usable. The need to communicate is still there, but the method has changed. We live in a world which is changing, but the root needs- the basic things of life are the same. Human beings still need to eat and drink, sleep, be clothed and have shelter. Human beings also still need their Maker.
We live in a different world, but the inner workings of us remain the same. The church needs to change, but it does not need to change its message of hope, truth, and purpose. The old old story must be communicated in every possible way to reach as many who are fleeing and forgetting the hope we have. A new church is not simply one with new exterior things- like new music, new buildings, new programs. A new church is not simply new people in a new location. A new church doesn’t simply cave into the culture around it- that is historically what has destroyed the church. A new church doesn’t simply hold onto the old traditions thoughtlessly or create new things because it is trendy- or seen as relevant. The biggest need of the church today is a new heart for God and stronger eyes of faith. If our heart and faith is right, then we can get the hope we need in life.
I. A NEW HEART- Jesus emphasized that religion is not simply on the exterior, but a part of the heart. We are called to have Christ as King of our hearts. Do not lose heart (do not despair/become weary/lose energy) enkakeo. Kathryn Ann Mullis, granddaughter of one our membes Vann and Susan, had been on an artificial heart for months. When she got her heart transplant on 9/20. It meant her hopes were fulfilled. It meant she didn’t have to be anxious about her old heart not lasting. It meant she was set free from the tubes, the hospital to be her own little girl. When Christ comes in, He sets us free.
But this is what a new heart does for us. When Christ is in your heart, we are no longer bound by the desires and problems of this world. We have a new hope, with a real difference right now. We do not need to lose our new heart by despairing or weariness. With A NEW HEART WE SEE PROBLEMS AND LIFE DIFFERENTLY
II. A NEW WAY OF LOOKING AT PROBLEMS- Paul is asking us to look at our troubles today from an eternal perspective. Our bodies peak in the late 20s in terms of height, strength, elasticity, speed, reaction time. Our brains start shrinking in mass at about 20 years old. That’s one reason it is so much fun for a 40 year old to watch a college football game. It would not be very pretty to watch 50 or 60 year olds play. So we peak physically about the end of the first quarter of our life. But what about the other three quarters? I believe God gives us three quarters to go to remind us there is more than the physical. I believe God makes us sleep daily to remind us we are physically not in control. There is an overemphasis in our culture on the physical and the worldly- and we do so artificially. We have found, more than any other culture in the history of the world ways to keep the outward man from wasting away. But we haven’t found a way to prevent death, and we have not found a way to avoid the spiritual.
There is no doubt that each of us in this room will face overwhelming problems. Paul talked about our problems like this- “Our outward man is wasting away.” That is an overwhelming problem- physically. Physically we will be overwhelmed- by the aging process, by an accident or a disease—there is no doubt that we will face tough times somewhere along the line. But we do not need to be overwhelmed inwardly and spiritually. Paul said that he is wasting away on the outside, but on the inside he is being renewed every day. In fact, Paul is saying it is possible that our overwhelming physical problems can actually sharpen us spiritually- like an axe is sharpened by a stone. He speaks of our external problems are sharpening us internally. Now this is important. If you beat an axe against a sharpening stone, you will dull the blade. Some get bitter and blame God for their outwardly wasting away. But if we look at it right, and depend on God at each step- we can take our physical problems and use them like a sharpening stone for spiritual good.
This is true individually and it is also true as a church. When I look back at the history of this church, the great years were the years when we sacrificed to make it go. It was a sacrifice to move from place to place until we could land on this property. It was a sacrifice to build the first two buildings- and a lot of you spent a ton of time and sweat and money into building these buildings. In many ways a church is only as good as those who go to it are willing to sacrifice for it. In our very mobile culture, we have made it even harder to invest in a stable place. But nevertheless, we are called to give not just for ourselves but for the next generation- the next people who come along behind us. Paul said a few but important words about our sacrifices, troubles, pains and crosses we bear.
HE SAID THEY ARE LIGHT- OUTWEIGHED BY GLORY- Kind of no pain no gain thing. If you could weigh ten years of trouble against an eternity of joy- what would weigh the most? In terms of time, our troubles are light. If you could weigh the cross of Christ against his resurrection, which is more important? In terms of eternal importance our troubles do not outweigh our glory. You know four years of college were wonderful- in some ways the best, but looking back somewhat painful. You had to study when you would rather be doing something else- and most didn’t get paid to study. The food was not all that good, and you live in something like a cell- called a dorm. But without the four years it is hard to get a decent job. So, the troubles of college were well worth it. I would not go back to living in a dorm and eating college food and staying up all night for exam for anything. Yet, it was all worth it. It was a light and momentary trouble. This life, in many ways, is like a school. It is where we prepare ourselves and learn of eternity.
B. MOMENTARY- NOT ETERNAL PAIN- Pain is an interesting thing. It is sharp, it is momentary. If women could remember their pain clearly- then only one baby would be born to each household. My son had 13 different broken bones from 3rd to 7th grade. Each one, at the time, was a crisis. But now we cannot remember all of them and where they happened. But, when you are going through pain or heartache, no one wants to hear, “This pain is light and momentary.” In fact, there is a large part of us that wants the world to stop when we are in pain. Dr. Paul Brand, a pioneer among nerve studies and leprosy, says that pain is an alarm clock that something is wrong and needs fixing. So it is a blessing to feel that the stove is hot so we remove our hand. Lepers do not feel the stove is hot and so their hands get really burned. Pain is important- but it is not all there is. There is a day when pain and trouble ends, and even when we will forget the pain of this life because of the joy we have. Heaven is so full of joy that pain becomes hard to remember. When I got married- I did not focus on the heartache of past breakups. When I graduated from college, I didn’t focus on the all-nighters and hard times studying. When we get to heaven, we will be so full with joy, that everything else seems light & quick.
C, ACHIEVE SOMETHING- Paul says that our light and momentary troubles are achieving something. When we suffer for our faith- something happens- it changes us. I am convinced that a church that doesn’t seek to challenge itself and sacrifice for a greater cause- for God- is a church that is just coasting and is on its way to a slow death. One of the main problems with American mainline churches today is we seek to be comfortable more than we seek to please God. So, too few new churches get started- because that takes sacrifice. We walk by sight and not by faith- scared of the risks instead of stepping out. This is also true of us individually and as families. If we are seeking to be elevated in this world more than seeking to elevate God in our hearts, then we are slowly but surely choking off our faith.
III. A NEW WAY OF SEEING- LIFE
A. FIX OUR EYES- Paul tells us to fix our eyes on what is unseen. Like tight rope walker or rock climber (don’t look down). We should not look down- at how far we can fall, or all the bad and pain and problems in the world. Paul is using a metaphor here- he of course, is speaking of fixing our heart- focusing our attention. As a church- we are called to fix our eyes- not on the bad things in the church, or the bad things in this life- but to fix our eyes upwards. Lift you your hearts- we lift them up unto the Lord. It is right to give Him thanks and praise.
B. ON THE UNSEEN- How do you see the unseen? The eyes of faith. Heb. 11:27- Moses endured as seeing him who is invisible. The church will die and our souls will wither away if we fix our eyes on ourselves, and the unseen is just a help to us. The world doesn’t need more people who are narcissistic. You know God is too often used as a tool to make us feel comfortable. If that is the case, then we become God, and God serves our needs. It really should be the other way around. We find ourselves, our hope, our purpose, our meaning in serving God. There is a group called the Shakers who came to Kentucky to start a new Christian community- they brought us the song, “It’s a gift to be simple.” They did not allow for their members to have children. They focused only on their own spirituality, and to no one’s surprise, they died out. That is a no brainer. We do not want to do that. In fact, we must plan for children to carry on the faith to the next generation. Today the Church needs hope, but hope is not just something you do while you sit on your hands. It is something you do while you work toward it- like trying to build a new children’s ministry building in hope; or even trying to start a daughter church- to reproduce our hope. Hope doesn’t happen by accident, but it goes along with faith in God and love for God and neighbor.