7-20-14 Sermon “My Soul to Keep- The Marks of the Church”

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?My Soul to Keep and The Marks of the Church? ???1 Thess. 2:13; Acts 17:11; Prov. 4:23; Matt. 7:15

“When you received the Word of God, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is- the Word of God, which is at work in you which believe.? (1 Thess. 2:13)
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.? (Acts 17:11)
Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it. (Prov. 4:23)
Watch out for false prophets,.? They come to you?in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matt. 7:15)

Help me out, ?Now I lay me down to sleep? I pray the Lord?[?My soul to keep?]. The church is supposed to help us keep our souls, to guard our hearts. Finding the right church is not looking it up on google and seeing which one is most popular. Confessions tell us that churches that keep our souls do so by two simple ways: 1) the right preaching of the Word and 2) the right administration of the sacraments. This is guarding your heart. ???????????I was encouraged at Vacation Bible School this week. The children were taught to begin to care for their soul. They were taught that Jesus loved them deep down, and that they were to love others. The children were taught to sing, to dance, to have fun, and to go deep. It is not so deep for a child. We harden our soul. Peer pressure, tough times, distractions and busy-ness, bad things that happen harden our soul, so that we would even lose our soul in the pain or busy-ness of life. ???? The world will tell you to ignore your soul- but then all these things start popping up. I can remember a few months ago I went to the doctor who did a regular check up and found that my blood was deficient in vitamin D. So I took a supplement- and these splotches I had on my skin just went away- things I didn?t even know were wrong- things that I just assumed were irritating things that would always be there went away. Some times we can become deficient in things that feed our soul- and we wonder why we are weary, depressed, unfocused, without peace. There are symptoms that we are not keeping our soul. So lets look at how we can guard our soul by looking at what keeps our soul in the church. I. WHAT ATTRACTS US BUT DOES NOT KEEP US- There are things that attract us to God but do not keep us. We all know that- the brightly packaged, the name of the author- may encourage us to read the book; the star may attract us to watch the movie- John Wayne, Tom Hanks; The musician may be coming out with a new album- so we have to buy it. But all that glitters is not gold. It is the same in the church. Jesus spoke about the sheep?s clothing that the wolves had on. He was speaking about educated and affirmed religious teachers in his day. Many things may attract us to a church- music, signs, location, we like the people there, programs, being there at a funeral or a wedding or a place to bring the kids.?? But just being attracted is not enough- we know that. It is possible to be attracted to a wolf in sheep?s clothing. Buildings may attract us. Some people ride by the road and see our new building going up and they say- wow- I don?t know what building that is, but let?s go there and see what is happening. But buildings by themselves do not keep us in the church, and buildings by themselves- no matter how pretty, how efficient, how wonderful do not make our soul. Hopefully, a beautiful church building is a sign- a monument that God is doing something on the inside of the people in that church.?? Buildings can attract and inspire- but they do not keep our souls. Denominations also- may attract us. Some come to our church because they grew up Presbyterian or they had an aunt who was Presbyterian so it has to be okay.?? But a denomination or affiliation does not mean you are good to go on the inside. They did not say if you are Presbyterian or OPC, EPC, PCA, ECO, ARP you are okay but if you are PCUSA you are not. The Reformers did NOT say join my denomination and you won?t have to worry about being in the wrong church. It is striking that they did not mention denominations as a factor in the marks of a true church. A denomination may say something about your kind of worship, or the way you look at some things- but the time of denominations and affiliations is getting looser and looser. As I said before there are now more non-denominational churches than denominational ones- and the denominational churches. Being a Presbyterian does not mean your soul is good to go nor does it mean your soul is lost. Jesus said. We must guard our souls- for everything we do flows out of it. The person who is just attracted by its denomination, building, music, sign, or whatever stays on the edge of the church- they may join, but they only come to worship and the church is nice but not as meaningful. Some are just attracted like on the outside looking in. What is the reality behind the attraction. An attraction can be like bait- bite into it and it is bad. Or an attraction can be like finding a gold mine that is far deeper than we could have ever imagined. II. WHAT ENCOURAGES US BUT DOE NOT KEEP US- The church is supposed to provide encouragement to our faith. But it is really easy for us to think that if we have a lot going on, we are therefore guarding our souls. A church our size tends to be program oriented. We care that we have some kind of ministry for every age group, every need. So we have exercise classes, weight-watchers, scouts, youth, preschool, feast groups, Merry Presbyterians. Such things are a step above the attraction stage. It is where we fit in. We do- I do encourage everyone to find a place to fit in- and there are lots of places here. It is where you get to know one another and others know you. It is where you find fellowship with other people that can lift you up when you are down- or whom you can help when they need it. It is where we do mission and where we do outreach and where we go beyond ourselves- and for some that is enough. It is digging deeper than attraction, and for many it is great. The Reformers did not say be in a small group and your soul will be kept. There is another level still. III. THE MARKS OF THE CHURCH THAT KEEP OUR SOULS- The confessions asked the question- how do you find a good church? What are the signs/marks/notes/things you look for that are the basics of a good church? The answer is twofold- yea threefold the confessions say. 1. THE BIBLE PREACHED- Church is not a self-help deal. The church is not legalistic but neither is it just grace. Balance comes in scripture- which teaches both the principles of grace and love as well as holiness and obedience. The distortion of the Christian faith is we can design it ourselves. We do not design our world, and we are not called to design our faith- we are called to listen to obey to humble ourselves before God.?? Sometimes I hear somebody say, ?Well I used to read the Bible, but I didn?t understand some of it so I stopped.? Do you stop eating that way? Do you say,?I didn?t like some of that food so I am just going to stop eating altogether?? Would you say that about breathing? I breathed in a gnat so now I?m just going to hold my breath.? The Bible is essential to our spiritual life. God has used and will use scripture to meet us, and tell us where we can find Him. If you will read the Bible with an open mind and faith you will find it resonates with your soul. Paul says in the passage we read- that the Thessalonians accepted the word of God as God?s Word and then the Bereans were better than the Thessalonians for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Many keep the Bible in a corner. Read the Psalms. Read John listen and you will find you will be a better person. A mark of a Christian church is that the Bible is there- not as history but as living Word. I think of my grandmother who didn?t have a high school education but read scripture each day; Olin Rowe who was outwardly wasting away but inwardly renewed by daily reading of the Bible. There are many books. But there is only One Book. II. THE SACRAMENTS ARE ADMINISTERED WITH CARE- Not a superstitious hoky-poky thing- but a holy administering of Baptism and the Lord?s Supper. For Calvin, these two were enough- for these two are where God meets us. God meets us, and we meet Him when we read scripture and have the sacraments. The Sacraments make visible God?s love- look at the baptism of a new convert/baby and not be moved? Can you think of Jesus? death on the cross and be indifferent? ?To not renew your soul with the sacraments is to not keep your soul. III. Knox adds the discipline of the church- which is important. Discipline allows you to listen and to experience good things that you would otherwise miss. Have you ever been to a place where the kids are undisciplined? It takes discipline to tell a child- you will sit here- sit still and you will read. You will focus on your work. Discipline is not meant to hurt anyone, but it is meant to help us to focus on what is important- and there are important deep things- like scripture and the sacraments. ?????Dallas Willard was a Christian professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. He used to tell the story of a young boy who couldn?t sleep at night, so he sought out his father. He crept into His father?s bed. He still wouldn?t go to sleep. His father spoke to him and that helped. His father gave him something small to drink and eat to let him know he was there. This comforted the boy entirely. But he had one more question in the dark, ?Daddy, is your face turned toward me?? It was only when the father said ?Yes? that the boy finally went to sleep. There is peace when God speaks to us, nourishes us, and turns His face toward us. These are the marks of His presence and the Marks of the church. That is how God keeps us and gives us peace.