Churches are like people. They have attitudes, reputations, and pre-dispositions.
Some are good and some are not so good. There are some churches known for their good works and some know for their awesome battles.
There is a town in Texas where a church got into a disagreement over if it was ever appropriate to tell a lie. Eventually the discussion became so heated that the church actually split. One group was known as the lying church and the other as the non-liars. How is that for a great reputation to have?
This is nothing new. John records the reputations of seven churches in the initial chapters of Revelations.
The Seven Churches of Revelations
· Ephesus – The Loveless Church
· Smyrna – The Persecuted Church
· Pergamom – The Compromising Church
· Thyatria – The Corrupt Church
· Sardis – The Dead Church
· Philadelphia – The Faithful Church
· Laodicea – The Lukewarm Church
The Philippian church was known for its grace
2 Corinthians 8:1 (NCV)
8 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace God gave the churches in Macedonia.
The Philippian Christians were known for its grace.
Grace is not wimpy. Somehow when you use the word grace in a sentence you get a kind of wimpy weak-willy image in your head. It sounds like a grace-filled Christian is sort of like walking around wearing a ballerina tutu. Not really something you want to do most of the time.
Wrong Image. Grace is not weak or wimpy. Grace is the generosity of love and acceptance that you give people who don’t deserve it. It is the parallel universe of mercy. Mercy is not giving a person what they deserve. Grace is giving them what they don’t deserve.
The key piece of grace is GIVING. It is proactive. It is forceful. It is has leverage in life. It has the power of a great wave of water. It is prevailing. It changes people.
My wife is a woman of grace. With her permission I’ll tell this story on her. I was serving on a board here in town and was told about one of the key employee’s having been told that she had cancer. I was told that she wanted to keep it quiet and that the board was asked to keep it confidential.
Well, I went home and told my wife that this woman was going to be out of the picture for a while but that I couldn’t go into details.
This person was also the one we interacted with on our daughter Susan’s behalf so the next time Donna talked to her she told Donna that she wouldn’t be in office for a while. Donna asked, “why?” Susan Shehan mumbled something about hospital and surgery. Donna, said what’s wrong? My mother was there and was dumbfounded to watch my kind and quiet, grace filled loving wife back this poor woman into a corner asking questions and offering support.
Donna ended up going over to her home and helping with the recovery. Today this lady and my wife are good spiritual pals at least partly because of Prevailing and Powerful Grace!
How do you become a church of this kind of power?
This morning we’re going to reverse engineering a Prevailing Power Church – the Philippian Christian Church.
What we will find is a three-step process – in reverse order.
I saw a movie that was told from the last to the first – it was real strange and strangely powerful. Things didn’t end up the way you thought. Or maybe I mean things didn’t start the way you would think. Hopefully this won’t be that confusing!
3rd Step: Mix Trouble with Joy to get Grace
2 Corinthians 8:2 (NCV)
2 They have been tested by great troubles, and they are very poor. But they gave much because of their great joy.
The Philippians were not rich people. In fact the scripture reveals that they were very poor. Philippi was at one time mining community with gold and silver mines in a nearby mountain. The mines gradually played out and the city became a stop on the road from Rome through the area.
In 42 AD it was the site of two great battles between Octavian and Antony. It was just 8 years later that Paul came and established the church. Picture an town, once robust, that had lost its source of wealth and was ravaged by war.
I’ve seen mining communities that have played out. I’ve seen the empty buildings of Calumet, the empty mine shafts of Ishpeming, and open pit in Republic, Michigan.
In these towns, even without the destruction of war, there isn’t much left of the people. They are tired and very poor.
There was every possible reason for this church to get a reputation for being poor and needy. Not the Philippians! They viewed this kind of trouble as a honing of their faith. The joy they knew because of Jesus in their lives resulted in something totally amazing!
They gave thanks to God rather than feeling sorry for themselves – and this was shown in their giving!
John Newton is a great example of the Grace of Giving
He was the captain of a slave ship when he turned to God - his best work is known to us all – “Amazing Grace”. This was the product of both trouble and Joy in his life.
He also wrote a little poem that I ran across this week that really impacted me. Let me read it to you…
I am not what I ought to be.
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But still, I am not what I used to be.
And by the grace of God, I am what I am.
What of the heard about the Meridian Christian Church?
Are we a church of grace filled believers? You know them don’t you? That’s the poor little church without a building… They meet in the Chippewa Middle School. I heard that they have had some trouble with some land… and did you know that they don’t have any flags either! I thought that successful churches had buildings and lots of flags…
Listen, we have had some trouble and it isn’t always easy but remember that trouble + joy produces Prevailing Grace!
Let’s take the trouble mix in the joy and watch the prevailing grace come bubbling out! In fact, I dare say, that is precisely what we are doing!
We are stronger today than ever before. Today we share a greater sense of community than we have ever felt. We are unified in our desire to share with others the awesome news of Jesus love.
What we have today is a body of people committed to making Meridian Christian Church a spiritual home for the prodigal son and the elder son.
Trouble has a way of pruning, thinning, and preparing us to bear God’s fruit.
Trouble + Joy produces Grace
So where does the joy come from?
2nd Step: Share in the Service of God’s People
2 Corinthians 8:3-4 (NCV)
3 I can tell you that they gave as much as they were able and even more than they could afford. No one told them to do it. 4 But they begged and pleaded with us to let them share in this service for God’s people.
Joy comes from doing what you were designed to do
Have you ever driven a really cool car that was designed to run flat out on the road.
Years ago I took my 65 Ford Falcon on a trip up north – no cars – just deer and jack pines for hundreds of square miles. I took it up to just shy of 100 mph just to see if it would do it.
It did – front end shaking like the wheels were full of marbles; pistons whacking away at the walls of the engine like hammers banging on a metal shed. It was just a little scary and there wasn’t much joy.
Now with my wife’s yellow Mustang I’ll bet if I did that there would be great joy – till she or the police caught up with me! Why? Because the Mustang is designed to run that way!
We were designed with a purpose. We were designed to give ourselves to God and his people in service and life.
The result is JOY. Joy is an attitude that comes as a result of giving.
How can I really say this?
Giving is fun
Ministry is not a burden. Giving is not a duty. Service to others does not produce sorrow.
How many of you served at the Clothing Drive? Did you work hard? Did you have fun?
Ministry is not to be viewed as a necessary duty but as a desired opportunity.
In Philippi the Christians begged to give!
Can I help – please! We want to help. Please, can we please, please… This is a wild kind of church! I’d love to see MCC become that kind of body!
I’m not saying it’s easy – it isn’t. Ministry is not easy. Home Groups are not easy. Tithing isn’t easy. Giving an offering isn’t easy.
There are any number of barriers that get in our way of giving our money and our service. The people. The way they spend the money.
People are not easy to serve at least partly because people are not normal. (Except for me) In fact, I’ve noticed that people are normal until I get to know them better.
1st Step: Give Yourself
2 Corinthians 8:5 (NCV)
5 And they gave in a way we did not expect: They first gave themselves to the Lord and to us. This is what God wants.
They gave themselves
They gave themselves to the Lord. They said, “I give you my life. I give you my breath. I give you my hands. I give you my heart. I am your to use as your instrument in your world.”
They gave themselves to us. They said, “I give you my life. I give you my breath. I give you hands and my heart. Let me serve you.
This is why their giving was different. They didn’t give a token with no real value. It wasn’t a “quid pro quo” arrangement. “Quid pro Quo” means “This for that”. Some people actually think their giving is linked to their getting. If I get then I’ll give. Or if I give then I’ll get.
Wrong: I have been given everything – Now I give him everything back! What is cool is that he keeps giving it back to us and we keep giving it back to him… Now this is fun!
These Philippians were amazing people!
No – that’s wrong! These Philippians were prevailing people
A Prevailing Church is a people who have made following Jesus their way of life.
We can be a prevailing people!
First give yourself.
Second, Beg to share in the service of God’s people
Finally, Take the joy add it to the trouble and watch the grace grown in your life!