Summary: Living as a Christian in an era of opinion
There have been many turning points in American history. Points that have forever altered the course of the country. There was the revolutionary war, there was pre-civil war and post civil war. Most recently there has been pre 9-11 and post 9-11. In all of these situations, the country changed and would never go back to the way it was. Similarly, when the apostles passed away, it left the churches with the letters. But the letters are not explicit about every detail of life. Particularly not explicit about modern living, so we live in an epistle era, where we have opinions and sometimes disputes about matters.
To live,to find balance and peace in the "epistle era" takes two essential qualities:
1. Good Theology
2. Love your Church
1. GOOD THEOLOGY
" For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake"
Good theology simply involves preaching Jesus, and not preaching "ourselves". Paul, communicated time and time again in his letters that Jesus is the center of everything. "all things were created by him and for him" Col 1:16
Whatever the challenge that faced the churches, Jesus was the answer. Immorality? Paul said "shall I take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!" Divisions? Paul said "Is Christ divided?" Legalism? Paul wrote: " It is for freedom that CHrist has set us free"
But instead of preaching Christ, we preach our own strengths and our personality. We are hard working so we preach a gospel of hard work. We are fun, so we preach the gospel of fun. We are loving and tender so we preach the gospel of love and tenderness.
What’s wrong with preaching a gospel of love and tenderness? Isn’t that what Jesus taught? Wasn’t Jesus loving, and hard working, and fun?
Yes. But he was so much more than that, and that’s the problem with just preaching one aspect of Christ.
Look at the following examples of Jesus’ interactions with people:
In Luke 9: 59-62 Jesus tells a person to leave his father and his family and follow him.
But in Mark 5:18-19 a man begs to follow Jesus and the Lord told him to go to his family.
Luke 18 Jesus asks a rich ruler to give up everything and follow him. In Luke 19 however Jesus hangs out at a rich man’s house and doesn’t mention money at all but declares that "salvation has come to this house"
What’s going on? Is Jesus schizophrenic? Why does he say one thing to one person and then a seeming opposite thing to another? Because Jesus was perfectly balanced and told each person what they needed to hear. Some needed to leave their family in order to put God first while others needed to spend time with their families. Sometimes we need to toughen up sometimes we need to be comforted. No matter what your challenge is, there is no "message" that can meet all our needs, but Jesus can.
The church in Corinth had very different challenges than the chuches in Galatia. The answer for both churches was to be like Christ. That’s why we can’t "preach ourselves", we all have great strengths that are useful sometimes, but only Jesus was perfectly balanced. Good Theology involves preaching Jesus and not preaching the gospel of my strengths.
2. Love your Church
Church bashing is in vogue. It’s kind’ve a hip thing to bad mouth your local church or at least criticize all the shorrtcomings.( I’m not saying your church doesn’t need to change and grow) But...if you’ve been going to a church for awhile it’s not uncommon to have had a bad experience. This is true with most things in life. I you’ve been a part of a job, or school, or sports team, it’s not uncommon to have had a bad experience.
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known.."
As imperfect as our churches are, God intended for his wisdom to be shown through it. How, you ask? We are most like Christ when we learn to forgive. Living with your Church you will constantly be learning to forgive other members. It is the best example to the world of Christ’s love.
To make it in an epistle era we must preach good theology, which is to preach Jesus. And we must love our church.