Summary: Paul admonishing the church to be a safe harbor where one can find shelter and solace.
Last week in looking at the importance of being a part of a local church, we read from Ephesians 4 where Paul speaks of the privilege and responsibilities of church membership. In our text today, we find Paul admonishing the church to be a safe harbor where one can find shelter and solace. Many come to the church seeking acceptance, empathy and concern only to find, criticism, condemnation, and cliquish coldness. I believe that it is God’s desire for the church to be a true safe harbor where anyone saint or sinner can come and be touched by the very presence of God in the midst of the family of God. The church should be….
I. A place where hypocrisy is avoided and transparency is encouraged.
A. Ephesians 4:25 "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another."
B. Who will listen to the message of God’s understanding and love when the messengers of that God are examples of anything but that?
C. Titus 1:16 "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate."
D. Southern Californians are always saying that they can ski on snow in the mountains in the morning and ski on water on the ocean in the afternoon. But the reality is that very few have actually ever done that? Sometimes we Christians do the same thing. We talk about Christ controlling our lives but in fact, we do as we please.
E. Some time ago, I was in an Italian deli. I noticed a plate of fettuccini Alfredo on the counter along with a salad and a beverage. It looked very appetizing. The next time I went to the deli I noticed the same meal at the counter. I finally realized and came to the very correct conclusion that I had found a very well disguised hypocrite. To the eyes it appeared to be the genuine article but was in fact a ceramic imitation. It looked good on the outside but had no real substance. We find people of this sort in our churches, looking extremely like what they should be, yet having little if any substance in them.
F. The inconsistent Christian is one of the devil’s best workers.
G. James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much."
H. The Bible is a remarkable book. All its heroes are flawed (except one)
I. In the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee, the Publican was no more righteous in himself than the self-righteousness of the Pharisee. In the parable it is not the Publican as such but the repentant Publican who is praised.
J. I think we are unreal about ourselves, even as Christians, because we are afraid that if people find out what we are actually like inside, behind the mask, they will not accept us.
K. Psalms 34:18 "The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit."
II. A place where sin is the object of our hate and souls are the object of our love.
A. Ephesians 4:26-27 "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil."
B. There is a right or justifiable anger. We must be angry with sin
C. Dr. David Seamands - "Anger is a divinely implanted emotion. Closely allied to our instinct for right, it is designed to be used for constructive spiritual purposes. The person who cannot feel anger at evil is a person who lacks enthusiasm for good. If you cannot hate wrong, it’s very questionable whether you really love righteousness."
D. A person who is angry on the right grounds, against the right wrongs, in the right manner, at the right moment, and for the right length of time deserves great praise.
E. Hate the sin but love the sinner.
F. D L Moody said, "Show me a church where there is love, and I will show you a church that is a power in the community. In Chicago a few years ago a little boy attended a Sunday school, I know of. When his parents moved to another part of the city the little fellow still attended the same Sunday school, although it meant a long, tiresome walk each way. A friend asked him why he went so far, and told him that there were plenty of others just as good nearer his home. "They may be as good for others, but not for me," was his reply. "Why not?" she asked. "Because they love a fellow over there," he replied. If only we could make the world believe that we loved them there would be fewer empty churches, and a smaller proportion of our population who never darken a church door. Let love replace duty in our church relations, and the world will soon be evangelized." Moody’s Anecdotes, pp. 71-72