Summary: Revised from an earlier message for a small church trying to affirm a new direction: Focus on what you have accomplished, know the heart of Christ for His church, confirm loving relationships.

Bethesda First Baptist Church, Bethesda, MD October 3, 2004

Some things end, but are not completed. Other things are completed, but do not end. There is a world of difference between the two.

Some things end, but are not completed. Some things stop, unfinished. All these recent accidents involving teenagers are a reminder of this. Too many lives ended in a fiery crash. But those lives were not completed. Those who died might have grown families, but did not. They had dreams they were never able to develop. It’s tragic when things end, but are not completed.

On the other hand, some things are completed, but do not end. Some things come to the point where you know that all that can be done has been done, and that, wonderful to think of, what you have set in motion will not end. Just this past Thursday, thanks to retirement, my church-paid medical insurance ended. That means no more prescription coverage. Let me tell you, as my wife came home from the hospital that day with three prescriptions, I ran to that pharmacy to get them filled before the insurance ended. But the government years ago set up an entitlement called Medicare. The legislation was passed, the administration was created, and now it’s so set in stone that no president, no congress would dream of terminating Medicare. They didn’t do a perfect job; but what they did will not end. That’s what we want, don’t we? Something that is completed, but will not end. That’s glorious!

Some things end, but are not completed. Other things are completed, but do not end. There is a world of difference between the two.

As you come to a time of transition in the life of your church, it is time to measure what you have completed that will not end and not what is ending but incomplete. For things that end without being completed are tragic. But things that are completed will not end, and that is glorious. .


First, let’s look at what you have done. Let’s focus on what has been accomplished. But with a twist, with a difference. Let’s look at the kinds of things that the apostle Paul said he had accomplished in his own life. These things that Paul cited are very similar to some of the things you have done as a church. But the curious thing is that Paul sort of dismissed his attainments. He called them rubbish, garbage. Maybe that means there are some questions we need to raise about the church too. What have you done, and what does it mean?

You might want to open up to Philippians 3:5-6 and follow with me. It’s quite a list. What does Paul say he has to brag about?

“Circumcised the eighth day” That means his parents put him through the ritual that made him officially a part of the people of Israel. He didn’t exercise any faith, he didn’t make any decision. He was only eight days old. But he was ushered into God’s chosen people by the ritual.

Over the years, how many hundreds of people have been brought into church membership here? Some came by baptism, some transferred from other churches, others were received on the basis of their statement of faith. Hundreds of people! Isn’t that remarkable?! Is that is something you can boast about? Except that all too many of those persons you do not see and cannot even find today! I was particularly struck that on the Sunday, two weeks ago, when the supposition was that the pastor candidate would be here, and that was widely communicated, still the attendance did not step up. Does that mean that for too many, joining this church was all about ritual and not about substance? I don’t know. But maybe we cannot boast in numerical achievement; that might be some kind of rubbish. Let’s try something else.

Paul says that he could have, if he wanted to, brag not only about being circumcised the eighth day, but also about being a member of the people of Israel. Israel thought of itself as God’s special people. Israel was proud that she alone had God chosen out of all the nations. Have you here at Bethesda liked to talk about how special you are, how unique? When I first came to the Washington area, more than thirty years ago, someone said, “Bethesda First Baptist is the church for the scientists and the scholars, for the NIH people and university folks.” I was impressed. There’s nothing wrong with that. I understand the importance of focusing on the needs of a certain kind of person. Is that something you could boast about? You’re reached special people – except that you’ve been seeing folks keep their distance. You’ve been feeling the pinch of aging, and the mix is not as rich as it once was. So while, like Paul, you might like to boast in feeling special, that too is rubbish. Let’s try something else.

Copy Sermon to Clipboard with PRO Download Sermon with PRO
Talk about it...

Nobody has commented yet. Be the first!

Join the discussion