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Summary: Although leaders in a church are crucial, the real strength or weakness of Christianity is found in its laymen, those who populate the pews and live out their Christian values throughout the week.

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Sweet and Sour Christians

(I Thessalonians 5:15)

1. A society cannot be governed if most of its members do not buy into its laws.

The English philosopher, John Locke, who set the tone for the American Revolution, in his Second Treatise, wrote "the ruling power ought to govern by declared and received laws, and not by extemporaneous dictates and undetermined Justice…"

2. Locke understood that laws worked best when people received them. We are more likely to break laws with which we do not agree than those we receive.

3. This is more true with Christianity than with government. We must freely choose to receive God’s Word and follow it. No one can make us do this against our will. We will not be clubbed if we do not love our brother, we will not serve time if we fail to encourage others, and we will not fined if we fail to study our Bibles.

4. God’s laws get very personal, addressing even our very dispositions.

5. The laws of our nation are only enforced when the majority of our people embrace them. The same is true with God’s laws and the church. No matter what our leaders decide, the strength is in the pew.

6. Leadership is foundational, but where do leaders come from? From followers.

7. When Christian are noted to be sour, few are drawn to consider their testimony; but when it is obvious God has sweetened a person, people notice.

Main Idea: Although leaders in a church are crucial, the real strength or weakness of Christianity is found in its laymen, those who populate the pews and live out their Christian values throughout the week.

I. Preventing the Sour: We Must Check VINDICTIVENESS

A. NOBODY, not just us

1. When we see it happening, we need to address it

2. "Make Sure Nobody Pays Back Wrong for Wrong" (NIV)

3. The Holman Christian Standard Bible translates it this way, "See to it that no one repays evil for evil"

B. COUNTER INTUITIVE: Not Returning Wrong for Wrong

1. Have you ever noticed the vindictiveness of Country Music? Rap?

2. The text here is not talking about behaviors which are against the law

3. In Romans 13, Paul makes it clear that God ordained government to punish evildoers

4. Matthew Poole adds a clarifying comment in about 1670:

"But it is to be understood of private revenge rising out of malice, not of public censures, either civil or ecclesiastical, or of seeking reparations for injuries received in courts of justice according to law and equity."

5. Paul may have had in mind the way believers hurt their fellow believers; the argument for this is the context (vs. 14 and 20).

6. John MacArthur comments, "For Christians, the severest, most painful disappointments come not from the wickedness of the unbelieving world but from other sheep within the church. Sheep are definitely capable of harming other sheep, sinning against them in a variety of ways…"

7. It is in the midst of a conflict among believers where a person’s real character shows itself -- and sometimes it is not a pretty picture; Paul is saying, "no double standards; the rules do not change just because you are in conflict."


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