Evidences of a Solid Church
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 Ro 15:14 Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.

Let’s say that we planted an AFLC church in Menasha Wisconsin. Let’s say we did it without any ordained pastor, but just using the information and statement of faith of the AFLC that we were able to gather from the Internet, or books, or maybe attending retreats, revivals, or other such activities.

Let’s say that we then used that information and formed a church and we began to meet for worship and ministry. Let’s say that word got back to the AFLC headquarters. The Co-ordinating committee, or President Robert Lee, or Home Missions Director Paul Nash heard about this church in Menasha Wisconsin, that was bearing the name of AFLC.. What would get back to them and what would they say about Living Word Lutheran?

This 14th verse of Romans would be like somebody from the headquarters of the AFLC writing us a letter and commending us for a job well done. It would be a stamp of approval on the work being done here. That’s what Paul was doing for the church in Rome.

They had never had an Apostle in their midst, they were formed by a bunch of different people, with a bunch of different backgrounds, by the winds of revival. And yet the Jew and Gentile alike had been able to preserve the pure teachings of the gospel, and keep them without strife, errors, and a minimal amount of division.
As you recall there was the matter of diet and special days, but these were non-essentials and Paul helped them through it with his advice in the previous chapter.

So Paul had confidence in this group of believers in Rome. He had heard things about them that earmarked them as a church that was well-anchored in what matters most in churches everywhere. And that’s what we want to talk about today.

The evidences of a solid church....goodness, knowledge, and the ability to admonish.

You know another way of stating that? We’re talking about a church that whenever admonishment or encouragement was needed they were able to speak the truth (express biblical knowledge) in love. (in goodness)

We’re talking about a church that reflected the goodness of Christ in their dealings with each other and with those around them.  This church had godly character!

I wonder where Living Word fits into that picture? I don’t mean what our opinion of ourselves may be, but what are others saying about the character of our church?  Have we even established any sense of character in this community?  Is there anything we do as a church that establishes us as being identified with the goodness of Christ?

I don’t mean individual character....although that is very important, because in a sense the character of each individual in this congregation is a reflection on the rest, but I mean as a church. First of all, would Paul, (the Apostle) or Paul (the Home Missions Director) be confident in our reputation for doing things that are good and right?

Does our walk match our talk? The words on our banner outside. Do they match up with our actions, or are they just words? Are we “proclaiming Christ? (Declaring the Gospel) Are we “professing” Christ? (Living the Gospel) Are we “pro-life” (Do we back up our pro-life rhetoric with action?) Are we “pro-family” (Do we do all we can to keep families together?)

What would Paul say about the goodness of Living Word Lutheran?

Honestly, I think he would be pleased with our benevolence toward one another. We have a fund that we use to help meet financial needs of those in our midst and have on occasion have even gone outside our midst to help meet a need. That is commendable, but really only doing what we are called to do.

One of the things we used to do as a church when we first started out. Was give 10% of our offering to a need in the community. I’d like to see us do that again. Not to toot our own horn, or to try and get a spotlight on us to show how “good” we are, but rather to have a genuine concern for a community need and a desire to help meet it!

A church out to exhibit the goodness of Christ!

What about knowledgeable? Do we as individual members of this congregation know the Scriptures? Are we able to apply God’s truth in our individual lives, or help our brothers and sisters apply it in theirs?

Can we effectively use the truth of God’s Word to impact our culture?
We need to be knowledgeable about the Word of God. How can we expect to speak the “truth” in love, if we are not familiar with the truth?  

Bible study is so important! We need it individually in our quiet time with the Lord, and we need it corporately as we gather together to discuss and learn from God’s Word. It can seem overwhelming and intimidating at first, but let me let you in on a little secret....we’ve all been there before. We’ve all had to start at ground zero when it comes to finding our way around the Bible. You’re not alone.  

Our society and our churches have become indifferent to the Scriptures. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by the fact that you haven’t been exposed to the Bible! It just isn’t happening in our culture.

Most of us grew up in churches where it was unheard of to bring a Bible to church. Confirmation classes stuck to the catechism, and if you owned a Bible, it was a big old fat one that was used for decoration and birth records. And it was unheard of to actually mark your Bible or put notes in it!

Some of you remember those days as a “newer” Christian, when someone called on you to look up a Bible verse, and you didn’t know if the Book was in the Old Testament or the New! Sometimes, it was the first time that you even heard there was such a Book. Malachi? I thought it was Mal ach’ ee!

You frantically turned the pages of your Bible and it seemed like hours before you finally found the verse, and you just knew that every one was thinking how inferior you were. Well, anyone who thinks in such a manner has a very short memory. We all did it! It takes time to become familiar with the Bible! Lord forgive us when we seem to forget that!

A good place to start is with the Table of Contents.  That’s right, your Bible has a table of Contents....use it. We promise to not roll our eyes every time you turn to the Table of Contents to find a Book of the Bible!  It’s a great tool!  Would you not use it if it were any other book? I mean what is that all about anyway?

In biology we say, “Hey look up that chapter on horsefly’s.” We go right to the Table of Contents. “Let’s open our history books to the time of Caesar’s reign.” What do you do? To the Table of Contents. “Let’s sing the Old Rugged Cross.” Do people start flipping through the pages for the hymn or do they look to the title page?

But the minute we say turn to Ephesians 2:8...a spirit of panic overtakes us and we frantically turn pages.....relax.  Calmly turn to the Table of Contents and you will be there in no time at all. And eventually, as you participate in Bible Study, you get to know your way around the Bible fairly well.

Sometimes I think we equate spirituality with our ability to find a Book in the Bible and that’s just not the case. (At least I hope not, because I still have a difficult time finding Obadiah) Spirituality is not based on how fast you find something in the Bible.......it’s based on what you do with it when you do find it.

Sometimes I think there’s a little pride involved. You know, we are too proud to let on that we need the Table of Contents, or sometimes people will jump ahead in a Bible Study to make sure their ready for the next passage.  I use to do that a lot.

I mean, you can see what’s coming, and so you stick one finger in one passage and then try to move on ahead to all the others, and you’ve got fingers everywhere, but they might as well be in your ears because you’ve been so worried about finding all the verses that you haven’t heard a single thing God wanted to say to you!

Relax. It’s not a race. It’s not a contest. It’s slowing down and listening to what God has to say to you in every passage.

Don’t be intimidated by Bible Study! It’s like eating an elephant, you have to do it one bite at a time. The main thing is to get started! Will you be overwhelmed by all the information? Probably. It can be overwhelming, but learn to trust the Holy Spirit, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

I remember my days as a new Christian, I think they were about ready to ban me from every Sunday School class and every Bible Study in our church because if I didn’t understand something....I asked! I wanted to know.

Don’t forget too, that God has given you the indwelling Holy Spirit. God gave Him to you at your baptism and He is the perfect teacher.

He knows just how much material to give you and just how fast or slow to give it to you. Don’t forget, He wrote the Book! And He knows you better than you know yourself. It’s also very important to be open to the teaching and correction of the Holy Spirit as you read.

The world has given us a skewed view of life. The Bible will often fly in the face of what you have been taught in school, and unfortunately (sometimes in the face of what you were taught in church.)  Always be willing to learn from the Holy Spirit as He speaks to you through God’s Word.

We began a new men’s Bible study this past Thursday morning and I am absolutely thrilled. We are just reading through 1st Thessalonians one verse at a time and sharing what the Holy Spirit has spoken to us concerning that verse. As questions arise, we dig a little deeper into the Scriptures to try and find an answer.

It’s going great, and true to form, we haven’t even begun on the first verse yet! We’ve just been going over the preliminaries! As you all know by now, you never have to worry about Pastor Matz going to fast when going through a Book of the Bible!

I think one of the reasons I tend to go so slow is that I believe the most important verse of the Bible is 2 Timothy 3:16, “ 2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,”

First of all this verse gives weight to all of God’s promises to me, and it removes any doubt about possible errors in Scripture and further it tells me that every single word is important. And so I can spend an entire message on one verse in Romans because it is so rich in advice for us as a church!

Will I realize the importance of every single word in the Bible? Not in my lifetime, there will always be things that I don’t understand, but there’s enough here to keep me busy for quite some time.

As we were looking at the history of the church at Thessalonica this past Thursday, we read about the Bereans. They were part of a church in Berea that when they heard the claims that Paul was making about Jesus being the Son of God and dying for our sins, and rising from the dead just as the Scriptures said He would, they went to the Scriptures to check it out!

They were willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change their convictions concerning the Messiah, and the Bible says that “many of them believed.” Are you willing to allow the Holy Spirit to change some of your erroneous convictions? Are you willing to allow Him to change the way you view Jesus and how to live for Him?

Are you willing to be corrected? That’s the third part of this verse that points to a solid church.

A good and knowledgeable church is able to “admonish” one another. The idea of admonishment here is to reprove. That is to gently correct someone’s thinking or their actions. I like the word especially as it deals with brothers and sisters in Christ.

Think about the word “reproof” and break it down. It’s simple, it means to “prove again.” You see....... the proof of who Jesus is and what He has done for you is already in you. The Holy Spirit brought that knowledge with Him when He came to you in your baptism.

He also brought the Law of God with Him. Jeremiah spoke of the day when God would write His laws in the hearts of His people and forgive their iniquity. Again, this happened at our baptism. So all the proof of who Jesus is and how to live according to the Word of God is already in you.

And according to 2 Tim. 3:16, All scripture is useful for “reproving” So Scripture, just confirms or re-proves what is already in you by the Holy Spirit. And so a solid church is one who knows how to use their knowledge of Scripture and the gentleness of Christ to reprove an erring brother or sister.

But there’s more! We are not talking about the mere ability to point out error in a loving way. We are talking about the ability to receive correction as well. Such was the church at Rome. Not so much the church in America today.

When someone points out error and we do not want to receive it. We can always go to the church down the street. This should not be so! And it is not so in the church that is full of goodness and knowledge.

Because as Lenski says, “their goodness will not draw wrong conclusions,” (about motives for correction) “and their knowledge will help them to understand.”

As we press on as a body of believers called Living Word Lutheran in Menasha Wisconsin, let us pray that we would become like that church in Rome. A church where the Apostle Paul was utterly confident of their goodness, knowledge, and ability to give and receive correction.

The first step is to reawaken the Spirit of God that is in you. Allow your heart to hear the gospel message again. Jesus loves you. He died for you so your sins would not be held against you. He offers His forgiveness to you free of charge. Receive it. Allow the Words of John 3:16 reprove His love for you again.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.