Our Church “Behavior” Should Be An Extension of Worship

THE PROPER ATTITUDE IN THE HOUSE OF GOD: 

A Study In FIRST TIMOTHY.

Over the past several years I have noticed a certain casualness that has become prevalent on Sunday mornings.  Our culture seems to be dictating the attitudes of church leadership in responding to the change.  Is it just me, or has this become a fulfillment of biblical prophecy?  So in searching for answers, I, of course, turn to God’s Word in the bible and was led to First Timothy.

STUDY TIME –

At the beginning of Paul’s letter to a young pastor, Timothy, this letter had a central purpose behind it.

Paul’s Instructions – 1 Timothy 3:14-15

[14]  “Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,  [15] if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar, and foundation of the earth” (NIV).

IS THE APOSTLE PAUL REACHING JUST A BIT IN THE ABOVE VERSES?

I don’t think so.  He’s telling not only the church in Ephesus but to today’s CHURCH as well:

The proper and orderly BEHAVIOR within the body of BELIEVERS in the house of God should always be an Extension of WORSHIP.

The given instructions by the Apostle to Timothy (and consequently, all who will follow in the Faith) know what conduct is pleasing in the sight of the True and Living God.  This Letter to Timothy is Paul’s effort to remind the young pastor, and through him to remind the Church at Ephesus the fundamentals of church life.

These fundamentals appear to have been forgotten in this day and age.  And from my own observations of behavior in many churches today, the foundations are being attacked by an infestation of ‘cultural termites’ and are crumbling before my eyes.

The Apostle tells us the reasons for his letter to the Church.

He’s not merely informing Timothy that he intends to come to Ephesus; he wants to ensure that Timothy has in hand information vital for congregational health.

Paul uses three descriptive terms, all referring to the CHURCH.

To really appreciate the CONDUCT AND CONFESSION required of the congregation there’s a need to understand the apostolic view of the Church.  Keep in mind, Paul’s not writing about some unorganized body that is difficult to understand–he’s writing to Timothy about the congregation in Ephesus, the church Timothy pastored.

The first term Paul uses is “the Household of God.”

This phrase is more common for Paul than one might think.  For instance, writing to the saints of the Galatian churches, Paul insists, “Be mindful to be a blessing, especially to those of the household of faith [those who belong to God’s family with you, the believers]” (Galatians 6:10, AMP).

Then again in his letter intended for general circulation, the Apostle has written, “You are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household” (Ephesians 2:19, NIV).

WHO IS THE “CONGREGATION”?

It should be obvious that in the mind of Paul, “the household of God” encompasses ALL the saints gathered in an assembly as a CONGREGATION.  In this instance particularly the Church in Ephesus is identified as “the household of God.”  Just so, the CONGREGATION you associate with as seen as “the household of God.”

THE CONGREGATION IS A FAMILY–

God is the Father and believers are His children.  Therefore, believers are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Leadership Responsibilities-

The elders and deacons are given as LEADERS to assist the FAMILY to fulfill the Father’s will and purpose.

“Woah.  I thought they were there to help serve communion and pass the plates for the tithes and offerings!”

NO, it more than that.  It’s all about FAMILY–the “household” of God.

“Family” CONFLICTS –

I know on occasion in our own physical families, family members have conflict and the same can occur within the church family.  However, in Heaven, it will be redeemed, perfected “household” in entirety then.

J. Vernon McGee used to quote a couplet that speaks to this challenge:

To live above with the saints we love

Oh, that will be glory.

To live below with the saints we know,

Well, that’s another story.

The next term the Apostle uses is “the church of the Living God”.

Twenty-seven times in Scripture God is identified as “the Living God.”  Fifteen of those times occur in the O.T. and twelve times the term is applied to God in the N.T.

Whenever I see the Lord God identified as “the Living God,” my mind turns to the knowledge that He is eternal and He is immortal.

The title testifies that He is the source of life.  We LIVE because He has given us life–we are alive in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior.

Knowing this to be TRUE, the child of God must not associate with that which is identified as DEAD or DYING; we must not embrace if you will, that which is dying.

The ATTITUDE of this world are the ATTITUDES of DEAD PEOPLE.

John, the apostle testifies that “As the world passes away and disappears, and with it the forbidden cravings (the passionate desires, the lust) of it; but he who does the will of God and carries out His purposes in his life abides (remains) forever”  (1 John 2:17, AMP).

So if we are identified in the community as “the Church of the Living God,” then we’re responsible to avoid embracing that which contaminates that which speaks of death.

Paul has written,

IDOLATRY today comes in many forms.  It extends beyond the worship of graven images.

Our modern IDOLS are many and varied.  Even for those who don’t bow down physically before a statue.

IDOLATRY is a matter of the HEART–pride, self-centeredness, greed, gluttony, a love for possessions… sports heroes, music legends, etc.  Ultimately, it’s REBELLION against God.  Is it any wonder that God hates it?  And if God hates something in my life, I should recognize it and hate it too!

In Christ Jesus, the CONGREGATION is being built.

AND…

When we gather for WORSHIP on a Sunday morning, or at other times, we are not just another organization registered with the government–we are the CONGREGATION of the Lord.  We don’t go to church–we are the church.

The church of the Living God is not an organization; it’s an “organism”-  

A breathing, living entity, indwelt by His Spirit.  When we meet together, we don’t just sing songs and listen to sermons.  We are and should be energized by His Spirit by offering sacrifices of praise.

As a significant aside, a COMMUNITY is only as strong as the churches of the community.  If the community is religious, though unchanged by the preaching of God’s Word, then it has no depth or stability to permit it to stand.  The same holds true for a NATION or a CULTURE.

The Psalmist is correct when he writes:

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chose for His inheritance.

[Psalm 33:12, NIV]

Whenever a people no longer WORSHIPS the True and Living God, that PEOPLE have placed their trust on a flimsy thread that must soon fail; they’re stepping onto a slide from which they may never return as they plunge into insignificance and ultimately into ruin.

THE CONDUCT EXPECTED–

The Word of God, God’s TRUTH given in written form, serves as a FOUNDATION for our lives as a CONGREGATION and it’s to be the MESSAGE we deliver to the world around us.

The WORD is to saturate our lives, to be central to every activity in which we engage as a CONGREGATION.

Note in our passage of Scripture, Paul is addressing Timothy, not the congregation.  The reason for this is that the ELDERS are responsible to teach these things faithfully while the CONGREGATION should and must know these things, it’s the responsibility of the Elders/Deacons to teach them.

If your church leaders excuse error in the midst of the Assembly and fail to hold the line on biblical truth, you should be questioning their adherence to all other truths.

What were the criteria to qualify as the Church of the Living God?

In answering the proposed question, we need to review what has already been laid down in Scripture.

  • FIRST, the Church of the Living God is a place of PRAYER. (CHECK)
  • Seeking God’s MERCY for ALL people.  (CHECK)
  • The body of Christ, the CONGREGATION, should be marked by holy living!  (???)

Here’s what the Apostle wrote [1 Timothy 2:1-6]:

So the CONGREGATION (that’s you and me) will endeavor to qualify as the Household of God should remain focused on glorifying the Son of God through winning others to FAITH and that CONGREGATION (that’s you and me) will PRAY for God to bless civic authorities so that the CHURCH is free to evangelize.  Moreover, that Congregation should labor to ensure that men assume the position in leading such prayer.

Paul wrote, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing”  (1 Timothy 2:8, NIV).

R-E-S-P-E-C-T In the House!

How we dress, how we dress our children, how we instruct our teenagers to dress, says far more than we might imagine.  I’m not suggesting that we must be ‘flashy,’ or try to attract attention in our dress; but we must bear in mind that we are coming into the presence of the Lord God.  It’s not about you!

This brings to mind the instructions Peter wrote at one point with his first letter directed to WIVES, the principle should apply to each Christian.

“Let not yours be the [merely] external adorning with [elaborate] interweaving and knotting of hair, the wearing of jewelry, or changes of clothes;  But let it be the inward adorning and beauty of the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible and unfading charm of a gentle and peaceful spirit, which [is not anxious or wrought up, but] is very precious in the sight of God”  [1 Peter 3:3-4, AMP].

It’s a serious challenge to us living at what appears to be the twilight of the Age of Grace to question whether we hold CULTURE accountable to the Word of God, or, whether CULTURE now holds the Word of God accountable to whatever silly fad happens to have captured the popular imagination of the moment.

Looking at the CONDUCT…

In the CONGREGATION of the Master, it is sufficiently important to the Apostle in the entirety of chapters TWO and THREE regarding our conduct.

PAUL admonishes Timothy and all those who stand behind the pulpit, that the task assigned is to provide instruction of godly CONDUCT in the Household of God–holy behavior, prayer led by godly men, modest dress, a biblical order in the service of the Assembly and ELDERS and DEACONS being marked by righteous lives that reveal His work in them and through them.

Note carefully the next two verses in Acts 20:28-31 (NIV)

[28]  Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.  Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.  [29]  I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  [30]  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.  [31]  So be on your guard!  Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

Soon after Paul’s WARNING, a half-brother of Jesus penned a warning to the CHURCHES.  Jude opens with these pointed words.  Jude 3-4 (GNT)

“For some godless people has slipped in unnoticed among us, persons who distort the message about the grace of our God in order to excuse their immoral ways, and who reject Jesus Christ, our only Master, and Lord…”

The danger was not potentially, it was indisputable; the DANGER to the churches was piercing!  What Paul foresaw, Jude recognizes as already happening–an ongoing assault against the Faith.  Tragically, the churches across the land appear to have become complacent, as though accepting what I like to call, a paradigm shift of the church practices that somehow honors God.  Has the condemnation of the Prophets been pronounced on us today?

Has our CASUALNESS in God’s House become the post-mortem of our WORSHIP?

HOLINESS–things are done in and about the worship service must be done for GOD’S GLORY, not ours.  We cannot allow cultured shifts or norms to dictate out the manner of WORSHIP.  We just can’t!

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~ CREDITS ~

Sermon Central:  Proper Attitude And Order in The House Of God, contributed by Duane Smith on April 11, 2011.

Photos & Images:  Google Image search, Advance settings.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); other translations used are noted in the text.

 

“Giving $20 Explanations to a 50 Cent World” Is Difficult!

SCRIPTURE – 1 PETER 1:13-20

Be Holy…How is this even possible?

I have had difficulties over the years just being a decent husband and father to my three kids.  How am I supposed to be as HOLY as the One True Living God?  I’m just human.  I make mistakes, many of them.  So does HOLY mean I just need to follow a bunch of rules?  A list of things I’m supposed to do and things not to do?  Like, be nice to others?

I’m a good person, mostly, so does that make me HOLY?  Great questions!

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV)…

[15]  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  [16] for it is written: “Be holy because I am holy.” 

Peter isn’t introducing a new concept here.  He’s repeating a principle laid down by God in the Covenant [See footnote].

With all that in mind, let’s see what the Bible says in Psalm 14:2-3 (AMP)…

[2]  The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men to see if there were any who understood, dealt wisely, and sought after God, inquiring for and of Him and requiring Him [of vital necessity].

[3]  They are all gone aside, they have all together become filthy; there is none that does good or right, no, not one.

And in Isaiah 64:6 (NIV)…

[6]  All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind, our sins sweep us away.

Both Psalm 14 and Isaiah 64 are in the Old Testament from the time before Jesus’ birth. 

But even in the New Testament, after Jesus, the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 3:1-3 (AMP)…

“O YOU poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!  Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified?  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?].  Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly?  Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”

There were believers in the early church who were trying to be HOLY; trying to be acceptable to God based on their human efforts.  They believed that they had to continue living up to all the rules; the list of all the “do’s” and “don’t’s” in the Old Testament Law.

The Apostle Paul’s Reminder…that HOLINESS is not just based on our OWN EFFORTS of being good–HOLINESS is WHO WE ARE, based on our RELATIONSHIP with Christ Jesus!

We CAN’T earn God’s favor…

We CAN’T earn His love and mercy…

We CAN’T earn HOLINESS through our own efforts, it’s a FREE GIFT being offered to you right now!

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

[8] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–[9] not by works, so that no one can boast.

HOLINESS isn’t just who we are…it’s how we live.

1 Thessalonians 4:7 says…”For God did call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.”

Let me go back to 1 Peter 1:17 again…

[17]  And if you call upon Him as [your] Father Who judges each one impartially according to what he does, [then] you should conduct yourselves with true reverence throughout the time of your temporary residence [on the earth, whether long or short].

2 Corinthians 5:9 explains it more plainly by saying…“So we make it our goal to please Him. whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

I don’t want to confuse anybody on this point. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are accepted by God.  He offers you a position in His kingdom, in His family, as a “FREE GIFT”… you just need to place your faith, your acceptance, your commitment to His Son Jesus to become accepted by God.

For most of us, growing up in a loving family brings back memorable times.  Our parents loved us and we loved them not for what they did for us materialistically, but because of who they were in our lives.

In appreciation of that LOVE, we, in turn, wanted to please them, respect them, honor them by our actions in response to that LOVE by our obedience.

As a child of God, we should want to please our Heavenly Father on how we live out our daily lives.  But how do we do this?

I’ve already mentioned how being HOLY is not following a list of rules, a lost of do’s and don’t’s. What I did discover in reading and studying God’s Word in this passage of Scripture are THREE things that Peter gives us in helping us to live in HOLINESS:

#1.  PREPAREDNESS

First, we are to prepare our minds for action.  Look at 1 Peter 1:13 again:  “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at His coming.”

I’ve been glued to my TV, watching every afternoon and evening of late the Winter Olympics in Pyongyang, South Korea.  I particularly noticed how the athletes prepared beforehand to compete.  The visualize what they are about to do…they prepare their minds to intently focus on what needs to be done.

As Christians, we are to do the same thing.  In fact, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 4:7 (b) “…train yourselves to be godly.”

A lazy athlete will never perform well…neither will a lazy Christian.

When we allow our minds and hearts to be filled with the world’s garbage, then we won’t be prepared to live in HOLINESS.

We MUST prepare our minds, folks!

#2.  IMITATION

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”  (Quote by Oscar Wilde).

I think a better way to phrase that quote would be is that God much rather us to resemble His Son, than “flatter” Him.

Then, in verse 14, Peter says…“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”

So, the SECOND thing we are to do is to be OBEDIENT.

We are to IMITATE Christ: We turn away from the temptations the world presents to us and we live in OBEDIENCE to our Heavenly Father and His Word.  We won’t know how to IMITATE Jesus unless we do the first thing of preparing our minds.

When we study God’s Word (our bible), we will grow in understanding of Jesus Christ which makes the second thing possible, because the Holy Spirit develops us…makes us more mature…changes us to be more like Jesus.

But it’s still A CHOICE…

We must choose to turn away from temptation and instead turn to God.

Ephesians 5:1 says,  “Therefore be imitators of God (copy Him and follow His example), as well-beloved children [imitate their father]”  (AMP).

We should ask ourselves, “Is this something God would say?”  “Is this something that I would be comfortable in watching if Jesus was sitting next to me?”  “If I do this, will it PLEASE my Heavenly Father?”

We IMITATE Christ in everything we think…everything we do…everything we say.  And as we grow in maturity as “sanctified” (set apart, made HOLY) believers, then we will become better and better at imitating Christ and not the world.

This is the path of HOLINESS!

“you also be holy in all your conduct” – 1 Peter 1:15

KEYWORD is “ALL”- “in ALL your conduct.”  

NOT some of your conduct…

NOT when you feel like it…

NOT just on Sunday when you come to church…

ALL your conduct!

WHY?  Because as believers, we are CALLED TO BE LIKE HIM!

Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)

#3.  LOVING ONE ANOTHER IN CHRIST JESUS

And the THIRD thing…living our lives in HOLINESS we must LOVE each other…regardless!

Boy, that can be hard to do sometimes.  But you see, you alone can’t do it without the prompting of the Holy Spirit!!!

1 Peter 1:22 reads in the Amplified Bible…

[22]  Since by your obedience to the Truth through the [Holy] Spirit you have purified your hearts for the sincere affection of the brethren, [see that you] love one another fervently from a pure heart.

Jesus says it Himself in the Gospel of John…

John 13:34-35 NIV)

[34]  “A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

[35]  By this [LOVE] everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Living our lives in HOLINESS isn’t easy.

There’s a story I read this week about an artist who was making a statue of an elephant out of a huge chunk of marble.  Someone asked him, “How do you do it?  How do you turn this piece of rock into a beautiful masterpiece?”  The artist answers him and says, “I just chip away, chisel the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

Ephesians 2:10 (AMP)

[10]  For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), created in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].

LIVING THE “GOOD LIFE” IN HOLINESS!

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CREDITS & FOOTNOTES

FOOTNOTE:  Note:  Also read Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2 and 1 Thess. 4:7-8.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV) and the Amplified Bible (AMP).

PHOTOS:  Google Image Search.

Sermon Notes:  “Sanctified Saints” by Jeff Strite on July 16, 2016 – Sermon Central.