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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Another Rare Sermon by Me...

As I dug further through the boxes of useless items under my house I fell upon even more sermon notes from some time ago, in fact what I discovered was my very first sermon which I shared with Howick C3 (Christian City Church) in Auckland sometime in 2009…

The topic for the month was “Serving the House” and I have to warn you it has a certain charismatic flavor, as in my younger days I didn’t lean so far towards conservative Christianity as I do now, never the less there were some good points worth sharing so...

This month we are focusing on the subject of “serving the House”. So I pondered and prayed about it and decided that I should talk about the Appendix.

An Appendix, for those of you who don’t know, is a ten centimeter long worm like thing located near the junction of your small and large intestines. There’s some debate over its usefulness but given the appendix’s propensity to cause death via infection, and the general good health of people who have had their appendix’s removed, the appendix appears to have no useful function in the human body. (That I can tell at least)

Now this thing that we call the “House” or the Church is the body of Christ. Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say about it in 1 Corinthians 12:12-30:

“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ it would not for that reason cease to be Part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, were would the sense of smell be?”

“But if in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…

We hear it every week – Church is the body of Christ and yet for a lot of us Church is just this thing we go to on Sundays or something that is integral to our social lives. We still call it “The Body” but for most of us it feels like someone else’s body.

When I go to my mate’s house to play Halo on the Xbox I’m going to sit on the couch next to him, not become part of him so we can both be Master Chief at the same time! We’re so used to being our unique individual selves that we tend to think of the Church as being a unique bunch of individuals or maybe as Christ’s body but his body only. Very seldom do we contemplate the reality that WE are Christ’s body.

The Body of Christ is not someone up here or over there, it is not a geographical location or a club – it is all of us functioning together as a single unit. The body of Christ is made up entirely of us with Christ as the head – one body with many parts.

So what’s my point? If you take my heart out of my body I will scream in shock and very quickly drop dead. If you took out my stomach I would not only lose a lot of weight but I would die because my food would have nowhere to go! If you cut off my feet I would fall over!

But seriously everything in my body has a unique and indispensable function! From my forehead to my hairy toes, I’m a divinely created machine that cannot function properly without all those parts working correctly and in unison!

So you know what I am going to say next – each one of you sitting here tonight is an organ in The Body, an organ that has a function, a gift or a purpose, which the Body of Christ requires in order to operate properly and effectively!

If the organs are working properly the body can run faster, grow bigger, live longer, say to this mountain move from here to here and it will be done, leap over tall buildings in a single bound but when an organ fails to fulfill its purpose in the Human body then we get sick – I would like to suggest that the same is true of the Church. Why? Because the body of Christ seems to be full of people pretending to be appendixes!

And that’s the really sad thing – God did not make anyone here to be an appendix! Most of us are cool things like Kidneys, Livers or bladders – pretending to be appendixes!

I could talk tonight about all the different things you could do in this church. I mean like being on the welcoming team, joining the worship team, becoming a connect group leader or getting me a glass of water while I’m preaching… we could sit here all night and talk about all the different things there are to do but the body also has a Spirit!

Each and every one of my organs would not function in my own body without my spirit, let alone God’s Spirit – Col 1:17 “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

So each one of us has the guidance of the Holy Spirit ministering to our consciences, telling us what we are meant to be doing.

OK so some people here might genuinely be at a loss as to what their function is but I can promise you that the Holy Spirit has not told you to do nothing! Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33) – you be faithful in that much and God will guide you into what to do next!

The parable of the talents talks about these three guys whose master entrusts them with some of his money before he goes away. Each servant does something with the money he was given. The first two invest in things like property and Kiwi Saver (retirement fund) but the third guy goes and buries this talent in the ground, thinking he will just give it back when his master returns. The last guy in that parable was an appendix!

Trust me; I know what it is like to be an appendix. I’ve been a 10 cm long smelly worm like infectious thing called an appendix many times in my Christian walk! I’ve come to church out of habit, I’ve fallen out of the practice of spending time alone in the Word and Prayer, I’ve snuck into church half an hour late before just so I could miss the singing, when a certain speaker gets up I’ve thought to myself, “Oh no, not him again!” I’ve gone out after the service to get my coffee and thought to myself “I wonder if anyone’s going to talk to me this week? No one ever talks to me, I might as well leave,” and sooner or later I have become a sick and bloated infected Appendix.

Or there’s the other type of Appendix who comes to church every week and knows they have a purpose, they know exactly what it is. It might be preaching, it might be changing the toilet rolls every Sunday – but we’re either too scared or too proud to do the thing that we know God would have us do, so we just sit there in the Body’s Gut doing nothing and looking ugly; just like an Appendix.

I certainly hope I’m not condemning anyone here tonight. I hope I’m not confusing anyone either. But I’m just as guilty of it as anyone – not functioning as the organ that God intended for me to be!

Whatever your function is, it is nothing to be ashamed of. Remember what Paul wrote, “Those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor!”

There might be someone here tonight who is an armpit. But they try so badly to be a mouth that they go out and start street preaching, but no one wants to listen to an armpit, because they stink! But functioning properly, an armpit keeps the rest of the body cool! So if serving drinks in the morning is the best you can do for the “House” then praise the Lord because he said that if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciples then he will certainly not lose his reward! (Matt 10:42)

So who wants to see the body function properly?

Right then, here is how not to be an Appendix:

1. Find out what you are. Ask God to show you, Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive!” (Matt 7:7) But remember when God does show you, no matter how small it may seem to you at the time that he will entrust you in the little things first. It took me years to learn this. Too many people “Know” that God wants them to be the next big world renowned preacher but aren’t willing to give the right kind of support or encouragement to their own pastor. Too many people know that they are destined to head up a demon crunching devil destroying deliverance ministry but aren’t willing to stand at the door and shake a strangers hand when they come to church for the first time. I know that God wants me to preach his Word, but I have to learn it first. For years I just focused on what I was going to be doing ten years from now when all along God had given me a task to complete now. “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” If you know that you’re a great musician, if you know that you have the potential to Pastor a church if you know that you can make a mean cup of coffee but God has convicted you to get off of the Xbox and start praying more then I guarantee that once you’ve proved yourself faithful in whatever God has told you to do now, he will give you your next task.
2. Stop being what you are not; it’s just going to slow you and the rest of the body down. We had a visiting preacher here last year and I will never forget what he said, even though I’ve forgotten exactly how he said it – “too many people see us up here, preaching, leading the worship, running the show and decide that this up here is ministry.” But no one ever sees a mouth sitting at the table by itself eating breakfast! It takes fingers to hold a spoon! It takes an arm to lift the spoon to its mouth! It takes a throat to swallow my Bran! If all of us were mouths then who would listen to the people who come in here with genuine questions or problems that need to be listened to? If all of us were vocal cords then who would be the hands that reached out and pulled their friends into the building? So seek the Lord earnestly, be honest with yourself – am I trying to be the wrong body part?
3. Ask not what your church can do for you but what you can do for your church! When I get my coffee on Sunday morning and I think, “I wonder if anyone is going to talk to me today?” I go up and talk to someone first! Because it’s up to me to smile. It’s up to me to say hello and to ask someone how their week has been. It’s up to me to serve the House the way God wants me to and not to worry about what everyone else is or isn’t doing! Or whether they are serving me or not. It’s up to me to approach the Pastor and say, “Look, I’m not much to look at but is there anything you need me to do?” - I tell you now, you come to church with that attitude and you’ll never get bored!
4. Interact with the other body parts – this is what organs do. Paul again: “…the body’s parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. If anyone here is still agonizing over what you’re meant to be doing then help each other to find your functions. Talk to your connect group leaders, to the pastoral team, be pro-active and show your willingness to help out.
5. Deal with your fear because it’s already been dealt with. You might know what God has told you to do but it’s freaking you out! But God has not given you s spirit of fear but of love and power and of sound mind! (2 Timothy 1:7) Check out this little gem from Isaiah 41:8 onwards: “But you, O Israel, my servant whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, I have chosen you and have not rejected you, So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who rage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you,” Declares the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. See I will make you a threshing sledge, new and sharp, with many teeth. You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up, and a gale will blow them away. But you will rejoice in the Lord and glory in the Hoy One of Israel…” How cool is that?

Finally I just want to leave you with this. The disciples were upset with James and John because they had gone with their mother to ask Jesus if they could sit at his right and left in his future kingdom, so Jesus said to them, “…anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave, just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt 20:28)

Jesus laid down his earthly body by dying on the cross for us, and then he rose again so that by believing on him we could become part of his body of believers today. He showed us that to become great in the Kingdom we must serve each other and I think that is the key to functioning properly within the body/House.

Are we serving each other? Or are we serving ourselves? If we are serving our brothers and sisters in The House, if we are encouraging each other and the pastoral team by offering our constant support, if we are recognizing a need and meeting it, if we are looking out for each other, if we are there to say “Hi” to someone who looks lonely or a bit confused, then yes, we are functioning as a unit. But if we are here just because church makes us feel good and because we’re hoping to get a free coffee on a Sunday morning then we have to ask ourselves – are we an appendix?

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