1 Peter 2:1, Acts 17:6
In the preface of J. B. Phillips' translation of the Book of Acts, Phillips gives his impression of those early Christians.
"The new born church, as vulnerable as any human child, having neither money, influence, nor power in the ordinary sense,
is setting forth joyfully and courageously to win the pagan world for God through Christ
...this surely is the church as it was meant to be.
It is vigorous and flexible, for these are the days before it ever became fat and short of breath through prosperity
or muscle-bound by over-organization...It is a matter of fact...that these men have turned the world upside down."
These early Christians had undergone a fantastic, spiritual transformation that revolutionized every aspect of their lives.
Jesus Christ touched them with His power, and they in turn, touched their world with power.
How healthy is the church?
Which really means - how spiritually healthy am I?
The challenge to change the world is also ours, but it will take a healthy, power-filled church to accomplish this.
Let's take our temperature!
It is possible that our fever is the fever of sin - of attitudes and disposition that are not Christlike.
This is the sickness of sin.
God demands that we be different from the world.
If our values, attitudes, and our behavior are not different from those of the world,
we are not deserving to be called children of God.
Our health is endangered because of some malignancies in our body.
1 Peter 2:1: "Wherefore, laying aside all malice, and all guile and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings."
God's Word tells us literally, "strip off" or "throw off" as you would throw off a coat if it was on fire.
Malice is that deep-seated hatred of others -- those intense feelings of animosity
-- of hating others so much that you want to hurt them.
You will not be satisfied until you can make them suffer.
Throw it off!
Malice must be stripped off as soon as we enter the family of God.
Guile is the clever manipulation of people to serve our own needs.
We are guilty of this when we misquote someone intentionally in order to hurt them.
When we utilize innuendo, and resort to underhanded methods to bring harm to someone.
A Christian must not stoop to such things.
Jesus is our great example: "He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth."
Strip it off!
Hypocrisy is when we wear a mask.
It is when we play a role.
It is when we pretend to be something or someone that we are not.
It is when we are one person at church, and we are another person everywhere else.
An old country preacher may not have used the best grammar, but he certainly hit the truth when he told his congregation:
"Be what you are and not what you ain't; because if you ain't what you are then you are what you think you ain't."
Strip off hypocrisy!
Envy is a feeling of discontent and jealousy that arises when another person has greater talents
or possessions or receives more honors, etc., and we deeply resent them.
Envy has sometimes been described as a "mental cancer," because it gradually destroys our spiritual health.
This is referring to slander, often spread in the form of careless or intentional gossip.
Anytime we deliberately discredit or belittle someone, we are committing this sin.
Let's be on guard against this horrible misuse of the tongue for it violates the Christian principles of truth and love.
It has no place in the life of a child of God.
This disease can absolutely ruin a church.
Strip it off!
Unkind criticism of others is invariably a cover for mediocrity, and a backhanded bid to promote ourselves.
We have a tendency to look down upon that which we are not big enough to be and belittle that to which we feel inferior.
Most of our faultfinding is an unconscious scramble for the chief seats.
It is a disguised attempt to exalt ourselves by devaluating others.
It is an attempt to heighten our own stature by trying to lower others.
It doesn't work!
People see through this.
It causes untold damage to the harmony and fellowship in our churches.
Strip it off!
Do you have a short fuse?
James 1:19-20: "In view of what he has made us then, dear brothers, let every man be quick to listen,
but slow to use his tongue, and slow to lose his temper, for man's temper is never the means
of achieving God's true goodness."
Don't take anger lightly - it's dynamite!
There was a sad article in the L.A. Times.
It was a paragraph written for people who blow their tops and lose their tempers.
It happened on the East side of L.A.
A man of 55 and his wife were quarreling with another driver over a parking place.
Bystanders testified that the 55 year-old man had punched the other driver twice.
His wife tried to calm him down.
He slugged her twice.
Then he walked 10 steps and dropped dead!
It really happened over a parking space!
Even churches split over such trivial matters.
Lay aside anger!
Strip it off!
Pride Of Morality
Pride is always an unpleasant thing.
This is the real heart of the Pharisee.
That heart can be found at times in all of us.
Our inward thought so often is: "I think thee I am not..."
We can go outside the doors of this building and look in any direction and see power poles.
That power pole just stands there.
It doesn't smoke. It doesn't drink. It doesn't commit adultery. That power pole just stands there - it doesn't do anything!
That is similar to many Christians in our churches.
They don't do anything!
You could say: "They are good-for-nothing!"
More important than what we are not doing is what we are doing!
We must strip off the pride of our morality!
Strip it off!
Dissension in the church always involves some degree of selfishness.
When dissension comes in the door, love flies out the window.
Some friction is inevitable whenever and wherever human beings rub shoulders.
The church is not constituted of angels, but of mere mortals with all their failings and flaws.
It would be too much to expect that there never be any disagreements in the church.
Even in the love-charged atmosphere of the family, this kind of thing takes place.
The difference between occasional disagreements and a church fight, however, is the difference
between a camp fire and a forest fire.
Disagreements can serve to keep the fellowship alert, but if they get out of control,
they become very destructive and can tear a church apart.
G.K. Chesterton once said: "I like to get into hot water. It helps to keep me clean."
Christian discussions and disagreements have their place when conducted in the context of love and brotherhood,
but when they become vindictive and spiteful, then the church is hurt.
Church members are interrelated just as the various organs of the body,
so that when an organ of the body becomes diseased or impaired, the whole body suffers.
And when a member of the body of Christ hurts another member of the body, the whole body suffers.
Every Christian with a heart in tune with God is deeply concerned about the unity and the harmony of the church.
The unity cannot be broken without grief to the believer and to the church as a whole.
The godly person will do nothing to disturb the unity, nor will he remain silent while others are destroying it.
Much dissension arises because of the immaturity of some within the church.
Sometimes the immaturity among the membership of our churches is unbelievable.
It is amazing how small, how little, how childish, how babyish some Christians can be at times.
I have known some to get their feelings hurt because:
"They didn't sing my song."
"They didn't get my name in the bulletin."
"They didn't give me recognition for what I did."
"No one has ever asked me to do anything."
Dissension must be stripped off!
When all these things or some of these things exist in our churches,
it is clear that we must get right with God and with each other.
We need revival!
Col 3:15: "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts."
Everything that disturbs the peace of God in our hearts is sin.
It doesn't matter how small or trivial it is.
If it hinders being right with my God and my fellow man, I must cry out: "I want it out! O God, cast it out!"
1 Cor. 3:17: "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy..."
Paul is speaking of the church as the temple of God.
He says, " If any defile the church...punished."
This is really serious!
How do we defile it?
By allowing these and other such sins in our lives and in our speech and in our behavior is how we defile the church.
Moral aspirations and political pills cannot solve our problems.
New organizations and new committees cannot solve this terrible problem.
What we need is radical surgery for these cancers of the soul!
Florence Nightingale served as a nurse in the very primitive British military hospitals during the Crimean War.
Florence fought to impose her rigid stands of cleanliness among the hospital staffs.
Although, she was later celebrated as the beloved "Lady with the Lamp,"
she was sneered at by most of the medical profession.
Few understood or tried to understand her views on hygiene and sanitation.
Most of the medical profession dismissed her "new fangled feminine ideas."
In spite of the repeated resistance, Florence Nightingale continued to repeat her favorite expression:
"Whatever else a hospital should be, it should never be a source of infection!"
How true that is of the church!
A world sick with sin is watching us -- whatever else we should be,
we should never be a source of sin that infects the church of the Living God.
The hope of a sin-sick world dying in their sins lies in the health of the church!
We must strip from our lives those things that hinder.
The result will be that our family and friends who are without Jesus will want to come to Him!
God Help Us to Be A Healthy Church!
Sermon by Dr. Harold L. White