1 Peter 3:8-12, "Living Right in the Church"
Many years ago, when I pastored the Dallas Barnhartvale Baptist Church, one of the ladies drew a cartoon for me based on a message I had preached. The cartoon showed the picture of a tightrope stretched from earth to heaven upon which a little person representing you and me must walk. We saw underneath the tightrope the gaping pits into which the Christian may fall, and we saw the picture of a grinning devil down at the bottom shaking the rope. That was a picture of the Christian life which is not just difficult but impossible if it weren’t for the remaining part of the picture - a great hand reaching down from heaven holding our hand as we progress from earth to heaven.
It’s not so easy to live as a Christian, is it? I have been showing you that the Christian has a dual responsibility which the non Christian does not have, for we must live in two worlds - we must live as normal human beings in this world but we must also live as true citizens of heaven. How can we do it? The answer doesn’t lie in living as a split personality - living as a non-Christian when among non-Christians, but living as a Christian in the church. That is the way of disaster.
There is only one satisfactory way to live as a Christian in this world - and that is to live fully as a Christian in this world. This is where integrity comes in. This is what it means to be real. You must determine in your heart that you are a Christian; that you belong to the Lord Jesus, bought with His precious blood; so no matter where you are, no matter what company you are in, your life must be lived as a true child of God. Then your actions, your speech, your body language, your mannerisms will all speak of Jesus.
With that in mind we have looked at Living Right on the Job; at Living Right in the Home, and this evening I want to talk to you about “Living Right in the Church.”
1 Peter 3:8 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.10 For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."
Now, this does not apply just to church life. These qualities of compassion, brotherly love, courtesy etc explain how we are to live in the world, but if so they especially apply to our attitudes and behaviour in the church and then in our fuller life in the community.
Let me direct your mind to verse 8. Here are 5 qualities that every Christian in the church is to manifest toward one another.
- Unity of Mind; 2. Genuine fellow feeling for each other; 3. True Love for One Another; 4. Tenderheartedness; 5. Proper Courtesy in Speech.
- Unity of Mind;
As Richard DeHaan says in his book “Good News for Hard Times”, believers in Christ are bound together by a singleness of heart and purpose. We should have a common concern for the souls of men and a common longing for God’s glory as we work for the Lord.
Now there is a sense in which this is true of all those who truly belong to the Lord, but I think that it takes on far more meaning when we apply these truths within a local church setting.
Take this local church, for instance. We are in a new situation here at First Baptist. We are now a new church, with many new members. I hope that everyone feels the excitement of our new family.
But now, the real question is,” How can our local church enjoy a true spiritual unity which binds us together in a common purpose and allows the church to grow for years to come?
- A commitment to sound doctrine.
To achieve that kind of unity, we must start with a basic understanding of the scriptures. It is particularly because of his commitment to the scriptures that I felt from the beginning that Pastor Joshua was the right man to lead First Baptist into the future. From our first meeting, I felt that Joshua and Bridge Baptist Church were on the same page with First Baptist. Our doctrinal statement was essentially the same, and Joshua’s commitment to God’s Word was at least as great as our own. Truly we were in agreement, and so could go forward together. Though some misunderstood, that is the reason that I promoted the idea of the merger from the start both personally and from the pulpit. I felt that we would have a difficult time finding another pastor more committed to the Word of God than him.
Today, there has been a shift in the evangelical world. People have grabbed unto the idea that doctrine is dangerous. Doctrine divides. Therefore you have watched the rise of “Community Churches”. Get rid of denominational names. Get rid of the name Baptist. That suggests narrowness. People won’t come to a church that is narrow. We want our church to grow. We want it to attract people from all kinds of backgrounds. Therefore minimize the emphasis on “what we believe”. Instead, let us get a great worship team, and get people really enthused about worship. That’s what will build a church.
I imagine that you already know that I consider that to be a dangerous direction for a local church. It may be the popular way. It may attract the largest crowds, but in the end, I fear for the results. I believe that there is value in a statement of those beliefs which are the basic truths of the scriptures. I believe that Christians need to form convictions about what they believe.
Yes to have true unity of mind we value a commitment to sound doctrine.
- Dangers to be avoided.
There are dangers. People form convictions about many things beyond our doctrinal statement. I watched a church divided by differing views of prophecy. There are a multitude of beliefs over which Christians can divide. Calvinism and Armenianism - some stress the sovereignty of God. Others stress the free will of man and division can occur.
Christians can disagree over our response to the abortion issue.
Whole denominations have split over the Inspiration and Authority of the Bible.
Music style or worship style has become a huge stumbling block in local churches.
Response to the charismatic movement has placed a rift within local churches.
In other words, there is no end of things over which churches may divide. The sad part of it all is that Satan does not care what the issue, so long as he can introduce division between Christians. Divide and conquer has always been his agenda, and division in churches is no new thing. Paul’s letters to the churches were largely written in response to divisive questions in the first century churches.
Against all of these areas of potential disagreement, Peter urges Unity of Spirit. But what happens when these differing views are very strong? That is why he gave the other four instructions.
- Genuine fellow feeling for each other;
“Having compassion on one another.”
The word is our word for sympathy. It refers to a deep fellow feeling for one another. It means that we need to get to really know one another; to really care for one another; to put one another ahead of ourselves. That is biblical, isn’t it?
Take for instance this whole struggle in churches over worship style which causes difficulties in many churches.
Another of the things that I really appreciate about our music since we have joined together is that we are singing the same songs as before but a little more upbeat, just a little more lively. Yes we have a set of drums on the platform, but when they are used, they are used to keep the timing, not to overpower the music or the message. And look at all the younger families who are present. Are we in danger of losing them because we aren’t singing songs directly off the internet? No, because our younger families are being grounded in the Word and that is what has priority. And guess what? Our commitment to the Word is attractive to families who are seeking the best for their children and families.
The same thing is true for every one of these divisive elements which come into the church. And Peter would say to us, “Where is your compassion on one another? Where is your fellow feeling? Where is your getting to know one another, and putting the needs of others ahead of your own?”
Unity of mind is helped by genuine compassion for one another.
- True Love for One Another;
Now this love pictured here is brotherly affection. Peter is not calling for the agape love of Christ for His people. He is simply calling us to a deep human love and affection for our fellow Christians. In chapter 1:22, he has already urged us to “sincere love for the brethren” and “let us love one another with a pure heart fervently.”
Dear ones, if we practise this sincere love for one another, Christians will be able to be more tolerant of the differences which are found in other Christians. Unfortunately what happens in local churches, and I think this is especially true in smaller local churches, differences become points of confrontation, and we react against those differences, which really means reacting against our fellow believers. Too easily, we get our noses out of joint, and become sharp toward one another, saying things, and doing things that are not kind and not Christian, justifying our words and actions on the basis that we are defending “the truth”, again Let that not be the case in First Baptist Church!
Now right here I want to say that I am not preaching this message to you as much as to myself. As I read these verses of scripture, how they search my heart. How they convict my heart. I can look back on my own leadership in a situation where I felt myself to be under attack, and I can see how I responded in ways that were not Christian, and it grieves my heart.
In any dispute which troubles a local church, it is not a case of one side being right and the other side being wrong. There is always enough blame to go around. We go back to Peter’s teaching. The problem is not usually the disagreement itself, but the way in which we react to it.
And Peter says, “Go back to your unifying centre.” Get back again to the point where you are of one mind - and as DeHaan said, that is our common concern for the souls of men and for the glory of God.
Peter says again, “Have compassion on one another” Have genuine fellow feeling for your brother and sister. “Go back to your true brotherly love for one another. Emphasize your love for one another and for Christ, and then seek to work through the problem with concern for one another’s views and feelings. Try to understand where your brother or sister is coming from.
Once again, this advice is repeated in scripture again and again. I think we all admire the person who has a tender heart. It shows in his or her face. It shows in the pain that person feels for the sorrow and pain of others.
Unfortunately when conflict comes in a local church, there is a tendency to become hard hearted. Oh, how self righteous we can become while we are hardening our heart against a brother or sister. Oh, how we can justify our thoughts and words and actions. What we cannot understand is why everyone else can not understand and agree with our position. Because inevitably we convince ourselves that our position is based, not just on our own opinions of ideas, or convictions. No, our position is based on truth, on the scriptures, on that which is right. Why can’t people see that? And if they can’t see that, does that not prove that they don’t really love the Lord Jesus? That they don’t really believe the scriptures?
Oh, dear ones, when we get into conflict, everyone calls upon the scriptures to justify his position. And that is what makes it so devastating to those looking on, because they see scripture being made to serve as justification for conflicting opinions.
Oh, dear ones, what is the answer? Peter says, “Get back to looking at your opponent as a fellow Christian. Don’t let your heart become hard. Be tenderhearted. Be loving. Be compassionate. Put your brother or sister ahead of yourself.”
- Proper Courtesy in Speech.
Oh, how this searches my own heart. Be courteous, says the scripture. Speak to one another in soft, gentle tones of respect and mutual honour.
Can you see how these guidelines would diffuse confrontation if followed. But then here comes a very human emotion. If we really followed these guidelines, and acted in this way, the other person would win! Because he or she will not act according to these guidelines.
Oh, dear ones how we justify ourselves. How important it is that we be right even if we are wrong.
But the title of this message is“Living Right in the Church”, and Peter’s answer does not agree with our answer.
Unity of mind in a local church includes true love for one another, tender heartedness and courteous speech.
But that is only verse 8.
Look quickly at verses 9 - 12. 9 “not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.10 For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit. 11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."
Oh, dear ones, what an example is set for us in our Lord Jesus. Look again at 2: 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness— by whose stripes you were healed.
Instead of reviling others, the word says we are to provide blessing. Here is a call to control our tongues; a call to pursue peace rather than evil.
Why? Here is the very best reason of all: 12 “For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."
What a wonderful promise. The Lord’s eye is on the righteous, and since our only true righteousness is that which we have received from Him, we rejoice to know that we are under His constant watch care.
Living right on the job; living right in the home; living right in the church. It is not easy living as a Christian is it? It was much easier when we were just citizens of this world.
The tightrope to heaven is not just difficult; it is impossible, and we could not make it if it were not for the hand of God holding us on our journey.
May He help us now to deal with what He has said to us this evening, in order that we may live as we ought to do in the church of Jesus Christ and in the community in which we seek to carry out His will..