TITLE: Punctilious Practice
TEXT: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” - 1 Cor. 16:13-14
I once worked at a bottling factory across the train tracks back home. My first position there was on the line belt. I’d have to watch bottles on a conveyer belt pass through a quality light. The light would expose any corruption in the bottle. The minute the light spotted something faulty, it kicked the bottle off the belt where it was broken against a steel panel, and sent to the furnace to be melted. The light was designed to expose any corruptions in the bottle (i.e. chips, fractures, faulty moldings, dangerous cracks, defects). This machine was created firm and strong with a kicker that would kick out the problem. It had to be tough enough to reject the bad bottles. Yet soft enough to protect the good ones.
Paul was the light of Christ for the Corinthian congregation. He was directly operated on by the outpouring power of the Holy Spirit. A chosen vessel for that purpose. And as he was concluding this letter, he was teaching the faithful to properly obey the instructions therein. Because there were many spiritual threats during the days of the Corinthian congregation. Many “bottles” (Christians) in the “case” (church) had since become faulty.
Today we face the same threats. Is what the preacher preaching, truth? How do we know if the leadership is guiding us in the right spiritual direction? How would we know if a fellow Christian is lying to us regarding the interpretation of a certain Bible verse? That could very well be a matter of heaven or hell. There are many religious people out there who mean well and are considered “good’ people. Yet they are Scripturally ignorant and lead many astray because of it. Some are well aware of their manipulation and division. And will burn for it.
The Bible instructs us to “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering.” (Heb. 10:23).
Our faith is a ship. If it has an anchor it will remain safe. If not, it will drift into dangerous waters and face “shipwreck.” We must remain anchored.
BODY: - Paul says in order to do that, we must be…
ALERT: sober-minded, awake, vigilant, keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties, soldiers on guard, not intimidated by adversaries, watching, paying attention to our surroundings. Being cautious. Giving strict attention to detail.
*Have you ever seen a faithful mother keeping an eye out for her children? She’ll know if her child is in danger, or doing something he or she should not be doing. She’s attentive, sensitive to potential harm, and quick to defuse any hostility. She’s on the alert. Same application for a faithful husband who protects his family. God also wants us to be that way when it comes to a spiritual threat.
*Do we faithful Christians pay close attention to what we hear from the pulpit, from our teachers. Our peers. Just because one is a Christian member of the church of Christ, does not necessarily mean he or she is speaking the truth. Now that doesn’t mean we are allowed to become overly critical or untrusting. Going out of your way to finding fault in another is not the same as identifying Scriptural deviance. We are simply to be made aware of the potential danger which always lurks around.
Jesus said, “be on the alert and beware of the teaching of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (Mt. 16:16). Why the warning if there is no concern or application for us today?
Pharisees and Sadducees were Jews. They were trusted as spiritual leaders. They had a following. They were considered religious and part of the kingdom. Yet God never created a Pharisee or Sadducee. Men did that. And still do today.
Jesus, says: “Ye shall know them by their fruits (their words, the things they speak). Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” - Mt. 7:16.
John would say: “Beloved, believe NOT every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets (teachers, preachers, evangelist, Christians) are gone out into the world.” - 1 John 4:1
Do you purchase a vehicle. House. Or anything of financial value without first checking the price, testing the product and the service that comes with it? You should. Well, how much more important to “test the spirits” when it comes to your eternal soul? This is why Paul says we must…
STAND FIRM: persevere, continue with the Bible in a course of action even in the face of persecution that comes with the challenge to recognize reality from myth. It is a life of trial and error. But if you are honest, submissive, humble, and ready to learn. The grace of God remains with you.
This is why we must remain focused…
IN THE FAITH
IN: the location designed by God in which we must find ourselves standing firm with alertness. The church. The Body of believers. To be “IN” means we are no longer “OUT.”
THE: unique, singular, begotten, there is no other location.
FAITH: the system of redemption, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that came down to earth through the love of the Father and everything in it. And so we must…
ACT LIKE MEN: the idea behind the word is “bravery,” upright, with integrity. Straight and narrow against any harm towards the word of Christ and His people.
Would a community not notify its citizens if a murderer or child predator was in the area? Of course.
Stand up against error when you hear it, even if it means you might cause righteous division or controversy. Even if it means you might lose family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, yes even fellow Christians who are idle and worldly.
Paul knew that very well when he had to publicly call out Hymenaeus and Alexander for having made a ‘“shipwreck” of their faith (1 Tim. 1:18-20). Paul knows that “the cowardly shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” (Rev. 21:8). Paul knows we must “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Eph. 5:11). This is why we are commanded to…
BE STRONG: don’t back down. Do all things in love, Bible love, the kind that does not step backward in faith. The kind that will subdue error. The kind that will not compromise for a false sense of “peace.” Israel throughout history would do that and say “peace & prosperity,” all the while judgment was coming for them.
Friends, we can practice these things if we…
Don’t forsake the assembly. Don’t make a habit of staying away from the times the church congregates (Heb. 10:25). Because life will end one day and we must be ready for it.
Study the Bible (2 Tim. 2:15) - Fellowship the faithful (Acts 2:42) - Don’t fellowship the world or Christians who have since been removed from the fold. Try to save them, but don’t fellowship them (2 Cor. 6:14, 1 Cor. 5:13).
Learn all these things, a bit more each day. And you will most certainly “be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. And let all that you do be done in love” - 1 Cor. 16:13
Jesus is the Son of God. He died so as to save us from our sins. And we can receive the spiritual benefit of that if we have faith (Heb. 11:6).
If you are willing and ready to become a Christian this day, according to the Bible. Forgiven, washed clean, added to the kingdom of God? You must be a repentant believer confessing Christ as your Ruler. This qualifies you to be fully immersed in water (Acts 8:36), born again (John 3:5).
If you have already obeyed the gospel but have allowed discouragement and sin to creep back in? You can be renewed to Christ again this day. If you need to respond to the reality of the gospel, please do so now as we stand and sing.