This is part three of a series. Part 1 can be found HERE and part 2 HERE.

“By This They Will Know” (Jn 13:35)

It is not often a congregation writes a message, but you did! Two weeks ago I asked if anyone had been a thorn in the side of a preacher. Your reaction told me a lot! I asked you if a preacher had ever been difficult to love. Again, your reaction told me a lot. It seems from your reactions that there have been times of conflict at NHBC… Am I right?

I had already decided the direction of the messages to deliver. Your reactions affirmed the messages I had chosen to bring you. This morning we begin w/ the words of Jesus from Jn 13:35…

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have LOVE for one another.

What happens at NHBC is known in the community. They determine the validity of the Christian message based on your conduct. Did you hear that? If you fight, bicker, & fuss… if you fire a preacher improperly… people in the community have the reaction Paul wrote of in Ro 2:24, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

The LAST thing you want to do is by your words or conduct cause the name of God to be spoken of negatively. Thus it is imperative the emotional health of NHBC be strong. It is your responsibility to work for NHBC to be at peace so as to glorify God.

What I’m going to do is speak to you in a manner only a guest preacher can. At the same time I know you are the Bride of Christ & as such to be approached with mercy & grace. The last thing a preacher should ever do is beat up God’s people from the Sacred Desk. (Your pastor hasn’t prompted me any)

My goal is to use this as a “Bully Pulpit.” Do you know where that phrase came from? Teddy Roosevelt used to agree with & encourage people by saying, “Bully for you!” It was positive term. So that’s what I’ll do today… encourage you TOWARD a healthy congregational fellowship… which will include a few warnings with the encouragements. Ready?

Let’s begin w/ a passage from Phil 1:27 (NIV Translation), Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” I believe the best way to interpret Scripture is simply & plainly. So you’ll find my thoughts simple & straight forward…

There are going to be rubs at NHBC (And in life). When you put sinners together, even though they’re redeemed, there will be rubs. Someone WILL rub you the wrong way & you’ll do the same. Your next pastor won’t be perfect. He may say &/or do things you don’t like. He will make mistakes. The Q is not “IF” but “When & how will YOU respond?” (At NHBC & in life!)

“Whatever happens” is all encompassing. There are no caveats. There are no exception clauses… including the “Immediate dismissal” reasons. THE issue to be on the mind of every member of NHBC in EVERY situations is “Conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.” What is that?

LOVE (Wants the best for the other person). Being gracious… merciful. Seeking restoration. Keeping the Golden Rule (What is it?). Doing what is right. Putting others before yourself. As written,

For God is not a God of confusion but of peace (1 Cor 14:33)

One of the hallmarks of people who love God & each other is peace. There will be stress from time to time in a congregation (And life), the issue is how you deal with it. Some prefer debating, arguing, & fighting to win by destroying opposing thoughts. That is not of God. Some prefer to stay quiet or even leave. That is not of God either. There is a third way… the way of love. Turn to Phil 2:3…

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… 14 Do all things w/out grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless & innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked & twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

This is a passage you should mark. You should read it often. It should be discussed among the Deacons & in SS classes every quarter for at least a year (We all forget things quickly!). As we go thru it, think back to events you’ve observed, been part of, or wish had been handled better. Who knows, God may lead you to seek forgiveness & restoration with someone…

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit.” Listen, this is not YOUR church! Not YOUR pew, or SS class, or parking spot! This congregation is Jesus’. HE paid the price. HE redeemed them. HE ransomed them. “Rivalry” & “Conceit” exposes what’s in every heart… getting OUR way, doing what WE want, thinking you KNOW what is best & right, SELFISHNESS. Lk 9:23? “Deny yourself…?”

Last phrase of vs 3. Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself LESS! It is rare that people put others before themselves. Consider Ro 12:9-10, “Let love be genuine… 10 Love one another w/ brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Outdo one another in showing honor! “I’ll wear a sweater, turn the heat down.” “Let’s sing music young people like.” “Let’s sing hymns for the older saints.” (Pause) I’ve been listening, how would this look when applied to what time you all meet on Sunday? 1 Cor 8:1, “Love builds up…”

Vs 14. “Do all things w/out grumbling or questioning.” Wait, a misprint! Want to change it?

I have a rule at home, “No whining!” I hate whining. It’s rebellious. In Num 14:26-37 those who grumbled & complained were struck dead by God & not allowed into the Promised Land. Honestly, I don’t think God likes grumbling or Paul wouldn’t have written it!

If you gripe, grumble or complain at church you’re sowing seeds of discord w/in the fellowship and that is not of God. You are allowing the adversary to use you to cause confusion (1 Cor 14:33). There are some who have this deep in their DNA & you’ll need to help them break the habit! Lovingly confront them when they go negative on the phone, in SS, beauty or barber shop! Just say, “Hey, Phil 2:14.”

Now… WHY is all we’ve talked about important? Look at Phil 2:15…

That you may be blameless & innocent, children of God w/out blemish in the midst of a crooked & twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…

Because that’s the way God’s children conduct themselves! Phil 1:27! When a congregation loves one another genuinely… puts others before themselves… follows the Golden Rule… & there is no grumbling, complaining, or gossip, YOU WILL STAND OUT! Eventually word will get around as what you do here translates into how you act in the community & people WILL come!

Listen, nobody likes conflict except evil people. Most won’t say anything when there is conflict in a church, they’ll just go somewhere else OR QUIT GOING TO CHURCH. I’m sure you don’t want that on your conscious. I have one last thought.

What is God’s perspective of how His people ignoring Phil 1:27? Turn to Eph 4:30…

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander be put away from you, along w/ all malice. 32 BE kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…

If you, several, a group, or all of you ignore what we’ve discussed today, it grieves the Holy Spirit. Think of a parent’s exasperation when siblings fight… that’s the context! I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be the source of exasperation of the one who saved me. What to do?

When you are tempted toward bitterness & wrath & anger & clamor & slander or malice (Resentment, spite)… Repent! Fight it! Don’t give in! Ask for forgiveness! Be reconciled. Then…

When you’re tempted to negativity consciously & prayerfully BE (“Keep on being,” regardless) kind… tenderhearted… & forgiving! Why? B/c God forgave you of greater sin!

OTHERS? Help them lovingly according to Gal 6:1-2. Lovingly. Graciously. Restoratively.

Suggestion: Give this manuscript to all the SS teachers & have them teach it soon. Maybe have them teach these principles several times over the next year.