Compassionate Correction


¬†Good morning. Good morning. It is good to be with you. My name is Joe Valenti. I’m one of the pastors here on our equip pastor. I get to lead the teams that teach us the Bible in various ways kids, youth, young adults, men’s and women’s life groups. And it’s a blast to do that, if you would, open your Bibles with me, that book of First Corinthians, that’s where we’ll be today.

And if you are as you’re turning there and just have a quick question as we begin. How many of you have ever done something stupid? Yeah, it may be hard for you to believe, but me too. I’ve done some dumb things in my life. Hey, how many of you. How many of you have ever done a dumb thing?

And somebody warned you and you ignored them and did it anyway. Yeah. How many of you ever did a foolish thing and you wished that somebody would have said something to stop you, man? Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about accountability, about the relationships that we’re supposed to have with other brothers and sisters in Christ that help us not do stupid things, that help us not continue in a lifestyle of sin, that help us to see the blind spots in our lives that we might not otherwise see.

If you were here last week, Pastor Rick Duncan preached he’s the founding pastor of our church, and he shared a little bit of our history that for years Cuyahoga Valley Church would set up church in Brecksville Middle School or in Lauren School down the street, and then we’d tear down and put it all back into a trailer and do that every week.

Well, then in 2001, this building was completed and Rick got an office over in the corner and it’s a conference room now. But back then, that was his office, and he mentioned how he kind of felt like he was living a little high on the hog because he had been so used to his office being, you know, the local library or Panera.

And as he talked about that office in his sermon last week, I remembered that office because I remember the first time I got called into that office. Some of you know my story or bits and pieces of it. It was great to hear Stephanie’s story, man. What a testimony of God’s grace, huh? Wow. And my story is actually very similar.

When I first started here, I was part time and I would I would write the lighting cues and I would set up the sound cables, and I did a lot of those types of things. But I was still living my party life and I made some choices one night and I got arrested for DUI. By God’s grace, nobody was hurt that evening, but I was in trouble and I wasn’t sure what to do with it.

And so I was in the green room that there’s a little room back behind this wall where the band hangs out. I was talking to a friend of mine and I said, What do I do, man? Like, what am I? Where do I go from here? And his solution was, you should go talk to Pastor Rick. And I was like, it sounds like a terrible idea.

Yeah. What’s option B? And and he said, well, he was he was just honest with me. He said, he’s like, you don’t have to. You can run from this. You can hide. You don’t have to hold yourself accountable. You know, you know, not too many people know you’re here. You can leave. You just graduated college. Go find a job somewhere else and keep living the way you want to live and see how it turns out.

And it was a hard season for me as I tried to decide what I was going to do. I had to answer a question that all of us have to answer, not only today, but every day as we follow Jesus. And here’s the question Am I willing to allow others to hold me accountable? Am I willing to allow others to hold me accountable to the biblical expectations of being a Christ follower?

Are you willing to allow God’s Word to have authority over your life and have somebody else pointed out to you say, Hey, brother, you’re not living according to what this says. Are you willing to respond in humility? When a trusted friend calls you to repentance, are you willing to allow others to hold you accountable to the Biblical expectations of being a Christ follower?

Let’s pray. We’ll dig into that question. Lord, you know each of us better than we know ourselves. You know our strengths and our weaknesses. You know, the deep, dark, hidden spots that nobody else knows. You know the shame. You know the guilt. You know the things that we have made. Jesus stories of in our life. You know, all of the consequences that we’ve had to endure for our behavior.

You know, the damage that we’ve caused. You know the damage that others have caused to us. And, Lord, you know what we like. And so you know that we’re prone to hide. We’re prone to avoid vulnerability. We’re prone to defensiveness. Any time someone tries to correct us, you you know that we’re prone to fiercely guard our individualism. But, Lord, that’s not how you’ve called us to live.

You’ve not called us to live alone or isolated. For those who are in Christ, you’ve made us a part of a body that is intended to function collectively, in community, in relationship. And so, Lord, we need help, we need forgiveness, we need healing and we need humility. So would you help us today? Would you guard me from error access in Christ name?

Amen. So over the last two weeks we’ve been in first Corinthians four. And if you’ve missed the beginning of this series, we’re getting ready to launch into kind of all of the concerns, the nitty gritty concerns that Paul has with the church in court. But up to this point, if I could summarize the message, it has been this, Hey, current audience, you think you’re way better, you’re doing way better spiritually than you really are to the people in Corinth.

They’re affluent, they’re skilled. Many of them have rhetorical skill. That was very highly it was it was a it was made one astute in Corinth. And Paul tells them, you’ve got the wisdom of the world. You’re a big deal as a Corinthian, but you don’t have the wisdom of God. You’re misunderstanding the two. And so he’s trying to get them to convince them to take a good, hard look at themselves and to listen to his correction and his rebuke.

Now, in Chapter four, he starts getting a little fired up with the Corinthians. If you were here last week, the text that we preach the last week gets it kind of drips with sarcasm, where Paul kind of goes, Oh, oh, you guys are just doing fine, aren’t you? You don’t need all Paul coming in here telling you how to live.

You know what? We should probably switch things. Well, why don’t you be in charge and you teach me? That would be much better since you’re doing so well. And then he shifts here to talking about his authority to call them on the carpet, to hold them accountable. And there’s something in us that when we hear that word authority, there’s something that like, you know, makes us want to buck that authority right there.

Something goes, Oh, I don’t like this. No matter what environment it’s in, we go, I don’t like that because one, we’re fallen, but two, we live in this culture now where to question someone, to correct someone to disagree with someone to call someone to a certain standard is viewed as unloving. So what we’re supposed to do, what the culture tells us to do, is just let people figure out what their truth is and then affirm it, which is nonsense, right?

Come on. What we are supposed to do is look at this truth and confess form our lives to it. And so a lot of times as Christians, we will follow the culture. And so one of the, you know, phrases that I’ve heard in Christianity is like, well, we’re not supposed to judge other people. And I go, Well, do you read that?

No, it’s in there, right? It’s there. Matthew seven Jesus talks about that, but let’s look at the context, right? Jesus doesn’t say, hey, everybody, don’t judge, don’t worry about everyone else is doing, but everyone do their thing and just leave him alone. It’s not what Jesus says. Jesus gives us a context for how to judge. He says, Hey, look at the plank in your own eye before you go looking at the speck in your brother’s eye.

So he gives us a context for how to interact. He says, Hey, go in to that conversation, humbly recognizing that you have plenty of things going on in your own life that are wrong. Don’t come to your brother or your sister in pride, looking down your nose, thinking that you’re better than them. There’s an approach to rightly entering into accountable relationships and conversations.

In the book, we Ephesians, Paul says that we are to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ. We don’t like that word either man authority. That’s a bad one. And then submit. We really go. Who? No, thanks, but that’s what Paul calls us to do. He calls us to submit to one another. And so we’re going to talk this morning about how to do that the right way.

There’s wrong way to do it. There’s a right way to do it. Paul gives us the right way to do it. First Corinthians four Starting in verse 14. Let’s read the whole text, then we’ll start to pick it apart. I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for God became your Father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, I urge you then be imitators of me.

That is why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere, in every church. Some are arrogant as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon if the Lord wills and I will find out. Not the talk of these arrogant people, but their power for the Kingdom of God does not consist in talk, but in power.

What do you wish? So I come to you with a rod or with love in a spirit of gentleness. I have five things this morning that I see in this text about Christian accountability. Number one, Christian accountability is helpful, not hurtful. Christian accountability is helpful, not hurtful. Look again at verse 14, he says, I do not write these things to make you ashamed.

So he’s not trying to shame the Corinthians and just make them feel bad about themselves. But to admonish you, that’s a fancy word that we don’t use very often, but is to warn you. Right. We we talked about that at the very beginning. How many of us have ever done something and we wish somebody would have warned us, Paul, saying, I’m not just trying to make you feel bad or feel guilty or feel shame.

I’m trying to warn you that the way you’re living is going to lead to distrust sin. And I’m doing that as my beloved children. You know, there’s kind of a tone that you’ll read throughout First Corinthians where Paul is very forward. You know, sometimes we need a spirit of gentleness in our connection with one another, in our accountability with one another.

Sometimes we really need to ramp up the firmness in the way that we approach one another. There’s a phone number in my phone and I leave it there because every now and then, as I’m typing in a number, that name will come up. And it’s a good reminder for me. I was in a pastoral situation with a person who was dealing with drug addiction and I was pretty gentle with that person.

And I feel like maybe as I look back, I maybe I should have been a little bit more forward with them. Maybe I should have pushed a little bit harder. Maybe I should have admonished them a little bit more intensely because just a few days after that conversation, that person died from overdose. And I was as gentle and loving as I could have been.

And it’s not what they needed. You know, I don’t carry the guilt or the fallout from that. There were a lot of pieces of the puzzle, but I think some of us may have scenarios in our lives friends, family members, college roommates, coworkers where we saw something. There was a warning to Beloved and we didn’t bring that warning out of fear of offending.

Or maybe we were a little bit too gentle sometimes. Correction hurts, you know, our aim should not be to be hurtful. That’s called abuse, and that’s dangerous. Our aim is to be helpful, and sometimes being helpful hurts you. Tracking with me is really important to get the nuance between these two things. When we go to a brother or sister and we see that they’re living in a way that is incongruent with God’s word, and we see the potential damage that it can cause.

We need to aim to be helpful in the way that we approach them, even if it hurts. I think about if your little girl is running towards the street and you see the car coming around the bend, you’re not going to go well. I hope that car doesn’t hit her. It’s insane. You’re going to scream and go, Hey, sweetie, stop.

Oh, oh. And she gets right to the edge. There goes the car. And you’re so glad that you got loud. We’re always aiming to be helpful. Not hurtful, but that doesn’t always mean that we’re gentle. One of the quotes that I ran across in my study this week is by Paul Gardiner. His commentary on First Corinthians is excellent, and he says one of the sadnesses of our modern world is that our tendency is to equate genuine love with softness of speech.

Christian accountability is helpful, not hurtful, but it’s not always gentle. Number two, Christian accountability is relational, not remote. Relational, not remote versus 14 and 15. Again, I do not write these things to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children for though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your Father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel, the word guides there.

The underlying Greek word is, is where we get our word for pedagogy, your pedagog. And if your teacher in the room, you may know that word. It’s it’s the the science of the study of learning how to teach and pedagogs in ancient Greek civilization were servants in a household that were responsible for making sure that the children stayed at their studies.

Maybe that any of you grow up and you went to Catholic school and you had a nun with a ruler that would wacky on the knuckles from time to time. Oh, Timmy, did you get that from time to time? Maybe once or twice, right? That’s kind of the picture of a pedagog that they were just there to make sure that you stayed on task.

Oftentimes in in the art of that time, a pedagog was was was was drawn or painted with with like a rod in their hands. So the picture that Paul is writing here saying, hey, you might have countless people who are just interested in correcting you, but you don’t have many people like me who care about you so deeply like a father that I’m willing to engage at this level.

Right. Like, you know, this, especially if you are on social media there. There’s no end to the number of people that would love to tell you what you’re doing wrong. It’s easy. It’s easy to find somebody to correct you or to make a comment about your life without knowing anything about you. Your your circumstances or having a relationship.

And Paul saying you may have the actual phrase here’s you may have 10,000 people, 10,000 guides to correct you, but you’ve only got one father. Accountability happens in the context of relationship. Paul knows these people. He planted this church. And accountability has to happen in the context of relationship because we have to build trust in order for accountability to work.

One of the things that’s really difficult for me, I’ve been in student ministry for almost two decades now, and I watched these little sixth graders that come in and they’re so full of life and they’re like, the world is their oyster. Like, they’re so happy, they’re so excited, they have a ton of fun and then middle school hits them and right.

Aaron Then middle school hits them. Aaron Son is in my life group and that’s how Adrian was meant for life. And then middle school is like, right? Middle school. Why? Because middle school is the place where you learn to distrust people, where everyone, most of them is out to hurt you. Because that’s how middle schoolers think. They don’t know what to do.

They don’t know how to respond. Everybody’s hurting everybody. And so the solution is, well, hurt before you get hurt. And I watched this I watched this transformation sixth, seventh, eighth grade in the high school. And then we end up in these lives as adults where we don’t trust people, where every time a comment is made or a correction is levied towards us, we always think, what are you trying to get out of this?

What are you trying to do to me? How are you trying to hurt me? This is the fallen world that we live in. But in order to have accountable relationships, we’ve got to push past that. Get to know people. Get to know their story and develop, redevelop a trust by the power of the Holy Spirit. So that when somebody corrects us, when somebody sees something in our life that they want to hold us accountable to our initial response is not immediate defensiveness, but we can actually receive that correction because we trust that person.

You tracking with me. It has to be relational, not remote. You can’t just show up here every Sunday and not jump into relationship and expect that your walk with Jesus is going to grow. There’s just today, even with the snow, a thousand people have come in and out of these doors and like, you know, you can go into the you can go to the failure after service and just spin around in a circle.

And whoever you land on, you go to that person say, hey, I want to build a trusting relationship with you, an accountability. That’s they’re going to you’re going to freak them out. There are better ways to do it. There are better ways to do. We call them life groups. So life groups are smaller groups. The way that we make this big community small, 10 to 15 people you meet on a regular basis, you get to know people, you get to know their story, you get to know their history and you build trust.

You grow that relationship. You study the Bible together. You see what does God call us to do? And then you can begin to hold one another accountable to living according to God’s commands. If you’re not in a life group, you’ve got to get in life group. You just have to do it. There’s a fancy tool. So if you go, you go to CBC online, you get home today, front page, there’s a button that says Life Group.

There’s going to be a picture of, oh, I think I’m the picture. Huh. So right below me, I mean, literally, this is how you’re going to remember right below me, there’s a life group button, click on the life group button, and there’s a fancy tool in there where you can say, Here’s the night of the week, I have free, here’s the type of person I am, here’s the kind of group I want to get, and it’ll do all sorts of fancy magic and spit out the different life groups that’ll fit for your schedule and your season of life.

We tried to make it as easy as possible, get into a life group, connect with people, get to know people. That’s your first step in building an accountable relationship. If you don’t have a Christian friendship yet, jump into a life group. I just want to say I saw Dale in the foyer as well. If you’re a guy in the room, Men of Consequence Men’s Retreat is coming up.

It’s it’s like 24 hours, 24 hours your time. And I know hey, men, I know a lot of you are out there crushing it, working hard, trying to provide for your family. Hallelujah. I know you’re busy. I get it. Just 24 hours. 24 hours. And you can meet some other dudes. Right now, there’s about 50 guys signed up.

All different age ranges. Just do it. Just go. Just sign up, wives. I’m begging you. Like, hold on. I know you hold down the fort all the time. Would you give me 24 more hours? Because my hope is that your husband would come home encouraged and ready to jump into your having built a relationship so he can jump into accountability.

Dale is going to be out in the foyer, at the doors, to the right. Do it. It’ll be good for you. Christian accountability is helpful, not hurtful. Relational, not remote. Third, humble, not haughty. Humble, not haughty. Verse 15 four Low. You have countless guides in Christ you do not have many fathers, for I became your Father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.

Anybody ever have a boss? I was actually just talking to somebody before the service and she’s been in her industry for quite a long time and she they just hired somebody who’s way younger than her to be her boss. Right. Anybody ever have that happen? And, you know, the person that they hire maybe doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, but they have authority.

And boy, do they like to use that authority. Right. This is kind of the world that we live in where one of the reasons that we that we shy away from the word authority is because people don’t always use their authority effectively. They’ve not built influence or relationship. They just have authority and they like to wield it. Paul is reminding us that that’s not what he’s doing.

He’s reminding us that the relationship, that the family, that the connectedness, that his authority to correct them, to instruct them, to admonish them comes through the gospel. Paul is in real time working out the whole plank in the eyes spec in the eye situation. He’s not saying you’re to listen to me because I said so because I have this office, because I’m really important.

He goes, No, no, no. This is a gospel issue. I brought the gospel to you and he’s he’s remember saying that not so long ago he was the one who was the Christian killer. Paul was the man who needed the gospel. He needed forgiveness. He needed grace and Jesus interacted with his life. And he says, What’s the first thing?

He says, Paul, why are you persecuting me? Jesus calls him right on the carpet. Why are you living the way that you’re living in? Paul’s remembering that moment as he writes to the Corinthians and he’s saying, My fatherly affection, my authority over you. My the reason that I’m calling you to this type of response is not because I have some general authority or some sort of position.

It’s because in the gospel, this is what I’m called to do. We have to come to one another humbly remembering from where we came. Sometimes we get older in the faith. We’re ten, 20, 30, 40 years down the road in our faith, and we see young people doing foolish things and we look down our nose at them instead of mentoring them because we forgot what it was like to tell the story in the baptismal.

We forget where we came from and it makes us haughty instead of humble. Christian accountability has got to be humble. We recognize our mutual need for the gospel and we approach one another out of that heart posture. Number four Christian accountability is progressive, not passive. Now, culture is sort of stolen that word progressive. And it sometimes means something that it doesn’t mean.

What I mean when I say progressive is making progress. Christian accountability makes progress. It’s not passive. I one of my accountabilities partners is in the room and Bob and I had breakfast a couple of weeks ago and one of the things that we were talking about was that we had both been lax in our prayer time with our wives.

And so there are two things that we can do. We can be passive, we can go, Oh, yeah, man, I know it’s been rough, you two. Mm. How are those eggs? But that’s how some accountability relationships are. It’s just like sharing how you’re failing and then going along with your life. It’s not what accountability is. It doesn’t spur us on towards growth.

So we shared back and forth and Bob goes, Well, let’s set a goal. Let’s do something about it. And if I were if I recall the conversation, I was like, How about we aim at like, like, like three, three days this week he goes, he’s like, there’s seven days in a week coming. I’m like, Okay, we do it that we do it.

Seven or eight would do it. Seven, let’s go. He was like, Yeah, we’re doing seven. Okay, so then we start texting one another, right? We set a goal in Christian growth. We’ve all already had the heart. Our attitudes were good. We wanted to pray with our wives, spend more time doing that. We just weren’t doing it, just being lazy.

So Peyton ourselves in the back got oh you know we’ll get him next time, brother. You know, set a goal. We want to grow and we’re going to do it. And for a couple of weeks we crushed it. Now, Bob, we have a conversation. A couple of weeks, man. I’ve kind of slipped off. Be honest with you, bro, but that’s what it is right now.

I’m holding myself accountable. I got to grow. And the Christian life is about growth. We see it throughout the Bible and Paul says, I urge you then to be imitators of me. That’s why I sent you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ as I teach them everywhere in every church.

What a statement for Paul to be able to say like, Hey, I’m not perfect, but you can look at me, you can look at my life. The way that I’m living. I’m I am striving to pursue congruence to God’s word in every way so you can look at me. We need people like that in our lives. We need people that we can look at, that we rub shoulders with.

This is when you jump into a life group, you’re going to meet people that are better than you at stuff. And being around them and learning from them is one of the ways that we grow. Like, I am not a skilled evangelist. I’m not very good at it. Pastor Chad he like it’s it’s words at the top of his mind all the time.

So as I spend time with him, my heart for evangelism grows. Jack Hopkins is he’s on our staff. He started going to church when he was in eighth grade, and he went all the way through high school. Even when he was in college, he was still serving and now he serves on our staff. Now, if you were to listen to Jack play the guitar, if you’re a musician and you’ve ever heard me play the guitar, you’ll notice Jack plays the guitar a lot like me.

The way that he strums, the way that he picks. I can close my eyes if he’s leading in a worship service. And sometimes I get a little grin on my face because I hear myself playing now. I never gave Jack a guitar lesson ever a day in his life. The reason Jack plays guitar like me is because for the last ten years of his life, he’s been playing guitar with me in bands, reading up front and in Clyde and in various events around the area.

Jack has learned to play guitar like me by being around me playing guitar, and in the same way we need to surround ourselves with people that we want to be like. That’s again, this whole Christian community piece. And when we’re in a life group, when we’re in community, we learn and we grow by emulating people who are farther along in their spiritual walk.

And hopefully there are things in our lives that they will learn from as well. We’ve got to be committed, though, to grow. We can’t just be stagnant in our walk. If you were to ask me, Pastor Joe, are you alive? I wouldn’t go run home and bring back my birth certificate and show you see I’m alive. The argument that I would make to you is, look, we’re two.

I’m doing a live person. Things, I’m talking, I’m breathing, we’re conversing in the same way. You want to know, am I a Christian? Well, there’s a fruit of the spirit coming out of you. That’s how you know. Are you. Are you growing? That’s how you know. That’s why we are to assess ourselves throughout our Christian life, to look at yourself, to see test yourself, to see if you’re in the faith.

Christian accountability is progressive, not passive. Finally, Christian accountability is firm, not feeble. Verse 18 Some are arrogant as though I were not coming to you. But I will come to you soon. If the Lord wills it, I will find out. Not the talk of these people, but their power for the Kingdom of God is not consistent talk. Excuse me, but in power.

What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod or with love in a spirit of gentleness? So there are some people in Corinth who this letter is not going to be enough. And so Paul says, You know what, I’m just going to come for a visit. He’s going to walk from Ephesus to Corinth, which is about the same distances.

If we were to walk from here to Monterrey, Mexico. Okay, so no, but get home. How important is this? Paul loves the Corinthian church so much. He wants so deeply for them to understand these things, for them to receive the correction, for them to adjust the way that they’re living and thinking to the instructions in God’s Word that he says, I’m going to send this letter ahead, but the letter’s not going to be enough.

So I’m going to show up and sometimes we need to push, push, push, push on our brothers and sisters that are making shipwreck of their lives. I’ve called brothers before where I like, and I’ll leave voicemails, I’ll leave text messages, and I’ll go, Look, if you don’t answer me, I will show up at your office. We get I’ll just wait in the parking lot.

I know what kind of car you drive, bro. You don’t want to talk about this. Like I’m going to push the issue because I’ve seen some friends of mine that are that have wandered so far down the path of rebellion that they completely ghosted me. And I go, It’s not good enough. I’m not okay with that. So if I if I had to show up, embarrass you at your office.

Okay. All right, that’s fine. I’ll I’ll do that if I’ve got it. Like, there have been times when I have I have threatened to get on a plane my best buddy lives in California and I’ll do it. I’ll get on a plane and I’ll fly to California. I’ll cancel my plans. Right. And that’s what that’s what Paul’s at here is sometimes you’ve got to love people so desperately that as we’re watching them walk in rebellion, we don’t just let them be.

We don’t just say few kind words or a text. We actually go after them, we pursue them. We walk from emphasis to core if it’s necessary. And that’s what he says. You want me to I’ll show up and I can come one of two ways. I can come with a rod in my hand, or I can come with gentleness.

How do you want me to come? Sometimes our correction of one another has got to be a little bit more firm than it is always aiming to help. It’s not get that we can’t miss that, but sometimes we’ve got to go after one another a little bit more intentionally, a little bit more fully and in his 2021 sermon, That Passion, which is a conference for young adults, Matt Chandler says to young adults there, how unloving is it for you to step back and cross your fingers and go, Man, I hope my friend gets through this stupid face.

How many of us have made mistakes? And we wish that somebody that somebody would have come after us. Somebody were grabbed us by the collar and said, What do you do? What are you doing? Stop. You’re destroying your marriage. You’re destroying your family. You’re destroying your finances. You’re destroying your future. I’m so glad that somebody did that for me in that room back there.

And here’s what happened. I threw up for about a week because I was so anxious to go talk to Pastor Rick. I couldn’t sleep and I made the plans. He had this big desk like you walked in and it was like he had like the every wall was lined with books. And I walked in there and I explained the situation that had happened.

And I, I felt like saying, could you just just please fire me so I can get out of this room? Just do it. Just be done with it. He goes, Open your Bible. And I said, Oh, here we go. He’s going to hit me with a Bible verse and then fire me. And he said, Joe, open your Bible to Galatians six.

And I did. And he said, Read it out loud. And I did. Brothers, if anyone is caught in a transgression, you are spiritual. Should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you to be tempted bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the Law of Christ. And he looked at me and he said, Your desire is not to condemn you, but to restore you.

And I’m here to tell you that moment in that room changed my whole life. Everything changed. And I never looked back. And it didn’t happen because of a sermon. I mean, I grew up in a church about this size. I had heard sermon after sermon after sermon. It didn’t happen at some sort of conference or youth camp. All those things are good.

I don’t mean to disparage them in any way. Those are wonderful things. My life took a wrong article turn because somebody had the guts to correct me and to confront me about the way that I was living. And what I received was help to get better and grace that I could grow and change my whole life. I had to go through some counseling.

I had to do some classes for recovery. I was pulled out of a lot of the ministry responsibilities that I had. There was correction, there were consequences, but it was all done in a spirit of gentleness. It was helpful, not hurtful, and it set in my life on a completely different trajectory. The counselor that I had, his name was Frank, and he was such a wonderful man.

And I saw him a couple months ago and he said to me, Oh, boy, it’s like, man, when I met you, you had one foot out the door on the other foot on a banana peel. MAN But two men willing to love me off. Three Pastor Brian Hall was a big part of that season, too. You know, those men’s willingness not to let me just float down the road changed my whole life.

And so I’m pleading with you to get into a relationship where you can be held accountable to God’s word and where you can grow. That’s where the real life change happens. And so here’s my action step for you. I mean, ask everybody, get out your phone. Just do it.

Get out your phone. And you’re not going out. You’re not signing up for anything. I’m not going to chat back and forth with you. We’re not secretly going to put you on some sort of list. I want you to text that number. So put that number in the to field and then just type that word relate and here’s what’s going to happen.

I’ll tell you in a few minutes, you’re getting a text back from that. It’s automated. It’s not somebody going who sending it. So you’re going to get a text back with a link and the link is going to take you to a Web page that has some great accountability questions, you know, some questions that you can ask a brother or sister to ask you.

So you’ve got the questions. Now, here’s your main action step. If you are not in the habit of being in a relationship with a brother or sister in Christ who loves you and who cares about you, where you dig in to one another’s lives, where you challenge one another, where you encourage one another, where you call out sin.

If you’re not in that habit, I want to encourage you to text, phone, call email, in-person conversation and welcome that in your life this week. Say, Hey, here’s a of questions. I’d like to start meeting with you every other week and I want you to ask me these questions. Open up the door to begin to have this type of relationship in your life so that collectively we can grow in the grace and the knowledge and the faith of Jesus Christ.

So we can guard one another from shipwreck in our faith, and so that we can truly begin to develop unity as a body of believers. I’ll give you a foretaste next week, Chapter five We’re getting into sexual immorality and sexual sin. Yeah, here we go. I told you I was coming. Told you this. Coming a couple of weeks ago, right?

It’s coming. And you need got to have somebody in your life, man. As we go through these next several chapters, you’ve got to have somebody in your life that you can love and trust that’s going to ask you those questions so that you don’t walk out of here every Sunday, just over overwhelmed with guilt and shame and nodding, not knowing what to do with it.

So make that call this week. Send that text message this week. Begin that relationship and you’re going to be better for it and be better for it at this moment. Right now, like it did to mine, this might be saving your life. That phone call this week might save your marriage. It might save your family. It might save you a disaster in the next 5 to 10 years.

Make the call. Ask the questions, jump into relationship with somebody who loves you. Let’s pray God, we love you today and we want to be more like you. We want to be more like you. We want to pursue holiness and faithfulness. We want to be there for our spouses and for our children. We want to leave a legacy of Christ likeness.

When we when that moment comes, when we’re late in the casket, maybe in front of this church, what are people going to say? God, I pray that you would guard each of us from the damage that we could potentially cause if we continue in the ways that we’re living with our sin unchecked. God, I pray for those in the room who are scared to take this step.

Would you give them courage by the power of your spirit in God? Would we approach one another in ways that are helpful and not hurtful? We run after our friends with passion, and I pray, Lord, that you would sanctify, make this church holy as you are holy, and help our submission to one another. To do that, we ask this in Jesus name.


Christian Love In The Gray Areas



Well, good morning. It is great to see you again. My name is Joe and one of the pastors here. And I’ll tell you what I was so excited about today. There’s so much great stuff happening. I had the opportunity to open God’s word today. We had child dedications. I’ve got a student that used to be in my life group who’s now a grown man that I have lunch with after church.

There’s a Super Bowl party later for high school students. So I set my alarm. I got up really early, got dressed, shaved my head, got in my car. I’m driving. I’m driving the church. And I am just about here. And I look down and I have only an undershirt on. I have my slacks, my dress shoes, no dress shirt.

And I’m like, is this real life? So I drove back home and found my dress shirt where it was hung up from the previous evening and came this morning. So that has nothing to do with anything. It’s just if you’re new here, just know we don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re glad that you’re here and we’re glad to open God’s word this morning.

And to add maybe to the awkwardness, the text this morning from First Corinthians eight poses this question Should we eat meat that has been offered to idols? Interesting question. Probably not one that you thought of this week. You probably didn’t roll through the drive thru order of Big Mac and think has this meat been offered to idols? You may have had a lot of questions about its origins, but probably not if it was offered to idols or not.

Let me give you a little bit of background. So we’re in the study in this book called First Corinthians. It’s a letter from the Apostle Paul to the church in corns. They had written him a letter and asked him all sorts of questions. And this is his response. Now, the city of Corinth was sort of like Wall Street and Las Vegas combined.

It was where people went to make money. It was kind of an economic center of Greece. And it was also where people went to have a good time. And there was this little church plant. And there are people who are wondering, how do we live the Christian life in the context of the pagan surroundings? And they sent this letter again to Paul to ask him a lot of questions about how to do that.

One of the questions being, can we eat meat, sacrifice to idols? Now, here’s what was happening in pagan worship ritual. A meat sacrifice would often be brought to that specific pagan temple. Whatever God they were worshiping and the meat would be divided into three portions. The first portion would be burned as a sacrifice to the idol. The second portion would go to the priests or to the people who worked in that temple.

And the third would go back to the person who was bringing the sacrifice. And sometimes they would have a little picnic, sort of a religious meal around the temple. And then oftentimes what was what would happen is that very meat would get sold in the marketplace. So it could be difficult in accordance to actually find the meat that had not been a part of some sort of pagan ritual.

And there are two sides of the equation in the church at corn. There are people in the church of corn who are saying these idols, they’re just stone in wood. There’s no real God. There’s no real spirit. It’s not like the meat is going to be it’s going to have some sort of a demon in it or something.

Just eat it. It’s not that big of a deal. There are also some others on the other side who actually are like, you know, I’ve lived my whole life in this pagan ritual and eating meat offered to idols just makes me feel dirty. It goes against my conscience. It doesn’t make me feel right with God. And it could be that it even tempts me to go back into those old ways.

So they ask Paul, what which way is right? How do we make decisions about the gray areas in our faith? How do you and I make decisions about the things that the Bible doesn’t prohibit? And neither does it come in. It doesn’t say that you shouldn’t do this. Neither does it say that you should do this. And you know these like we bump into them all the time.

Maybe it’s can I, as a follower of Jesus, can I listen to the same music that I used to listen to? Do I need to listen to just Christian music now? Can I listen to Taylor Swift and I listen to Metallica? Where do I draw the line? Can I watch the same sort of movies that I used to watch?

Can I still date the same person? Can I smoke? Cigarets. What about cigars? How about a pipe? Can I get a tattoo? Body piercings now that I’m old enough to drink legally? Should I dancing? What sort of dancing is okay for a Christian? Do we celebrate Halloween or not? Is it okay for me to spend money on a luxury item?

How do we decide what’s right and wrong when there’s no clear biblical guidance? That’s what first Corinthians eight is going to teach us today. It’s probably not meat that sacrificed two idols for us, but this text has much to teach us about how we make decisions in the gray areas. So let’s pray together and we’ll go to God’s Word, God.

Once again this morning, I just want to come to you and and ask for your help. All these words I can say that I have planned. And unless your Holy Spirit does a miracle of taking these words and imprinting them upon the hearts, in the minds of the people that are here, we’re wasting our time. So we recognize our feebleness today.

We recognize that our minds are in constant need of being transformed. We recognize that our hearts, our affections, we often love ourselves more than we love you and more than we love others. And so we need correction. We need the guidance of your Holy Spirit. And we need the instruction of your inspired word. So would you give us ears to hear eyes to see what you would say to each of us?

Lord, there are hundreds of different life scenarios in this room, and I can’t possibly make application for all of them. And so we trust your spirit to each person in this room that you would impress upon their hearts and their minds what you want them to learn from this text today. We ask all this in Jesus powerful name in.

Then. Well, again, we’re in First Corinthians Chapter eight. If you would turn there with me, how do we make decisions? How do we determine what’s right and what’s wrong? In the gray areas, I think Paul gives us at least three guiding principles in this text. Here’s the first one. We’ve got three points. This first one’s probably going to be the longest.

So bear with me as we move through this. And then first one, let your knowledge lead to love. Let your knowledge lead to love. Verse one Now concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge. No one to stop there. Really quickly, you’ll see in your Bible and on the screen, there’s this quote. We know that all of us possess knowledge.

And you’ll see these quotes throughout First Corinthians. And there there are two possibilities. The first possibility is that this was just a common maxim that Paul is quoting back to the people, or it’s possible that he’s actually quoting some words that were in the letter that they wrote to him. And so what he’s saying here is, like, I hear what you’re saying.

So maybe one of the one of the believers or one of the people who thought that it was okay to eat meat, said, hey, I know all the scriptures. I have the knowledge about what you can do and what you can’t do. And in this area, eating food, sacrifice to idols, there’s there’s freedom. I’ve studied. I have the right theology.

I have the knowledge. I know what’s the right way. And Paul says now, concerning food offered to idols, we know that all of us possess knowledge, this knowledge. So he’s talking about a specific type. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know.

But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. Now, it can’t be that Paul is saying that knowledge is bad because that would go against what Scripture tells us about knowledge. Gaining knowledge is important where to study and to know we will find the truth and the truth will set us free. Proverbs is dedicated to wisdom and knowledge, so it can’t be that Paul is saying that all knowledge is bad.

What he is saying is there is a specific type of knowledge that pops up. There’s knowledge that is not worked out in love, that is problematic, it’s incomplete. It’s lacking. This knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know his, he ought to know. So what’s Paul getting at?

He’s getting it. This sometimes we can have right theology and the way we wield that right theology is unloving and therefore is a problem in the relationships with our brothers and sisters. And he’s going to begin to work it out here in just a second. But then he’s this weird statement, read verse two and three again with me.

If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet knows, he ought to know. So I get that if you think you’re really smart and your knowledge is not working itself out in love, well, your knowledge is really incomplete. I get that. Then he says, But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. What I would expect him to say something like, but if anyone loves God, He knows as he ought to know, or he has complete knowledge or something like that.

And I wrestle with this for a while. It’s on my whiteboard in my office, trying to figure out what is what is so weird. Sentence structure. And here’s what I think Paul is doing. He’s comparing knowledge that puffs up with knowledge that humbles now the word knowledge or gnosis in the Greek is used in different senses in the Bible, in the same way that the word bough in English can be used different ways it can mean to bend at the waist or it can mean the front of a boat.

Okay. No. Knowing is used in different ways in Greek. It can mean knowledge. I know something. It can mean intimacy. Adam knew his wife and they conceived was much more than knowledge of his wife. That was happening right. And it can also be used to define relationship that God knows us and we know him. So it’s not just head knowledge of God that saves, but this word knowing is, is the love of God reaching and extending and us knowing God is loving him.

And the Bible tells us right very clearly that knowing the right theology is not what saves us. It’s not what brings us into God’s family. Right. Religious practice is not what brings us into God’s family. You can have all of the right theology and not have a relationship with God. We don’t find God. He seeks us. And so I think I think that’s what Paul’s comparing here.

If anyone loves God, right? If you love God, it’s not because you loved him first. It’s because he knew you. He loved you first. Are you tracking with me? I know we’re doing a little bit of gymnastics here, so I think what Paul’s comparing is you have this knowledge, this right theology, and it’s causing pride in you. What ought to be happening is you should see the fact that when you were yet an enemy of God, he knew you and he loved you, and he extended his grace to you.

That doesn’t puff you up. That humbles you. So he’s trying to get people’s hearts and minds into the right framework to where he can work out this issue of food, sacrifice to idols. If you just know the right things and it’s puffing you up, you’re completely off track being rescued by the grace of God, by the love of God, or to humble you.

Okay, Corinthians. Okay CVC Now he applies it to this specific area. Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that an idol has no real existence again quote and that there is no God but one for all. Though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords.

Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. However, not all possess this knowledge, but some through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol and their conscience being weak is defiled.

So what’s happening here?

People have made statements that people who think it’s okay in their Christian freedom to eat meat offered to idols. They’re going, There’s these idols aren’t real. This is fake. It’s wood and stone. There’s there’s nothing spiritual here. Eat the meat. It’s not a problem. But Paul says not everybody realizes that. I just watched a documentary on Netflix about a really right wing fundamentalist conservative sect of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter day Saints.

And they raised these kids up in a very guarded environment, so they were not allowed out into the culture. Everything that these children learned was controlled. Well, to make a long story short, what happened is the leader of this cult, he was called the Prophet. And they presume, like everybody, like whatever the prophet says goes, he is God’s voice on earth.

And what happened is he ended up getting arrested because he was marrying off underage girls in this polygamist know they have multiple wives. He gets arrested, he goes to jail for child abuse. And this whole thing unravels and it’s clear as day that anybody watching this documentary that this guy is running a scam. He is he’s he’s got millions of dollars in the bank running this whole thing.

And they think he’s the prophet. And get this, he’s still running the church from prison because there are people that still believe him. Now, why? Because they’ve been raised in this from the time they were born and they know nothing else. So imagine a man or a woman who’s raised in a pagan religion in Corinth from the time they’re little.

That’s all they know. And they come to faith in Jesus Christ. But they’re really struggling in their mind with what these idols represent. And they’re they’ve just not quite turned the corner. And so eating meat sacrifice to those idols really bothers their conscience. Paul is saying that not all possess this knowledge, and instead of holding your right theology over their head, you need to have a little bit of compassion.

You need to let your knowledge lead to love. Here’s maybe an example. Part of my job is to make the Bible understandable to different people and different seasons of life. Different parts of their different at a different place in their spiritual growth at different ages. So if I take a concept, a theological concept, it’s difficult like justification. And I’m trying to explain, okay, how is it that a holy God takes my sin and puts it upon Jesus and takes Jesus righteousness and puts it upon me and declares me right in His eyes?

How do I explain that to a sixth grader? My job is to pray and to press my knowledge and my skill and ask for help. How do I explain this to a sixth grader now? If you were to come over, I’m teaching in Middle school and you hear me teaching at a seminary level using all sorts of big words.

Right. And the kids are zoned out. A couple of things. You probably think these kids are catching nothing of what he’s doing, but you probably think this Valente is a little full of himself. That’s what’s happening in Corinth. The people who actually know the truth, who have lived deeper into their freedom in Christ, instead of having compassion on the younger or newer brothers and sisters, they’re just trying to convince them to do what their conscience is, not allowing them to do.

Using the example of alcohol, we go out to eat with a friend and I know the friend is a new convert. Let’s just say he just came to faith in Jesus a couple of weeks ago and he came out of a life of alcoholism and partying. Now we go to dinner. Let’s say I want to drink a beer.

The Bible tells me that that’s okay. As long as I’m not getting drunk, I can order beer, dinner and drink it. There’s no guidance. One way or the other. Now, I know this brother will call him Hank. I know Hank is coming to dinner. I know Hank. Story. Well, what am I going to do in that moment? Is it helpful for me, for this brother who’s brand new in the faith and who just left a life of alcoholism and drugs and partying to say, have a beer, Hank.

It’s okay. I might negatively affect Hank’s conscience. He might be trying to get as far away from some of that old life as possible. And I need to let my knowledge lead to love. In first Corinthians 13, Paul says, If I have prophetic powers and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, if I have all faith so as to move mountains but I don’t have love, I am nothing.

Let your knowledge lead to love. Number two Let your rights lead to responsibility. Let your rights lead to responsibility. Verse eight Food will not. And this to God, we’re no worse off if we do not eat and know better if we do. But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the week.

For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged if he’s if his conscience is weak to eat food offered titles? And so by your knowledge this week person is destroyed. The the the brother for whom Christ died, thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience. When it is weak, you sin against Christ.

See, Paul lets us know that we’re not talking about an essential area. There are a lot of things in the Bible that are very clear Do this, don’t do that. It’s nobody’s talking about it’s very clear on a lot of things about because it’s very clear instructions. It’s not talking about this that here. And so he says food for instance what you eat it doesn’t commend you to God one way or another.

It has no effect on your salvation, your membership in God’s family. You need a hot dog. You can eat a stick of celery no matter but, he says, but be careful that this freedom of yours, this right of yours, does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. Let me use the same example of me and Hank at the restaurant.

Here’s what this says. That beer, that beer that I want to drink. If I know that it’s going to hurt Hank’s conscience, if I know what’s going to be a stumbling block to his faith, I have taken something like a beer that is not a sinful thing by itself. And I have made it sinful by the attitude of my heart.

That’s significant, that we can take something that’s in this gray area by itself. It neither commends us to God. It doesn’t have any effect. It’s not sin. One way or another. You can drink it, you can eat it or not. It doesn’t matter. But I can take that thing and if I’m puffed up and arrogant about my I have freedom in Christ.

So Hank better get on the road and figure it out. If that’s the attitude that I have, I sinned against Hank, and I sin against God as older brothers and sisters. Whether you’re older and age or older and spiritual maturity, we have a responsibility to those who are younger than us, who are newer in the faith in us.

When when I went so my little brother and I used to get into tons of trouble. Now this is the God honest truth. He would get in more mischief than I did to this day, I am the rule follower. He is the rebel like he’s okay anyway. I don’t want to defame his name publicly. I love my little brother.

But here’s what would happen. We would get in trouble. It was probably his fault. We broke something. We fell down, somebody bleeding and we would come to Mom and dad and they would look at me and go, Well, you ought to know better. How did how did this get put on my plate all of the sudden? You’re the oldest any first born in here that used to get that one, you’re the oldest.

You should know better. But that’s actually what Paul’s talking about here, that you may have some rights and some freedom in Christ, but we need to be willing to curb our rights and adjust them in order to be responsible to those who are newer or younger in the faith. When we don’t take that responsibility seriously, we can take something, whatever it is that is not sinful by the prideful attitude of our heart, by not considering our brother and sister, we make that thing sin and it’s dangerous.

Finally, number three Let your liberty lead to limits. Let your liberty lead to limits. No. Let’s recap briefly. There’s a certain type of knowledge of knowing the right spiritual things that is undesirable because its aim is self-centered as opposed to others centered, its prideful knowledge for knowledge sake. So we’re to reject this type of knowledge, particularly knowledge about spiritual things and push by the power of the spirit that our hearts would be transformed so that any knowing we have of God’s Word would be fleshed out in love for our brothers and sisters, not just to sound smart or tell them where they’re wrong.

And then secondly, we’re supposed to recognize the significance of ignoring this teaching that we take things that are not sin and we can make them sin just by the attitude of our heart and our actions. And so what do we do with all that information? How do we behave? Paul gives us the answer in the final verse. Therefore, Paul says, If food makes my brother stumble, I’ll never eat meat lest I make my brother stumble.

There are two Greek pieces that are really, really interesting here. The first is the word here that is rendered in English. Therefore, so it’s not the same, therefore that you’re used to. So one is the Greek for therefore that is used 400 plus times in the New Testament. This is a different word here. We won’t go into it.

It’s a different word in Greek that is only used twice in the whole New Testament. And Paul uses it here. In English, we just see, therefore. But in Greek, basically what it’s saying is, here comes the conclusion. And it should be obvious to you, or perhaps instead of. Therefore, another way to render it in English would be. So of course.

Right. Verse 12. Thus sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sinned against Christ. So of course, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat. Paul’s sort of saying with the word he uses for therefore he shouldn’t even need to say it. He shouldn’t even verse 13 shouldn’t even need to be there.

We should be here. This thing you’re doing, your ethics, you’re exercising your rights and your freedom in, you’re doing this thing that has no bearing one way or another. But what it is doing is it’s hurting a brother, sister. You shouldn’t need me to tell you what to do. Don’t do it. The other thing that’s neat in Greek is there’s a double negative.

It’s again, it’s not rendered in English. In English, when we have a double negative. It creates a positive. But in Greek, when there’s a double negative, it doubles down. So here’s what it might be. Again, let’s start from verse 12, thus sending against your brothers and wounding their conscience. When it is weak, you sinned against Christ. So, of course, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never, ever eat meat again forever.

If it makes my brother stumble. You see, here’s what Paul’s trying to get at with us. It’s not about meat. It’s not about the music. We listen to. It’s not about cigars or alcohol or piercings or Halloween or any of that. It’s not what it’s about. It’s about the heart that we have, the love that we have for one another.

It’s about for you, more mature believers in the room. In my willing to lay down some of the freedom that I have, I have it in Christ. We’re going to change our theology. I have this freedom. Just I’m going to lay it down. I’m going to surrender some of my rights because the heart, the growth, the spiritual development of this younger believer is more important than whether I do this thing in this moment.

When you start to think about it, it’s insane. It’s insane that we would say, like, if there was a beer here and a brother in Christ, Neil, that I would say. Me drinking this beer is more important than Neil. That’s insane. I would say this cigar smoking this cigar in this moment is more important than Michael. That’s insane.

But I’ll tell you what. I will be the first to raise my hand that I can be so selfish that I do some of those things anyway. And Paul is pleading with us that we would consider laying down our rights, laying down some of our preferences, laying down some more of our freedoms in order to love one another.

There’s this little filter that Rick Duncan and I are working on the same text he’s preaching at the Brunswick campus today, and he found this. I think it’s really helpful. You probably can’t read it. It’s a little small, but we have printed copies for you out in the foyer. You can get it on the digital worship God or you can go to CBC blog dot org.

All of those places will have this today, and I think it’s just a helpful little guide. I’m going to just walk you through it very quickly. Question number one, does the Bible allow it? Well, if the Bible says, no, don’t do it. Stop saying. But if the Bible does allow it, there’s not a specific prohibition. We go down.

Does my conscience allow it? One of the ways that the Holy Spirit works in us is He causes us to feel different things. And there may be something that the Bible doesn’t prohibit, but you don’t feel comfortable doing it. That’s okay. You don’t have to do it. Now we do want to guard against we want to guard against his legalism.

Legalism says, here’s the list of dos, here’s the list of don’ts. And if you don’t do the don’ts and you do do the do’s, then you’re super Christian. That’s not what we’re aiming for. What we’re aiming for is walking in the power of the spirit. That’s what New Testament Christianity is about right? We walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and one of the ways that the Holy Spirit helps us through our conscience.

God controls our conscience. I don’t feel comfortable with. That’s okay. Don’t do it. But if my conscience allows it. Yes. Then the question is, should I exercise my freedom? And there are three ways that we’re going to see this. This week, next week and the week after in first Corinthians eight, nine, ten. Today, the question has been, does it have a bad effect on other believers?

Next week, first Corinthians nine. The question is, does it have a bad effect on nonbelievers? And third, will it have a bad effect on my Christian growth if any of those things are true? Don’t do it. But if you feel like I can exercise my freedom with this thing and this situation. But there are different situations you may not lose.

Again, I’ll use the same example. You may not have the beer when Hank’s at the table, but you can have the beer later on when you’re home by yourself. You don’t have to stop everything because Hank, you’re just going to abstain while you’re around him as a way to love him. Well, here’s an example, and then I’ll close.

I like to dance. Okay? I’m not good at it, but I enjoy it. And for a 40 year old married Christian man, there is a lot of outlet. You know, that’s why I like when when when there’s like a student who’s getting married. I’m like, yes, wedding. You know, that it’s appropriate for me to dance there. But like, let’s let’s just.

Let’s just, like, walk. I want to dance. Where am I going to go? Dance. Live? I could dance at home. I do a lot of that, do a lot of dancing at home. But let’s say I want to go dancing. So I say to my wife, I when I need to go dancing and she is embarrassed by my dancing.

So she’d probably like, you’re on your own body. So let’s say I make a decision. I’m going to go downtown. I’ma find a dance club, and I’m going to walk into the dance club. And let’s say I decide to have a beer while I’m dancing. I’m not going to drink more than that one beer. I’m just going to have that beer.

So there’s Pastor Joe now is that I haven’t broken any rules in the Bible. Is that wise? Imagine one of our young adults walks in and sees me on the dance floor with a beer in my hand without my wife again. I haven’t done anything wrong. That’s what Paul says. You’re like, What if a brother sees you having food offered to idols and his conscience is hurt right.

That’s probably not a wise choice for me. It’s time to make people angry, but I hope that it’s helpful to your heart. A couple of years ago we had one of these gray areas that had never happened in the history of church before.

And it was this question Should I wear a mask or not? Oh, he’s going there. I’m not just going there because I think it’s really apropos. The mask. You can say the same thing about it. As Paul says about food offered to idols. Does it commend you to God? Doesn’t matter one way or another. Wear it, don’t wear it, doesn’t matter.

Now I have pretty strong views. Surprised. I have pretty strong views about vaccines and about masks. And in my house we were not mask wearers. There was some place I had to go, you know, I’d wear a mask. But here’s the situation that came up. I had a brother in Christ of mine and I invited him over for dinner and he had some illness in his family and he had a different conviction than I did.

And he said, Man, we’d love to come over and hang out with you guys, play games, have a meal. My only stipulation is, is we’ve got to wear masks. And when we eat, I’m going to we’re going to eat at the other side of the table. Now, there are only two options for me. I can say, sorry, I’m not doing that.

We’ll have to have dinner at at another time or I go, sure. Mass doesn’t commend me to God. Am I willing to lay down some of the freedom that I have and just do it now? Hopefully, like Paul says, my answer would be, well, well, if it’s going to hurt my brother and cause him to stumble, then of course I’ll put on a mask.

Right. Care? It’s uncomfortable. My face is sweaty, but let’s compare it. Am I willing to have a sweaty face to enjoy company and dinner and Christian fellowship with my friend? It should be a no brainer. So here’s my question to you. Is leave today. Is there anything in your life, any opinion or habit, and is in the gray area that you are unwilling to compromise on, unwilling to give up for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ?

You know how the Bible tells us that the world around us will know that we’re followers of Jesus because we have all the right theology and wrong answer? How will the world around us know that we are followers of Jesus? How, by our love for one another, by our love for one another. So if there’s something that you’re not willing to lay down, something as inconsequential as a glass of beer or a cigar for the love of your brother or sister.

My prayer would be, would be that the Holy Spirit would convict you. And there are a lot of areas that the Holy Spirit has convicted me this week, and my prayer is that we would grow in love for one another, that we let our knowledge lead to love, that we let our rights lead to responsibility, and that we would let our liberty lead to limits so that we would love one another fully and the world around us would know to whom we belong.

Amen. Amen. Let’s pray. God, we thank you for this text and we trust your Holy Spirit to convict us where necessary. Would you help us to respond to the movement of your Holy Spirit into the truth of your word? We ask this in Christ name. Amen.

Why We Should Pay The Pastor?



That’s good to know today, isn’t it? It’s good to know today. We’re going to be in the book of First Corinthians. If I’ve not met you, if you’re new. My name is Joe Valenti. I’m one of the pastors here. And it’s a joy for me to worship with you today and to bring you God’s word. I want to share just a bit with you about how we approach the Scriptures.

If you’re new, this will help you understand a little bit about what we do. And if you’ve been here for a while, it’d be a good refresher. We seek to teach expositionallly, which means that when I am in the pulpit or Pastor Chad or somebody else, the goal is to expose what’s already here.

The goal is to take God’s words, understand it as well as I possibly can, and then help you to understand it over against somebody who has a good idea that they think they want to share. And see if I can find something in the Bible that will support my idea. That’s significant. It’s one of the marks of a really healthy church.

And I say that because I’m here. It’s like if we didn’t do it that way, I wouldn’t be here. Yeah, right. We’d be out of here. So that’s important. We value expositional preaching. We want to know what’s really in here. Not just this guy’s ideas. This guy’s ideas stink. The second thing that we do is we teach systematically, which is really, really important.

We don’t just find the little portions of the Bible that we like. There are some teachers that do that. They just kind of hang on to a few pieces of scripture that they really like, that really make their points and they just hang out there. We believe that all of Scripture is profitable. Everything that God says is valuable and is applicable to our lives.

And so we strive to teach Old Testament, New Testament, and we try to teach full books of the Bible. So we’ve been working through the book of First Corinthians. We try to teach exposition really and systematically. And one of the reasons well, I’ll just give you two reasons. One, I just said we believe that every word of God matters.

Everything he says matters. Even the things that are confusing just takes a little bit of work. We’re going to find out what he has for us. The second reason is so that the preacher, myself, Pastor Chad, Josh, whoever else is up here, so that we cannot avoid difficult things. Right. We preach through the whole book because we’re going to bump into things that might be difficult to preach.

That might make me feel uncomfortable, that might make me wrestle with God a little bit before I bring that word to you. And I say that and I say all of this very, very seriously. And you’re probably like, you’re going to snicker. Like 930 did when when I tell you what I’m about to tell you, but I’m trying to be as honest and serious as I possibly can.

I’m saying this because the text I’m going to preach today is really uncomfortable for me to teach. Here’s the title of my sermon. Why should we pay the pastor? See, I told you you would laugh. And I’ve been talking to people this week and I. Hey, are you preaching again this weekend? Preaching this. We go to your preaching on of regional why we should pay the pastor.

And they look at me like they’re waiting for the real answer. And I’m like, no, no, no. That’s that’s it, right? That’s that’s what we’ve bumped up against in First Corinthians. This is what Chapter nine has. So I taught Chapter eight last week. This is what Chapter nine has. And there are two parts to Chapter nine. I’m going to teach the first part and then Pastor Brian is going to teach the next part.

If you remember last week, if you weren’t here, I’d encourage you to go back and listen. CBC online dot org. We talked about the laying down of our rights. There are certain things that are neither prohibited or commended in the Bible that we have freedom to do that. Paul calls us to lay down the freedom to do those things out of love for our brothers and sisters, things that we might enjoy or prefer.

Be willing to lay those things down. Don’t do them if they offend a brother or sister. We talked about the the love relationship that we’re supposed to have with our brothers and sisters in Christ and in Chapter nine. Paul is giving a pretty significant example. He’s saying to the Corinthians, I have a right among you to receive compensation for the work that I’ve been doing, and I’m going to lay down that right so that nobody is mistaking my reasoning for preaching the gospel.

He’s saying, I’m not taking any money from you because I don’t want you to think I’m in it for the money. But the first half, I think, is really, really important because he gives several reasons why we should support financially those who labor in the Gospel. And so I’m going to teach the principles that Paul teaches us in God’s word, because they’re God’s words.

I’m going to apply them a little bit to CBC, kind of pull back the curtain a little bit so you can see what how things work behind the scenes. Because I think it’s important for you to know in the next week, Brian is going to talk about how Paul lays down those rights and the implications for his ministry track and with me.

Okay. Now let’s get into First Corinthians. We’re going to be in chapter nine, as I mentioned. And I think that Paul gives us at least three reasons why those who labor in the church should make their living from the church, why those who labor in the church should make their living from the church. Here’s the first one. It’s a parental reason.

A parental reason. Chapter nine verses one and two. And why not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus? Our Lord, are not you? My workmanship in the Lord, if to others I’m not an apostle, at least I am to you, for you are the seal of my apostle ship in the Lord. Now, Paul uses that word apostle several times, and it’s an important word.

An apostle is a sent out one at the very beginning of the launch of the church, Jesus sends out 12 very specific men with a mission. 13, if you include Paul, we have the original 12 apostles, then Judas defects. They vote Matthias in and then those 12 are sent out by Jesus to go and to pursue the great commission to share the good news of Jesus Christ to disciple people, to baptize people, to start churches that teach these people everything that Jesus taught.

And the and the church begins by way of the apostles, the sent out ones going in, starting this movement. Paul is a little bit of an outlier. He’s actually a persecutor of the church and Jesus meets him supernaturally on the road to Damascus asks they they have a they have a literal come to Jesus moment and Paul’s whole life is transformed and God sends him on a mission to believe to be a sent out one, a church planter as well.

So Paul goes from persecutor to planter, and on his second missionary journey, he travels to the south of Greece, into the town of Corinth, and he begins to share the gospel, both with the Jews and then with the Greeks. And people come to faith in Jesus Christ and a little church starts and Paul stays with them for a year and a half, teaching them all that they need to know about Jesus.

And so what He’s saying, as he’s making this argument of why he deserves compensation for his work, is basically, I’m your spiritual father. I’m the one who came to Corinth and started the church, if not me, who like if there’s it would be like Rick Duncan, right? Like if you’ve been here for a long time, you know that Rick Duncan is the one that God put on his heart.

He and his wife, Marianne, to move from the south to northeast Ohio to plant Cuyahoga Valley Church. And most of the people that he knew thought he was crazy because nobody moved to Cleveland to plan a church. And he moved there and he started knocking on doors and he started sharing the gospel. And a little church grew up in his home.

And then more people came to faith in Jesus Christ and they were in middle schools. And then more people came to faith in Jesus Christ. And now here we are. And so it would be as if, Rick, you know, asking for compensation for payment and saying of all people, right, me, the one who is your spiritual father, the one who started things so there’s a parental reason that Paul is appealing to the Corinthians, that he deserves compensation.

Secondly, there’s a practical reason. So a parental reason. Secondly, a practical reason. Verse three This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing life, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cifas. Cifas is another word for Peter.

Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living, who serves as a soldier at his own expense, who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit, who tends a flock without getting some of the milk. So, Paul just makes a very practical argument. Don’t I have a right to be able to eat and drink to have money for food?

Don’t I have the right to be able to support a wife if I choose to take one? Paul ends up saying single or is it only Barnabas and I who don’t do these things? He’s not being snarky. He’s just asking these rhetorical questions to make his point. And then he gets to some very practical things. Who serves as a soldier at his own expense?

So you don’t enlist in the military and they go, Okay, well, you’re going to need to buy your uniform and you’re going to need to buy your guns, and you’re going to need to buy your ammunition and you’re going to pay for your own training, right? Like, that’s not that’s not how it works. When you sign up for the military, they cover those things.

You don’t you don’t go to war and like work the midnight shift at Taco Bell to make ends meet. That’s not how it works. You don’t. Or he says a farmer or a vintner, somebody who who raises grapes. They don’t they don’t raise those grapes and then not benefit from the grape juice or the wine. A shepherd doesn’t just give away all of the things that are that he raises.

He doesn’t give away the wool and the milk and the meat from the sheep he utilizes some of those and he sells those to care for his family. Just very, very practical things. And so Paul’s argument is, why would it be any any different for the shepherd of God’s people? I want to note, I think Paul’s argument just in this part is pretty plain, that when you when you work a job, you should get paid for it.

But it’s really important that within the church particularly, we need to ensure that we are functioning with good employment practices, you know, hold our employees to high standards and our employers or to high standards. Right. My job here, I get I get paid to work here. And so it’s my responsibility before the Lord and before you all to work hard, to be held accountable, to do my job and to do it well, to set goals and to accomplish those goals, to pray fervently for you to pore over the Bible.

Hey, I’ll be I’ll be honest. I know that it’s a little bit unfair that my job is to study the Bible. Sorry. Not sorry, but the Bible gives us some. I’m just going to a few. Gives instructions to workers. Proverbs 2125 The desire of the slugger kills him for his hands refused. Labor. Labor. Proverbs 1423 In all toil, there is profit but mere talk tends only to poverty.

First Timothy five eight. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for the members of his household, he is denied the faith. The Bible calls us as employees to work hard. And so, as Paul’s making practical assessments. Right, is he saying, hey, no, no, no soldier works without payment. The who plants a vineyard without eating some of its fruit, who tends to flock always making those practical comparisons.

There are other practical, practical comparisons, namely that employees need to work hard at church just like they would in the real world. And employers, namely you all essentially need to treat your employees fairly. Galatians six six. Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches first. Timothy 517 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching.

So there’s expectation on both sides if we’re going to make these practical comparisons, then the expectations need to be the same in the church as they would be outside the church. An employee needs to work hard and earn the money that they’re being paid. An employee or an and an employer needs to be fair and gracious. You know, there are situations this is not the case at CBC.

So just to be clear, there are situations where churches pay their pastors poorly on purpose. I didn’t mean to illustrate that. It just happened. They pay their pastors poorly on purpose because there’s this idea that while they’re doing the Lord’s work, so so they can they can survive on on on less. And that’s an unbiblical principle. The other side is also unbiblical that because you’re doing the Lord’s work, you deserve compensation or a salary that is way out of line with what is common in the area where you teach.

Years ago, about ten years ago, there was a show that came on a reality show called Preachers of LA. And I’m watching these guys. The money that they’re making and just absurd, because while the Bible does command that, we should pay the preacher a decent wage of the Bible. Also, is very clear that the expectations, the qualifications for an elder is that they not be a lover of money and they and that they not be greedy for gain, that their heart aim is to serve.

And so we need to be careful on both sides that we’re not underpaying those who labor in the word and that we’re not overpaying them. We walked this line in the middle called biblical stewardship. And I’m going to share with you in a little bit how we handled that at CVC. So there’s a parental reason that Paul makes a practical reason and then a pious reason.

P IOUs. I just had to do it to finish the piece. But Pious just means like religiously committed. There’s a there’s a there’s a spiritual reason that Paul points to here. Verse eight Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the law say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses? You shall not mazel an ox when it treads out the grain.

Is it for the ox that God is concerned? Does he not? Certainly speak for our sake. It was written for our sake because the plowman should plow and hope and the threshold thrush in hope of sharing the crop. We’ve sown spiritual things among you. Is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more.

Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Do you not know that those who are employed in the Temple service get their food from the temple and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings? In the same way the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel.

So what Paul is saying is this is not just a practical issue. This is actually a spiritual issue, because as you think I’m talking about this just of my own ideas. No, no, this is God’s idea. The law says this. And then he quotes Deuteronomy that says you shall not muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain.

And here’s here’s the word picture. Grain would be on the ground and there would be this giant millstone that the ox would pull, would be tied to a post, and it would pull the millstone in a circle and the stone would crush the grain and remove the kernel from the husk. And the idea here is don’t put a muzzle on the ox while he’s doing that work because you want to make him grouchy and lazy and tired.

Don’t you won’t be able to stoop down and eat some of the grain while he’s doing the work. And then Paul says is God really worried about oxen? No, that’s not what he’s talking about. He’s talking about us. He’s talking about this concept of paying those who labor in the gospel. And then he says this verse 11, If you have sown if we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much?

If we reap material things from you?

I don’t know how often you consider this. I consider it all the time that God has put a command on my life to which I will be held accountable to care for your souls as a as a pastor, as an under shepherd of Jesus Christ and a leader of this church. I will be held accountable. Look at what Hebrews 1317 says.

You can turn there or I’m going to read it here. It says, Obey your leaders and submit to them. That’s not the sermon for today, for they are keeping watch over your souls. So that’s that’s part of my job is to keep watch over your soul as those who will give account. Now, I don’t know exactly how that happens, but it happens.

So there will be a day when I’ll answer for Pete’s soul or I’ll answer for Kathy and Mike, or I’ll answer for Stacy, or I’ll answer for the Mantis. I answer for Kim. That’s terrifying. You’re only the you are in the room. Somehow I will stand before God and I’ll have to answer for the talk. Family and how I.

How I handle this. And this is what Paul, this is the argument that Paul’s making. He’s saying there are these spiritual, eternal things that your pastor sowing into you, and that is he’s responsible for before God. Is it that big of a deal that you pay him a salary? Right. When you think about those two things in comparison.

Like all of these things that that weigh on this spiritual side of responsibility, just pay the guy right. There’s a spiritual or a pious reason that Paul says these things and then he closes. He can’t be more clear.

Verse 14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living by the Gospel. So I want to say a few things. One, I want to say it is one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life to do what I do here.

I’m so grateful that you all give generously to CBC so that I can make a salary and support my family. I don’t have any complaints. I just want that to be made clear. Like I don’t have any complaints. I’m not trying to get money out of you. I’m not trying to make a statement. I’m just trying to preach God’s word.

And thankfully, I get the opportunity to be at a church where you guys have been so generous. And for almost two decades, I’ve been able to make my living, teaching and preaching God’s word. And so I just want to say thank you for that. I also want to tell you about what we do when we go over budget.

See, in the business world, right, if you’re doing really well and you guys crush it, what do you get? Yeah, you get a bonus if I crush it in the pulpit, you know? You know what I get? I get the spiritual rewards. Yeah. Which are kind of better than your bonus. But I think this is important. It’s not like when we go over budget that all of us pastors like, divvy it up between us.

It’s not how it works. And then that’s important for you to know. You know what we do when we go over budget, we give it away. Hallelujah. Right? We give it away to guys. Klay’s Klay left. He. He listen to my sermon twice already today, so he finally snuck out. But we give it to guys like Klay, these young church planners who don’t have a congregation and yet to provide his salary.

And we have some extra. So we’re giving some money to Klay. We give money to missionaries that are all over the world who they don’t they don’t have a church yet. They’re out there like Paul plowing that field man, trying to share the gospel with people and start churches. They don’t they don’t have a source of income. So when we give above and beyond, we’re able to give more money outside of these walls.

We have awesome partnerships with nonprofit Christian organizations both in this, in, in, in Cleveland and in our region. And all of the work that they do is based on donations. They don’t have a congregation. And so what we do is when we have extra, we help these other organizations reach into the community. One of our greatest partnerships is with Youth for Christ.

We live in this weird spot where there are like 13 school districts right here. Right? And we can’t possibly be involved in all the school districts. We don’t have enough people. Youth for Christ is our arm of outreach, and we have great partnerships with Youth for Christ. We donate into that ministry and we partner together to reach middle school and high school students for Jesus.

So I think that’s worth celebrating. I think it’s worth celebrating that that we’re using our money to advance kingdom purposes here and around the globe, not trying to make some pastor rich. We see a lot of things in our world where I, I look and I watch what churches do or I watch how pastors live and I go, That’s totally out of whack with what the Bible teaches.

And I’m really grateful that we are a generous church, that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people here and all over the world that benefit because of the way that you give and the way that we steward our money giving to gospel purposes. That’s exciting. Secondly, I want to honor some people and I want to invite you into you into a unique opportunity.

Look again at verse 12 with me. The second half of it, Paul says, Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel. So Paul and Barnabas make a very unique statement. They are not going to take compensation. All of the rest of the apostles are doing it, not Paul and Barnabas.

The reason is they don’t want to put an obstacle in the way. They want to make sure that nobody thinks that they’re in it for the money. And I just want to honor you. You may not know this. There are some folks who work on our staff now. I don’t mean like volunteer on a Sunday. I love all of our volunteers, worship band youth leaders, kids leaders, ushers.

Welcome team. I love all those people. Know what I’m talking about. There are people who actually work on our staff Monday through Friday who come in to work and don’t ask for a salary. You may not know that Brenda Weisinger is the head of our Generous Life Ministry and Brenda was running her own consulting firm doing just fine, and the Lord stirred in her heart a concern.

I forget the number. It’s like $35 trillion will pass within the church in America from this generation to the next. And her heart was I want to I want to use that money for gospel purposes. I don’t want that money to be used on nonsense. So she comes here to work every day like I’m her boss and she volunteers, like has an office 40 hours a week, volunteers as an employee, daily.

AUTH You heard about her a couple of weeks ago. She runs her own business, owns her own business, and she works with me and our equip team as a project manager 30 plus hours a week as a volunteer. Larry Young I haven’t seen Larry today. Maybe he’s not here, but Larry Young just showed up. I was in the office one day and I was like, Who is?

Who’s the guy who? Who is this guy? He just showed up and there was no announcement. He was just asking me if I needed help. And I was like, Yeah. Larry is an older gentleman. He moved here recently and Pete, the guy who is in charge of all of our facilities, there’s a lot of stuff he doesn’t get to write.

There’s a lot to take care of. A building this big and if you haven’t noticed, our custodial team does a killer job. This place is very well taken care of. But there’s but there’s always things that they can’t get you. So Larry just showed up and he starts volunteering. Just he’s all over the place, taking care of things, making sure that things are well kept up.

And I just so I asked Greg, I go, Who’s Larry? Because he’s just volunteering comes here three or four days a week. How many of you how many of you guys have ever gotten bread from Nick? Right? Yeah. Oh, Nick. Nick is here every day, just cleaning up, serving the needy. He does like he’s a recycling maniac. He does all of this stuff to serve our body, and you wouldn’t even know it.

Jeannie has been all of our. All of our I.T. here. You’re on the Internet, right now. Maybe Jeannie does it all for free. She works her normal 40 hour job, and then she does it here for free. We have several ladies sees fit only and others who work at the front desk for free. Chip Bell, who’s one of our elders.

You’ve seen him up here? He’s our director of ministry. He retired. He was planning to enjoy spending his retirement with his wife. And he’s volunteering 40 plus hours a week here. And so I say all that. Want to honor those people. Can we get those people around the block? Yeah. It’s just awesome.

I am I am humbled every day when I come and these people are willing to lay down their rights to compensation because they see the vision of how we want to invite people, a new life in Christ and take the gospel to the ends of the earth. And they’re invested in it. And I just want to invite you into that.

And this is not for everybody. I understand that. But but maybe you’re here today and maybe you’re retired or you’re in a different season of life or your job went, went, went virtual. And you’re and you’re looking for like, how can I serve? How can I spend my time? How can I use my gifts and skills? And again, it can be anywhere from like high level leadership to recycling to custodial work and everywhere in between, like however God made you.

If you’re looking for an opportunity to serve, I just want to invite you to have a conversation with me and Pastor Greg about maybe joining our staff as a volunteer. Again, not for everybody, but I’m telling you, we are making some serious moves here because of the folks who are willing to volunteer their time. And so you can come talk to me.

You can call the church during the week and ask for me. Or here’s a real quick way you can. There’s that contact number that we have for 407265575. And you could text the word serve. Just put that word in the message. It’ll take you to a little form that says, Hey, what do you want to do? You fill it out.

It doesn’t really say that, but it will ask you how you want to serve. And then I’ll follow up and we can go from there. All right. Now to the important things. I felt like the last couple of weeks with food offered to idols and then Paul surrendering his rights. I would be remiss if I missed the ultimate surrendering of rights, because everything we’re talking about, right?

Paul being an apostle. Starting churches and sharing this gospel news. Like what? What is that? Gospel news? And how did it come about? None of this would matter. None of this would matter if it weren’t for Jesus Christ, the Son of God giving up his rights to Heaven and coming down humbly to Earth as a baby to save people from their sins.

Amen. All of our rights giving up pales in comparison to Jesus.

Maybe you’ve never heard that before. Maybe this is your first time at church. Or some of this one over your head. Let me just tell you the best news that you’re ever going to hear. Not only today, but ever. All of us have this problem. The Bible calls it sin, and we could feel it. The interactions that we have with other people, the things we think, the things we say or oppose to God were self-centered instead of God centered.

The Bible again calls it sin, and the Bible tells us that we’re going to be held accountable to God for those things, that there are consequences for us being opposed to God and we’re unable to save ourselves. There’s no you can’t give enough money to church. You can’t go to church enough. You can’t be religious enough. There’s no way that you and I can save ourselves.

So what do we do? Jesus Christ. Philippians two says that he was in heaven, enjoying all the rights of heaven, of being God. And He laid down those rights, and he came to this earth. And he lived a perfect life. A life that you and I could not live. Then he died. The death that you and I deserve to die.

God, it’s just extraordinary love. And when Jesus died, because he had never sinned, he was able to take the consequences for my sin and for your sin, because he had no sin. And he takes those consequences on himself and he actually gives his righteous life, his perfect life, to anybody who would repent of their sins, say, God, I’m sorry, I’m sorry for living this way.

And it would place their trust, their faith in Jesus to be the leader of their life and the forgiving of their life. And then He rose from the grave three days later to prove to everybody that what he said was true, that he has power over sin and death, and to give us the hope of heaven, eternity and all this stuff we’ve talked about, everything we’ve talked about today is would not be here if it wasn’t for Jesus.

There is no church, there’s no gospel, there’s no movement, there’s no pastor, there’s none of this. If it wasn’t for Jesus, the ultimate one who laid down his rights out of love for other people. And maybe you’ve been coming to church for a long time and you’ve just missed it. Don’t miss it like don’t miss it today. Look at me.

Don’t miss it today. Don’t. If you’ve been hearing this message over and over again, it keeps going over your head. Don’t miss it today. There is a God who loves you enough to die for you. And if you don’t receive his forgiveness, you will spend eternity in hell. Whatever you’re experiencing right now in this life will be the best it ever gets.

But there is hope for you. There’s new life for you. There’s eternity in heaven for you. If you would humble yourself and trust the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, trust Jesus to lead your life, say Jesus. Not my way any more. Your way. Trust Jesus to forgive you. I can’t fix the problem. You can fix the problem.

I want to invite you Nate in. The team are going to come back out and close this in worship. And I just want. I want to invite you, if that’s you, to have a conversation with God, to just have a conversation with God. And there’s no there aren’t any, like, fancy words. I remember a good buddy of mine, his prayer when he became a Christian, he said, God, I don’t know if this pastor, if what he’s saying is the truth, but if it is, I want what you’ve got.

That was his prayer. So if you’re here and you don’t have relationship with Jesus, he’s never forgiven your sins. Just have a conversation with him today. Ask him to forgive you. Ask him to give you a new life. And if that happens, would you please come talk to me? I’ll be up here after. I would love to just talk to you about some next steps in your new life with Jesus and for the rest of us.

One, I just want to thank you and encourage you to continue to be generous so that we can do the work that we do here and so that we can send people out to take this gospel message to the world. And I to ask you in these next few moments, if you would consider, if you’re a believer in the room, if you’re a follower of Jesus in the room, if you would just consider laying down your rights to just enjoy the music, and if you would pray for those in the room who are not yet followers of Jesus.

Would you would you just plead with God for their for their hearts, for their eternity? Just join me in doing that. One of my concerns as I prep this sermon this week is that we would talk about church finance and paying the pastor. And all this is really, really, really important. I don’t want to diminish it. One of my greatest concerns is that we would we would miss the gospel that is the seed for all of this.

So if you’re a believer in the room, pray for those in the room who have not yet come to Christ, that they would receive the gift of repentance and new life today. Let’s pray, God, I thank you for the wonderful opportunity to be in community and in communion with brothers and sisters in Christ. God, I thank you publicly in front of this generous church for the opportunity that I have to make a living caring for your sheep.

I’m so grateful and I’m so humbled as I know the rest of our staff are. I’m so grateful for those on our team who volunteer their time here. So grateful for those who have jobs in the workplace and would consider it their joy to give of their finances here so that those of us who work can do the work that we do.

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for your for your provision and for your grace. Thank you for your faithfulness to CBC over these many decades. Hallelujah. And God, I just want to pray for those in the room who have not yet placed their faith in you, who are not yet a part of your family. Holy Spirit would you move in this room?

Would you take the blinders off of their eyes? Would you help them to see that they’re a sinner and that they need you? That they can’t fix their own lives, but that you’re a loving father, that you have laid down all of your rights, that you came and you died because of your great love for them Lord, would you grant the gift of repentance today to many?

You give them the courage to respond. We asked this in Christ name. Amen.