“Our Vision: To Glorify God”

The following message is based on 1 Corinthians 10:23-33 and was delivered at the Central Schwenkfeder Church in Worcester, PA on Sunday, January 8, 2012

Planning ahead; charting a course; expressing a direction. These are all healthy actions for individuals as well as any organization. Maybe that is why we make New Year’s resolutions? It is our way of trying to go in a different direction, given a new year. For some of us, it is not a drastic change; for others, it is a move in the opposite direction. Regardless, planning ahead, charting a course and expressing a direction are good ideas.

It was the behavior of the Wise Men at the time of the birth of Jesus, as well. Today is Epiphany Sunday, which officially occurs on the 12th day after Christmas, and celebrates the visit of the three kings or wise men to the Christ Child, signifying the extension of salvation to the Gentiles. They sought to glorify Jesus by their actions. Notice what they asked in Matthew 2:2: “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” The magi planned ahead and sought the star, and worshipped Christ. The leadership of this church, in an effort toward planning and seeking to worship Jesus, has sought to write a Vision statement. A vision statement could be defined as how we see ourselves in the future; what has God called us to be?

At this, you might be wondering why a vision is necessary. It is born out of a desire for this church to be used of God and to do great things in our community and world. We cannot just exist. Existing gets us nowhere. Most of congregations in America today are in a state of maintenance or decline. I’m not interested in being such, nor are your church leaders. So we decided to seek God about the identity He wants for Central Schwenkfelder Church.

This does not start with us, but with God. That is why I chose Ezra chapter one as our Scripture Lesson for today. At a time of “maintenance or decline,” God’s people were in exile in the land of Babylonia. A new king had come to the throne due to Persia’s conquering of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. God wanted His people to accomplish something great and necessary: the rebuilding of His temple. So He stirred up the king to make a proclamation that all of the Israelites should return to Jerusalem to build the temple. Then in verse five, it says that God stirred up the people to go and rebuild the house of the Lord.

Nothing would have happened if God did not first, stir up the spirits of both His people and unbelieving King Cyrus, to accomplish His goal of rebuilding the temple. To a lesser degree, God has stirred up our church to consider what He wants us to be. What does Christ want to accomplish through our church in 2012 and beyond? That’s a big question. Out of His stirring, God led us to establish our Core Values, history description, Mission and Vision statements. Our Mission is to “Love God, to Serve Others and to Grow Disciples.” Our vision is to become fully mature disciples of Christ by:

• Glorifying God individually and together as a church
• Growing spiritually through Bible study and prayer
• Supporting one another within our church family
• Serving others as an expression of our faith
• Witnessing in our neighborhoods and throughout the world.

This morning, I would like to develop the notion of Glorifying God individually and together as a church. Paul makes a statement in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “…whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” In the larger context, Paul is discussing the strange practice of eating meat sacrificed to idols. Of course, as a rule, Christians in the first century were to abstain from such things. In Corinth, there were many idols and altars throughout the city. The temple to Apollo had a very efficient butcher shop in the back. Eating meat which had sacrificed to a pagan deity meant that you offered devotion to that deity. Such actions were strictly prohibited.

Then there is the occasion when Christians would be invited over to their friends’ homes for a meal. From this, Paul develops the idea of being sensitive to the consciences of others. If an unbeliever invites you to dinner, you are to accept their hospitality and eat what’s put in front of you. For instance, I remember Dave Derstine telling the story of ministering in post war Holland, where the conditions were so horrible that the people were eating the tulip bulbs for food. He and his partner visited a local farmhouse where the woman of the home offered them fried eggs. Dave and his friend did not want to reject the woman’s hospitality, so they said yes. He told me that the eggs were far from done and had dirt in them from a dirty skillet. But out of love, they choked them down anyway. He chose grace and love in this instance.

If one was to hear that it was in fact, sacrificed to idols, then abstinence is the best policy. To eat something when the connotation was made clear that it was sacrificed to Apollo or Athena, would be to refuse for conscience sake- the conscience of others. Then Paul makes a motto type of statement in verse 31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Paul Marsh states: “The controlling motive is twofold; a desire for the glory of God, and the blessing of men.” In other words, our chief motivation in life should be to praise and exalt God and aide in the spiritual welfare of others. Sensitivity and graciousness would be two key adjectives that should denote believers.

As the Westminster Shorter Catechism, published in 1646, asks the question: “What is man’s chief end?” It’s answer: “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Starr Meade puts it this way: “What happens when you use something for a purpose other than its real purpose? For example, what if you wanted wither teeth, so you tried to brighten them up with white shoe polish? What would happen if you put marshmallows in your toaster? Things work best when we use them for the purpose they were intended. God had a purpose in mind for human beings when He created them. God intended for people to know and enjoy Him. Rocks and trees and kittens cannot enjoy God- only people can!”

How is this done? Paul answers that question in part in verse 23: “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. 24 Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” To seek the good of your neighbor is part of what it means to glorify God. And we are determined to glorify God individually and together as a church. There is a personal side to our faith; but also a cooperate side. As a church, this means taking the Bible seriously. For instance, over the last year, the Board of Deacons has enacted a program that would require new members to take a class that would last nine months. The fall would be a course designed to teach them the basics of our faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. The spring session would teach expectations of membership and our rich heritage as Schwenkfelders.

As individuals, we glorify God when we make the spiritual welfare of others a priority in our lives. Notice verse 31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved.” In our culture, we want to classify one’s religion as innately personal, and not something to be talked about. But if the earlier disciples did not say anything of the resurrected Lord, we would have no church and no Christianity today. But words are necessary to glorify God and encourage the spiritual welfare of others.

All of us make many choices in any given day. Some are a matter of right and wrong; others are inconsequential. Still some questions need to be asked to answer, is what I’m about to do going to glorify God and help others? Consider the following from the Life Application Bible, page 1929:

o Does it help my witness for Christ?
o Am I motivated by a desire to help others know Christ?
o Does it help me do my best?
o Is it against a specific command in Scripture and would thus cause me to sin?
o Is it the best and most beneficial course of action?
o Ami I thinking only of myself, or do I truly care about the other person?
o Am I acting lovingly or selfishly?
o Does it glorify God?
o Will it cause someone else to sin?

Every one of us has a choice to make as we begin a new year. Is this the time when we choose to live for God? The magi are famous for what they did in response to seeing the Christ Child. Matthew 2:11 tells us: “After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they [e]fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” The gift that we can give Him is our lives. Our Mission is to “Love God, to Serve Others and to Grow Disciples.” Our vision is to become fully mature disciples of Christ by:

• Glorifying God individually and together as a church
• Growing spiritually through Bible study and prayer
• Supporting one another within our church family
• Serving others as an expression of our faith
• Witnessing in our neighborhoods and throughout the world.

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