IN GOD’S EYES, ALL TRUE BELIEVERS ARE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN, NO MATTER HOW THEY PRACTICE THEIR FAITH
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
25 SEPTEMBER 1994
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
1 John 5:6-12
Today, as we continue with our series of studies on Christian growth and maturity, we are going to look at some of the things that some believers do to hinder others in their faith.
And since we are gathered here in a church, we can assume that the majority of us are believers in God and have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
The teaching of this church, for at least as long as I've been here, has been to live a life filled with the love of God and to share His love and compassion with all of creation.
By such an example, we know that the power of the Holy Spirit will convict the hearts and minds of others to begin, or to improve, their lives with God.
We bear witness of the change God has brought about in our lives, as the Holy Spirit bears witness of the things of God.
As a way of remembering, listen again to what we are told in 1 John 5:6-12.
6. This is the one who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood.
7. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is the truth.
8. For there are three that bear witness, the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.
Note in the next verse how we work together with the Spirit of God.
9. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for the witness of God is this, that He has borne witness concerning His Son.
10. The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness that God has borne concerning His Son.
11. And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.
This is how people come to salvation.
But at the same time, we can see how others miss salvation.
Before we move on, listen again to how Paul expresses this thought in our preparation verses for this morning, Romans 10:8-10.
8. But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
9. that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved;
10. for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
Have you ever heard people going around trying to get others to say the so-called, "Sinner’s Prayer”?
They say, "All you have to do is say this prayer with me, and you will be saved."
There's a big problem with this; for a person can say almost anything with their mouth, and not necessarily believe it in their heart.
Let's try a simple experiment.
Repeat after me, "Today is Tuesday."
You said it with your mouth, but do any of you believe it in your heart?
Of course you don't.
And this is how it is with our relationship with God.
So, by leading a person on in this way, we can actually hinder their growth with God, for they think that this is all there is to one’s relationship with God.
And nothing is further from the truth.
We hear people say, “I'm born again!” Yet their way of life says just the opposite.
Such a hypocrite could actually hinder someone else in their growth.
And if someone tries to correct that person in what they proclaim, they in turn might hinder that person's spiritual growth, if they are sincere in what they say, even if their life doesn't yet reflect it.
Listen further to what Paul says in the next three verses (Romans 10:11-13):
11. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.”
Thus, if someone just says the words, and doesn't believe in their heart, they could very likely be disappointed.
And the same goes for the various aspects of our culture and the way we practice our faith.
12. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him;
13. for “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Have you ever heard someone say:
"My pastor says that we are to believe and practice our faith this way, and this is the only correct way."
"Unless you believe this way, you cannot be saved."
“Unless you are a member of our church...”
"You can lose your salvation."
"You cannot lose your salvation."
"Unless you speak in tongues...”
These are all expressions that are based on cultural or religious doctrines, and in no way fulfill the basic truths we just read in Scripture.
So if we try to force these positions on others, we could very easily be hindering their growth, as others may have hindered ours at times.
And in this process we leave very little room for the Holy Spirit to witness and promote growth.
The apostle John, who wrote the passage we read previously, at one time had a problem with this misdirected zealousness.
Listen to what we are told in Mark 9:38 and following:
38. John said to Him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we tried to hinder him because he was not following us."
Do you see the similarity in what we have been talking about, and what John said?
John's thoughts were, "How could anyone, who was not with Jesus' ministry, do anything for the cause of God?"
Note how Jesus answers him, and us today:
39. But Jesus said, "Do not hinder him, for there is no one who shall perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me.
40. "For he who is not against us is for us.
41. "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.
In other words, anyone who shows true Godly love and compassion isn't far from understanding the whole truth.
But we must be on guard, for the opposite is also true.
42. "And whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.
43. "And if your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
44. [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
Now, Jesus doesn't want anyone to actually cut off their hand; He wants us all to change our ways; He wants us to cut off that which causes us to do evil.
And the same applies to our feet and eyes:
45. “And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than having your two feet, to be cast into hell,
46. [where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.]
47. "And if your eye causes you to stumble, cast it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into hell,
48. where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
49. "For everyone will be salted with fire.
Perhaps we could say that everyone is salted with the witness of the Holy Spirit.
But not everyone believes His witness.
We seek to do our own thing.
50. "Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."
The problem in the Church, the universal church, today is that we all too often lose sight of Jesus Christ, and focus only upon the organization.
We all too often see our hands and feet as being perfectly clean and righteous, and the other person or church as not being as clean as we are.
So, we seek to cut their hands and feet off, and in the process, we poke out each other’s eyes, and we continue to go around blind.
Jesus is telling us that this must stop.
If we know someone is wrong in their way of behaving, then show them the forgiving love of Christ, and help them to mature beyond where they are.
We are to share our good salt.
We are to share it even if they don't understand.
We are to share it, for not to do so could hinder that person in their faith.
And to not share our salt, could actually make it unsalty; and we could find ourselves knowing first hand what it means, "their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched."
We have to leave room for the Holy Spirit to do His work.
The more we share the things of God we have in common, the more peace there is.
And if we go further and quit fighting over our differences, the better the world around us becomes.
Your Comments are welcome
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