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Sunday, March 26, 2017 pm

SPIRITUAL INDICATORS – How Important are My Brethren to Me?

          This is the third (and final) lesson addressing some spiritual indicators that help us determine where we are in relation to where we ought to be as Christians.  Previously we have examined our personal growth and how important the church is to me.  Tonight, we want to discuss the importance of our brethren.

 I.                     We ARE the church!

a.       Church used in 2 senses – Universal (a spiritual relationship with God) – the body of all who are saved.  Locally, a community of believers in a specific location who join together in an ordered, arranged and organized fashion, to do the work God has given us to do collectively – namely worship, evangelize, edifying the saints and limited benevolence.   

b.       We emphasize that the church is NOT a building, but the people who comprise it.   
That is made known in the various ways the church is described – as a bride with Christ being the husband, we as a wife are subject to Him (Ephesians 5:22-33); as a kingdom with Christ as our Lord we as His citizens (Matthew 16:18-19, Colossians 1:13, Philippians 3:20); as a temple with Christ our High Priest, and we as a royal priesthood (Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4-9); and even as a spiritual building (house) with Christ being the chief cornerstone and we a living stones (1 Peter 2:4-9, Ephesians 2:19-22, 1 Corinthians 3:9-11), etc.

c.        We are also described as the household of God. 

                                                   i.      1 Timothy 3:15 – the house of God, Galatians 6:10 - the household of faith

                                                 ii.      Mark 10:29-30, So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.   Jesus is promising those willing to follow Him will receive a family of great value in this life.

                                                iii.      God is our Father and we are His children – John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
1 John 3:1, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”
THINK ABOUT THAT!  We are God’s children.  We are His family and heirs! 

                                                iv.      We are brethren!  Some 200+ times we are described as brethren.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – Paul pleaded with them as brethren to be united.
1 Timothy 5:1-2 – as we deal with one another, treat each other like a family – older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers and younger women as sisters

                                                  v.      God in His wisdom knew that surrendering to Him would come at a cost, sometimes that would include our physical family (cf. Matthew 10:34-38).  But He provided something to help us as we deal with these things – our brothers and sisters in Christ – our spiritual family.  They are there and they care about our soul – our spiritual well-being!

                                                vi.      The point of these and so many other passages is to realize we are a family!  We need to ACT LIKE IT!  And the description is that of a FUNCTIONAL and intact family.   IF you want to go on to perfection, you need to nurture this family bond!

                                              vii.      So: How well do I understand what it means to be part of my spiritual family?  How important is the family of God to me? What am I doing to nurture this relationship?

 II.                   We need each other

a.       It is no secret that in the first century there was hostility against Christians and the church – the Roman empire, often local communities (with their local religions) and even a corrupt Jewish system sought to stamp out this young system of belief.  But they failed miserably.  Why?
I am convinced that among the many reasons for the success and survival of Christianity was how brethren cared for each other.  That is illustrated continually in the New Testament.

                                                   i.      You find it in the way brethren sacrificed for each other – Acts 4:32-37 finds brethren caring and sharing with each other.  Barnabas had a piece of land and sold to help his brethren.

                                                 ii.      Acts 2:44-46 describes how they had all things in common and “continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  The result, the Lord added to the church (their number) daily those who were being saved.   And that was just in the beginning of the gospel.

                                                iii.      The epistles show how much they genuinely cared by the attitudes they had toward each other, the way they loved each other, their assembling together, their willingness to listen to teachings of the NT writers and others (cf. 2 Corinthians show such a response), and so many other things that developed the bond God wants us to have.  Ultimately, we know it is so because of the way the church grew and the gospel spread.

                                                iv.      AND they had examples – Paul loved the brethren so much (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:4 – he wrote in much affliction and anguish of heart out of his abundant love, 7:12, 11:28 – he daily concerns for the church).  His willingness to sacrifice and suffer for them emboldened them and motivated them to stand firm (cf. Philippians 1:12-14, 27-28).

                                                  v.      But the ultimate example of caring was Jesus Himself – moved with compassion toward them.  He loved them, prayed for them, taught them how to treat each other, was patient with and ultimately He gave His life for them (John 15:13).  Speaking to the twelve he noted “you are My friends if you do whatever I command you.”  Jesus then proceeded to tell them, you are no longer called servants, but friend.  (John 15:14-15)  

b.       Friends, this world is a dangerous place (spiritually).  We are warned in many places to be alert lest we drift away (Hebrews 2:1-3 warns us to not neglect our salvation).  Where does one drifting away from God usually begin?  It will begin with neglecting our preferring one another, including the assembling of the saints.

c.        Many passages call for us to be there for each other.   So much of the New Testament is written to describe how we are to act toward one another. 
In addition to passages describing us as a family, there are passages describing our unity (1 Corinthians 1:10, Philippians 2:1-4, Ephesians 4:1-3, and John 17:20-21.
The term “brotherly love” (brotherly kindness) – is a word that demonstrates how we need to care and have affection for each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Romans 12:10 calls for us to be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.   Hebrews 13:1 – let brotherly love continue.
2 Peter 1:7 – “Brotherly kindness” is a quality to be developed as we reach toward perfection.

Our need to care for each other – James 2:15-16 – we show our faith by helping one another.  Also 1 John 3:17-18 – if we shut up our heart, how does the love of God abide in us?

d.       One another passages – there is a phrase used often in the New Testament that helps us appreciate our need for each other as brethren - “one another”.  It is found some 64 times describing how we are and how we are NOT to treat each other.  You want to know how you brethren ought to have an impact on your life consider these:

                                                   i.      Love one another  there are about 20 verses that specifically call for us to love one another.  1 Peter 4:8, and above all things have fervent love for one another.
1 John 4:7 – let us love one another, for love is of God.  John will go on to say (4:20) if someone says, “I love God” and hates his brother, he is a liar! 
ALSO consider John 13:34-35 – where Jesus gave “a new commandment”!  NOTE that according to this text, the world has the right to judge us based upon how we love each other!

                                                 ii.      Romans 15:7, Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.

                                                iii.      Galatians 5:13, For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

                                                iv.      Ephesians 4:2, as we strive to walk worthy and endeavor for unity we are “bearing with one another in love

                                                  v.      Ephesians 4:32, And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

                                                vi.      Ephesians 5:21 speaks of us “submitting to one another.”

                                               vii.      1 Thessalonians 5:11, Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.

                                             viii.      Hebrews 10:24-25, And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

                                                ix.      James 5:16, Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

                                                  x.      1 Peter 4:9, Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.

CAN you see in these passages how important God sees it, that we treat each other properly? 

e.       Do we appreciate the blessing our brethren can be to us? Time will not permit a detailed study of how much of a blessing our brethren can be.  Just consider that your brethren can be:
1) A source of encouragement and comfort; 2) an inspiration to us (good examples that motivate us to do and be the right thing); 3) a source of correction when we stray from God and truth; 4) a source of help in times of need; 5) a source of strength in troubling times; 6) a source of prayer as we together petition God with our needs and struggles; 7) a source of understanding and knowledge as we together seek to understand and apply God’s word, 8) a source of fellowship with God and with one another; and 9) a source of genuine love and caring.

f.         We are to function as a body!

                                                   i.      Another powerful description of our relationship to one another as brethren is how we are to function as a body. 

                                                 ii.      Paul, dealing with a church filled with problems – division, corruption, strife, improper attitudes, etc. – in great detail spoke of how we are the body of Christ.  1 Corinthians 12:12-27 emphasizes how we need to function as a HEALTHY body!

                                                iii.      Consider FIRST that Christ is the head of this body – Ephesians 1:22-23 –and we, the church, are His body!

                                                iv.      In 1 Corinthians 12 we learn several things:

1.       The body is many members (14) – every member of the church is part of the body!

2.       You have a function in that body (15-17) – you have a job to do 

3.       You are right where God wants you. (18)  You need to accept your function and carry it out for the sake of the body.

4.       You have no right to look down on other parts (21).

5.       As the body of Christ, EVERY part is needed (22-24). 

6.       Again, we are where God wants us and when we are all functioning, there is no schism in the body. (24-26) In a congregation everyone has a job to do and we need to do it with our very best ability.  When we don’t do our part, the body suffers and, as other parts have to compensate, the body is strained.

7.       Vs. 27 – you are the body of Christ, and members individually!

8.       In all of this, what is Paul’s point?  WE NEED EACH OTHER!  And the condition of the church depends on it!  Your strength of faith depends on it!

 III.                 How important are my brethren to me?

a.       We have shown how we are to be brethren.  So, do I care about my brethren as I ought to?  Do I love my brethren?  (NOTE: When you understand love, that is actually the same question!)

b.       How well do I know my brethren?  Do I know them better now than in times past?  Do I know them well enough that I can tell when something is wrong? Are we the family God wants us to be?

c.         How much do I need my brethren?  How much do they need me?  How much are we a part of each other’s lives? 

d.       Would I choose them over my worldly friends or pursuits?  WHY would I make this choice?  Would I sacrifice for my brethren?  How much would I give up to help them if there were a genuine need?  Would I stand up for them as they stand up for the truth?

e.       Do I look forward to being with my spiritual family, in assembling with them and on other occasions?  Do I notice when my brethren are missing?  And if so, how concerned am I about it?

f.         What is my attitude toward my brethren? Do I really see them as my family? Am I careful with my words and demeanor when I speak to them? What do I tell the world about my brethren?

g.       Am I approachable? Can my brethren come to me with concerns? NOTE: This is something that I can control with my attitude, demeanor and the way I react to less than ideal situations.
When they come to me, do I listen to them with sincerity and love?

h.       Can I (do I) go to my brethren with concerns for them?  Heed seriously 1 Joh 4:20-21.

i.         Am I willing to forgive my brethren, when they have wronged me?  Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 6:12-15.  Do I give the benefit of the doubt when dealing with concerns? 1 Corinthians 13:5

j.         Am I trying to make my physical family part of my spiritual family?  Parents think about this! Those with unbelieving family members think about this?

 

You cannot objectively read your Bible and miss how important your brethren are.  If you believe that God knows what He is doing, you will develop, cherish, and nourish your relationship with your spiritual family.  They will become a major influence in how you live your life.  So, how are you doing in this?