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Building Up The Body of Christ

September 19, 2021

Teacher: Mike Noel
Scripture: I Thessalonians 5:1-14

Introduction

HGTV is a pay television channel that focuses on shows on real estate and home improvement. One of the shows on this channel that my wife Connie enjoys is called Home Town. The couple that stars in this show remodels homes in their home town of Laurel Mississippi. 

As in many of these shows this couple loves to take old, sometimes dilapidated houses and turn them into beautiful restored homes.

One of the episodes I watched with Connie had to do with a house that was so bad the owners were afraid that Ben and Erin were going to recommend just tearing down. Well you knew that wasn’t going to happen. The basis of most of these shows is to show houses that aren’t in great shape and then they pull you into the story by the teaser of what it’s going to look like. And true to form in the end this ramshackled house was restored to a thing of beauty. An amazing transformation. 

Well, our God is in the business of restoring and rebuilding lives. He loves to redeem and rebuild the lives of sinful, foolish people like us into ones that reflect his son Jesus.  As Christians we are all in the remodeling business - first of all in our own lives but then also in the lives of others.     

We are in the second week of a three week series on relationships. Relationships are one of our core values as a church. And what we want to make sure is that we are individually and as a church pursuing relationships in the way that scripture calls us to. 

Because as Christians our relationships really don’t belong to us. They do in the sense that as Paul tells the Corinthians all things belong to us and we belong to Christ.  

Our relationships are under the guidance and authority of scripture. 

We want the light of God’s word to shine upon us in a way that illuminates, encourages and convicts us where needed in regards to relationships. We don’t want to assume that our relationships are accomplishing all that God has called us to. We want them to be examined by the word of God.

As Christians we have been given a holy and sacred stewardship when it comes to relationships. They are for our good and the good of others and even beyond that they are for the glory of God. When people come into our church - not the physical building but the community of God’s people, we want them to see and experience relationships that reflect God’s love and grace towards. Relationships that result in us becoming more like our Savior.

Not perfect relationships (revealed) or superficial relationships or ones that reflect our culture’s view of relationships.  But ones that can only come about as we are instructed by God’s word and empowered by his Spirit.    

There is much to say about the biblical purpose of relationships but what I want to focus on this morning is what verse 11 instructs us to do: Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

 Jesus is building his church. One of the ways he does that, involves individual members building up one another. This word build in verse 11 in the Greek means to be a house builder or to construct a building.

So the building of a local church is tied to the building up of individual lives within that congregation and we have the blessed opportunity to be part of that. 

Since both a Christian church and individual Christians are likened to a building or temple in which God or the Holy Spirit dwells, the erection of which temple will not be completely finished till the return of Christ from heaven, those who, by action, instruction, exhortation, comfort, promote the Christian wisdom of others and help them to live a correspondent life are regarded as taking part in the erection of that building, and hence, are said  … to promote growth in Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness, blessedness. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon

This is the stewardship that God has called us to and which is part of why we say relationships are one of our core values. We want to build up God’s church to God’s glory. Let’s pray and ask God to help us to grow in this grace of building up others.  

 

B. We Build Others Up Through The Grace of Encouragement:

 

So how do we build up others? The short answer is we do that by grace. And here I am defining grace as God’s power towards us to accomplish his will. And this power comes to us in different ways and so I want to discuss three ways that we can tap into God’s grace to build others up. We build up others 1) Through the grace of encouragement 2) Thru grace and truth and 3) Thru the gifts and opportunities of grace 

The primary focus of this teaching is how we can build up others in the local church but I trust  that it has application to all our relationships including the parenting/discipling of our children and relationships with non-Christians. 

Our text tells us that we should encourage one another and build up one another. The  meaning of this Greek word encourage includes:

Parakaleó: to beseech, entreat, beg, exhort, admonish, comfort and console and encourage.

Well which one is it? I think it includes all of those. And the different translations reflect that. Many of them use the word encourage but some use the word comfort and some the word exhort. I think that is a good summary of the essence of this word: to encourage, to exhort and to comfort. 

This somewhat parallels the purpose of the gift of prophecy in I Corinthians 14: 3 which tells us in ESV is for upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. NASB uses edification, exhortation and consolation. 

Building up other Christians involves all three of these functions of this word. Paul gives us an example of that in verse 14 of our text when he tells the church:

14 We urge (exhort) you, brothers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all. 

We must grow in our wisdom and discernment and love for others as to what aspect of building up is needed in their lives; or to steal a phrase from Eph 4- we should discern that which fits the occasion that it might give grace to those who hear. Parents you know this very well… All three are needed for building others up in the f. 

I think we all have a general sense of the differences between each of these words but to make sure we are on the same page here is a general definition of each: (overlap and nuance). 

 

Encourage - To build another up by giving them hope and courage or motivation to continue. It may include a gentle form of exhortation. 

 

Exhort - To urge another to do what is right and what is the task at hand. May include gentle admonishment. 

 

Comfort - To bring peace and hope and gentle strength to a person who is grieving,  in need or who is struggling in a trial.

 

We need to encourage one another because we need the strength to keep walking the path that God has before us (whatever season we are in). Because sometimes we get weary and discouraged by the trials and hardships of life. Part of that encouragement comes to us as we worship and pray together, study God’s word with each other and share life with God’s people.

It also includes personal one on one encouragement as God gives us opportunities to do so. 

We also need exhortation and sometimes gentle or not so gentle admonishment  because we are prone to wander Lord I feel it… The straying nature of our old life is ever present and it should sober us that the writer of Hebrews exhorts us:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13

We need exhortation and admonishment to keep us from an evil and unbelieving heart. Without it we could fall away from the Lord or be greatly hindered in our Christian life. 

And we need comfort because it’s hard living in a fallen world and we suffer because of the sins of others or our own sins or things that are out of our control. Death and disease and failure and loss and sorrow are things that we face that are sometimes overwhelming. 

And even Paul, the great apostle needed comfort and encouragement. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort... For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself...For even when we came into Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were afflicted at every turn—fighting without and fear within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus 2 Corinthians 1:3,8; 7 :5-6

 

Part of the sacred stewardship that I referred to in relationships is to see that we have been called to encourage and exhort and comfort the people that God brings into our lives. Let me quickly mention two ways:

One is that we must work hard at building relationships. 

This word encourage in our text in the Greek it comes from two words: pará, "from close-beside" and 2564 /kaléō, "to call") – properly, "make a call" from being "close-up and personal."

It doesn’t mean that we can’t encourage or exhort or comfort one who we don’t know. But in God’s economy there is a certain grace that comes when people who know us and are close to us encourage, exhort or comfort us. If they don’t do it who will? There’s that stewardship.

So work hard at building relationships with others especially in your orbit. Because when we do so then we are better equipped to personally encourage others. It begs the question - do you have people in your life that you can both give and receive that type of encouragement? 

If not, why not? Are you taking the initiative to build strong relationships with others? 

Have you given others permission to exhort you…  We don’t necc need it; Faithful are the wounds of a friend. 

Another way we can grow in building others up is by working hard at listening and observing. Just by observing… Mark Twain 

Most of us are not very good listeners. It is a discipline that requires patience and effort. Even when we listen to others often it can be at a superficial or at a shallow level.  Proverbs 20 states that The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.

We have to listen long and patiently and not jump to conclusions that we really understand the situation and ask good engaging questions. 

Listening and understanding and empathizing are important means of grace as is the building up that comes when we have  thoroughly listened to others. 

And this includes listening to the word of God and the Holy Spirit as we consider what others are telling us. Not so that we can automatically give them a scripture but that we can identify what they are experiencing from what they are sharing with us - and so if it’s appropriate at that time. 

 

C. We Build Others Up Through Grace and Truth:

 

Some people can be very gracious and accepting. They often encourage others but they rarely speak the truth in an honest way to others. Then you have those who are very forthcoming and speak their mind and are zealous for truth and justice. But they tend to steam roller others in their pursuit of what is right. (And consequently they don’t listen very well to others)

In Jesus grace and truth are wed together. He was the friend of sinners and they were drawn to him by his acceptance and love.

But they were also drawn to him because of the truth that he spoke even when it was sometimes hard to hear. The Savior was able to to combine both these traits so that when he spoke truth it was done so in a way that was for the good of those who were on the receiving end.   

We want our encouragement and exhortations and comfort to be like that. We want to emulate Jesus. Grace and truth intertwine themselves; in Christ they go hand in hand. But let’s look at them separately. 

What does it mean to build up others in grace and how do we do it? 

Did you ever have the situation growing up where your mother said to you “wait till your father comes home!” Dread even though. 

That’s not ministering in grace. We never want to try and motivate others out of guilt or condemnation or legalism or trying to control the outcome of our interaction (as opposed to trusting God to work).  

The grace I’m talking about here is rooted in the gospel message of Christ. It says that our place with God, our relationship with him is secure. It’s not ultimately rooted in our performance or failures or even our successes. 

That’s how the Father in heaven relates to us. Even his discipline of us is done in love and tied to our being in right relationship with him thru Jesus. 

Grace taps into the gospel truth that God is for us in Christ Jesus! And so the more that we are rooted in the certainty of our acceptance thru Christ the more we are able to freely minister to others in the liberty of that truth. 

We see this grace in action in Jesus and his relationship with Peter after the resurrection. 

But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”

We have the tools to grow close to others in the body of Christ because no matter how we are doing, how bad we are struggling, no matter what sins we are fighting against we can be secure in God’s love. And a large part of building others up is communicating that to them. Or communicating truth to them while standing on that truth. Jesus’ eg. He continued… John 21

And remember grace and truth go together. In fact in Acts 20 Paul calls scripture the word of grace which is able to build you up. (We’re not to use it as a club to bash others but a tool to build them up). We should never think that our building others up in grace is to be separated from the truth of God’s word. 

In some ways grace is the atmosphere or context that we encourage others in but it's God’s word that drives the direction and focuses the matter at hand.   Surgeon-that he is for you-on your side. 

And sometimes the truth that others bring to us is very sharp.  

If time: Paul demonstrates the partnership of grace and truth for us in our text. Let’s look at the verses preceding v 11 which instructs us about building up others. And as we read this passage notice how Paul reminds the people the truth of who they are in Christ and then calls them to take action based on that fact: He’s building them up thru the truth of God’s word and thru the message of the gospel. 

But you are not in the darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. 5 For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. 6 So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 

Part of building up others in an edifying way has to do with helping people see who they are in Christ and then connecting it with God glorifying attitudes and actions. This includes the high calling that the Christian has in this life. Reminding others of the truth and trustworthiness of it. 

When our eyes are opened to the truth of we are, we are more apt to take action whether it has to do with continuing in the faith or correcting sinful habits or being strengthened by the comfort of God.

 

D. We Build Others Up By The Gifts of Grace

 

These gifts of grace would include the gifts of the Spirit and opportunities of the Spirit = the one anothers of the Christian life. And both of these are very important in the life of the New Testament church. 

I was converted during the Charismatic Revival which happened in the 70’s and 80’s. Body life! 

But it conveyed the fact that one of the main ways the NT church builds itself up is through the individual members of the Body of Christ.   

The very essence of NT church life is that in Christ we are brothers and sisters. Yes there are some offices (primarily pastors and deacons). There are ministry team leaders and other types of leaders. But our primary identity is that we are individual members of the body of Christ. . 

But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Matthew 23:8-11

This doesn’t mean…  No laity, kingdom of priests, our primary identity is that we are in Christ and therefore a member of the body of Christ with gifts of grace to build the church up.

When I speak of the gifts of the Spirit I am mostly referring to the lists of the gifts found in I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 though there are other gifts we could add to those lists.  

Now we don’t have time to go in depth on the gifts of the Spirit but we do have a seminar planned for March 25 and 26th. That’s a Friday night and Saturday morning where we will endeavor to teach on understanding, identifying and exercising the gifts of the Spirit in our lives. 

This is an all inclusive understanding of the gifts of the Spirit. I think that historically charismatic or pentecostal churches have over emphasized the more “spectacular” gifts such as healing, and tongues/interpretation, prophecy and faith. 

Whereas cessationist churches would emphasize the other gifts: mercy, serving, hospitality, administration, teaching and giving. 

We want to emphasize all the gifts of the Spirit listed in the New Testament because we believe that they are all for the church today and are for the sake of building up the church.  

In fact in I Corinthians 14 Paul refers to the gifts building up (or benefitting) others in the church seven times. That is the purpose of the gifts- and our God is a diverse God. He has created us all a little differently with different personalities and strengths and has given us different gifts. And what we want to encourage you with is that whatever gifts of the Holy Spirit that God has given you, use them for his glory and the good of his church. 

Hospitality. 

God wants us to be people who are on the lookout for “opportunities”. Opportunities to use our spiritual gifts and practice the one anothers of the New Testament to serve others. 

We are excited about the spiritual gifts seminar but you don’t have to wait until then to start exercising them in your own life.

Here are a few suggestions on how to enter into this “build up others in the church ministry”. 

First read and study the lists and descriptions of the gifts of the Spirit in I Cor 12 and 14, Romans 12 and I Peter 4. Also do the same with the list of the one anothers in the New Testament (google).     

Help you to identify opportunities and also to pray for them. 

Secondly pray. This is where it starts and not only starts but continues. Prayer is the engine that powers the vehicle we are driving. I Corinthians 14: 1 tells us to pursue love and earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit. (Eager to posses). We do this in prayer. Be regularly asking for the gifts of the Spirit and for opportunities to serve and minister to others. (Martha’s eg) 

Then be on the lookout for opportunities to serve others. Don’t worry that much about how you are going to serve others. Look for opportunities to serve and minister to others. 

Sam Storms book (this applies to one anothers). 

Pray for and be on the lookout for opportunites: honor, serve, accept one another, greet one another, be kind to one another… 

The most common one another is love ( one another). It’s listed at least 16 times in the New Testament. So one place to start is just by loving others well, loving others biblically. And you could say that all the one anothers have this in common - they are different ways of loving others and building them up in the Lord. 

Many of the one anothers have to do with the attitudes of our heart towards others: don’t judge one another, consider others more important, do not complain against, accept one another, bear with one another. 

A church that is using their gifts and practicing the one anothers is one, where by God’s grace true biblical fellowship will be happening. Where the church is building itself up in love. 

 

E. Closing: 

 

Let me close by mentioning some more practicals:

How can we grow in the area of building others up and being good stewards of the relationships that God has given us?  Bloom where you’re planted. 

“Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.” The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales 

Be faithful to practice building others up in the concentric circles of your lives. Psalm 37 tells us to  dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. So be faithful in your relationships within your family, your church, your small group, your neighbors and work colleagues and the friends God has brought into your life. (It’s not complicated-but it’s not necc easy to do-we must work hard at being faithful in 2ways

One as we plan for it and secondly as we are aware of “opportunities” that come up in the course of life.

We want to be fruitful in both of those areas. So plan, think about those primary relationships in your life. What are some specific ways that you can build others up or settings that will foster that happening. (Fathers) 

And we want to be on the lookout for the providential workings of God in our lives. Proverbs tells us man plans his ways but the Lord establishes his steps. 

Jesus eg. (Martha, Mary, Lazarus-Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

Zaccheus 

We never want to be a church that is content with our fellowship and our relationships and isn’t looking to bring others into them. We are called to be faithful in the primary relationships God has placed in our lives AND we are called to be like Jesus who came to seek and save the lost. 

So both with new people coming to our church or non-Christians that we meet we should be the type of person that is always trying to bring more people into our concentric circles. 

Outward looking - Romans 12 - prayer, hospitality, giving, serving, rejoicing and weeping with others.

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