Thought for the Week 24 and 25 - 30th August and 6th September by Rev Peter Baxa

Welcome and Notices

HYMN:                         162            From heaven You came

Greeting                                          (Page 1)

Confession                                               (Page 2)

Gloria                                                         (Page 5)

Collect                                                      (Page 5)                        Trinity 13

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself: help us to proclaim the good news of your love, that all who hear it may be drawn to you; through him who was lifted up on the cross, and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever, Amen.

First Reading:                                Acts 5:12-16

Second Reading:                           Matthew 18:15-20

Sermon:             Putting things right

Creed                                                        (Page 7)

Intercessions                      

The Peace                                                (Page 9)

HYMN:                         As the deer        (No words – just to sit and listen to)

Eucharistic Prayer                        (Page 18)

Lord’s Prayer                                 (Page 12)

Humble access                             (Page 15)

Receiving the bread and wine

Post Communion Prayer             (Page 16)

Dismissal                                       (Page 16)                             

HYMN:                                   The power of the cross                (To sit and listen to)

Closing Prayer                              (Page 17)          

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Reading:                  Acts 5:12-16

Today’s first Bible Reading is taken from Acts 5:12-16

12     The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade.

13     No-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people.

14     Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.

15     As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by.

16     Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.

This is the word of the Lord.                

Thanks be to God     

Second Reading:                           Matthew 18:15-20

Our Gospel Reading today from Matthew 18:15-20 is taken from the New Living Translation

Hear the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to Matthew - Glory to You, O Lord

15     “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back.

16     But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses.

17     If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Then if he or she will not accept the church’s decision, treat that person as a pagan or a corrupt tax collector.

18     “I tell you the truth, “whatever you forbid to be done on earth is that which is already forbidden in heaven; and whatever you permit to be done on earth, is that which has already been permitted in heaven.”

19     “I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.

20     For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”

This is the Gospel of the Lord

Praise to You, O Christ

Acts 5:12-16               Dealing with hypocrisy

We began ‘Lockdown’ in March this year, as since each week we have had a ‘Thought for the week’ – and today is week 26 – in other words, half a year.

Over the weeks, as we have worked through our ‘Thought for the week’ I have commented on a number of occasions that I always taken the Bible Readings that we look at together from what is known as the Church of England Lectionary.

The Lectionary is a list of ‘set’ readings for each Sunday of the year on a three year cycle – giving a whole variety of readings for all sorts of possible services on that day.

This week is no different – and I want to look at one of the many possible readings set for today – this passage from our second reading from Acts 5:12-16.

Over these past 26 weeks we have looked at the Acts of the Apostles on 10 occasions, and today is week 11.

We have observed the early church as it began to grow and develop over the years following the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We saw how God fulfilled His promise to pour out His Holy Spirit upon ‘all flesh’ on that first ‘Christian’ Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2 and we became aware of the significant change it made to the early disciples.

However, Doctor Luke, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles, was never blind to the ‘problems’ the early church faced as well as seeing the many incredible things that took place in those days.

Here in Acts 5, in the section just before the point where our reading was taken from, we see a problem relating to a couple called Ananias and Sapphira

Luke is observing the problem of hypocrisy beginning to emerge among the early believers, and is was something that needed to be dealt with.

George MacDonald once wrote, “Half of the misery in the world comes from trying to look to be what we are not, instead of trying to be what we really are.”

The word that we give to this practice is “hypocrisy,” which simply means “wearing a mask, playing the actor.”

We must not think that failure to reach our ideals is hypocrisy, because no believer lives up to all that he or she knows that they have in the Lord.

Hypocrisy is an act of deliberate deception, trying to make people think we are more spiritual than we really are.

Recently I saw  quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon which he made many years ago that went something like this: ‘It is not the world, O Christian church, that causes you most damage, it is those who bear the name of Christ within it’

If Satan cannot defeat the church by attacks from the outside, he will get on the inside and go to work (Acts 20:28–31).

He knows how to lie to the minds and hearts of church members, even genuine Christians, and get them to follow his orders.

We forget that the admonition about the spiritual armour (Eph. 6:10–18) was written to God’s people, not to unbelievers, because it is the Christians who are in danger of being used by Satan to accomplish his evil purposes.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle which fits them all.”

Satan is a liar and a murderer (John 8:44) and he lied to and through this couple.

When God dealt with Ananias and Sapphira, He was also dealing with Satan.

He was letting everybody know that He would not tolerate deception in His church.

Their sin was motivated by pride.

God loves His church and is jealous over it, for the church was purchased by the blood of God’s Son (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25) and has been put on earth to glorify Him and do His work.

Satan wants to destroy the church, and so often the easiest way to do it is to use those who are within the fellowship.

The church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), and Satan attacks it with his lies.

The church is God’s temple in which He dwells (1 Cor. 3:16), and Satan wants to move in and dwell there too.

The church is God’s army (2 Tim. 2:1–4), and Satan seeks to get into the ranks as many traitors as he can.

The church is safe so long as Satan is attacking from the outside, but when he gets on the inside, the church is in danger.

It is easy for us to condemn others for their dishonesty, but we need to examine our own lives to see if our profession is backed up by our practice.

Do we really mean everything we pray about in public?

Do we sing the hymns and Gospel songs sincerely or routinely?

“These people honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me” (Matt. 15:8).

If God were to remove all hypocrites from within the church today, how many church members would be left?

The result was a wave of godly fear that swept over the church and over all those who heard the story (Acts 5:11).

We have moved from “great power” and “great grace” (Acts 4:33) to “great fear,” and all of these ought to be present in the church.

As we have noticed, the events that Luke records here are dramatic and it is therefore it is no wonder that our first reading today reminds us,No-one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people’ (verse 13).

We have learned that the Spirit-filled church is unified, magnified, and multiplied.

Satan wants to divide the church, disgrace the church, and decrease the church; and he will do it, if we let him.

But the church described here completely triumphed over the attacks of Satan!

The people were still unified (Acts 5:12), magnified (Acts 5:13), and multiplied (Acts 5:14).

It was necessary for the church to be able to deal with the problems that arose and move on in the power of the Holy Spirit – as the early church did in today’s first reading.

Today, in this ‘Thought for the week’ there are notes on both the first reading from Acts 5:12-16 and also on the second reading from Matthew 18:15-20.

These notes are included because they were the subject of the theme at Gunton last week.

Together, they remind us of the need to seek to keep relationships within the church as pure and open as possible.

At the same time, we recognise that the church can move on from even major problems and give God the glory – may that be true of us in our walk with Him.

Intercessions                      

Loving God we recognise our responsibility to encourage and uphold one another and to live together in peace and love. Help us to respond to your word today in the way that you direct.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Everlasting God, we thank you for our church leaders and for all who preach your word, inspire, lead and grow us as disciples as we reach out to those in need in our communities and in our world.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Creator God, we pray for our world leaders; for our Royal Family, for Heads of State and we also pray for our national and community leaders and those in public office dealing with difficult situations especially those involved with the serious problems associated with the Pandemic

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Father God, we pray for our children and grandchildren who are returning to school, colleges and universities to continue their education. 

We especially pray that all places of education will find ways of making teaching and learning safe as well as effective in such strange and difficult times. 

Help all students in their daily lessons; give them the wisdom to listen and learn and to keep safe. 

Help their teachers and give them patience and knowledge to teach well and help them all as together they learn the lessons of life.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Loving God, we ask for your wisdom to discern your wishes and direction in our lives and ask for your help to discern how to deal with others in our daily lives.

May we never be a “stumbling block” to fellow church members as well as those we meet in our daily lives.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Gracious God, we pray for all who we know who are housebound and in nursing homes; those in hospitals, in recovery and rehabilitation.

We thank you for our local hospitals, health centres and clinics and for all those working in sheltered accommodation and care homes.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Merciful God, we pray for all those who are bereaved by the passing of loved ones.

Help us to be sympathetic, caring and loving with the bereaved and always ready to help practically and to pray diligently in their time of greatest need.

(Short Silence)

Lord in your mercy: Hear our prayer

Holy God, we thank you that your wisdom not only enlightens us but transforms and guides us. 

Be with us as we go from this place of worship and into our daily walk through life with you.

Help us to know how we need to respond to your word to us today.

Merciful Father: 

Accept these prayers for the sake of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

 

Putting things right    Matthew 18:15-20

Dealing with personality problems within the church is clearly so important to Jesus that He teaches about it from two opposite directions.

Firstly, in Matthew 5:23 Jesus says that if you have sinned against your brother or sister – you go and put it right.

Secondly, here in Matthew 18:15 Jesus says that if your brother or sister has sinned against youyou go and put it right.

In other words, if there is a problem between us as an individual and another person within the church – you go

It is clear that in Jesus mind each of us has the responsibility to take the initiative to put things right when there are personality issues within the church and not to wait until the other person takes the first step.

For a church to be a strong and vibrant body of believers, and for it to be a unit that grows and develops it needs to be a body that is united and in which personality problems are dealt with in a loving and sympathetic way.

The church has greater strength when it takes seriously the call to be a holy, righteous, Spirit filled and united group of believers who seek to allow God’s Word to direct them.

All too often that is not the case and in many situations the church seems content to be nothing other than a group seeking to maintain some sort of ‘status quo’

Today, as we look together at this passage from Matthew 18, I hope we will do so from the perspective of asking ourselves the question, ‘how does this passage apply to us as individuals and to us as a church at this time?’

We will be thinking today in particular about this passage that begins with the words of Jesus, ‘If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense.’

There are times when, deliberately or unconsciously, we offend others and hurt them.

Even the Old Testament Law recognized “sins of ignorance” (Num. 15:22), and David prayed to be delivered from “secret faults” (Ps. 19:12), meaning “faults that are even hidden from my own eyes.”

What should we do when another church member has sinned against us or caused us to stumble?

Our Lord gave several instructions.

(1)     Keep the matter private.

Approach the person who sinned and speak with them alone.

It is possible that they do not even realize what they have done.

Or, even if they did whatever it was deliberately, your own attitude of submission and love might help them to repent and apologize.

Above all else, go to them with the idea of restoring the right relationship with your brother or sister, and not with the intention to win an argument.

It is possible to win the argument and lose your brother or sister.

But it is equally possible to lose your brother or sister by doing nothing at all to deal with the problem.

All too often within our churches, such problems are not dealt with, and they are allowed simply to just fester, and in so doing, they can damage the church as a whole.

Over and over again we hear of people who leave a church because someone has said something that has offended or upset them.

Sadly, this does not reflect well on the church and often it even spoils people’s attitude towards Jesus Himself.

We must have a spirit of meekness and gentleness when we seek to restore a brother or sister (Gal. 6:1).

We must not go about condemning the offender, or spreading gossip.

We must lovingly seek to help them in the same way we would want them to help us if the situation were reversed.

When we seek to restore our relationship with the person who has offended us, it is interesting to note that the word restore in Galatians 6:1 is a Greek medical word that means “to set a broken bone.”

Think of the patience and tenderness which that requires!

(2)     Ask for help from others.

If the offender refuses to make things right, then we may feel free to share the burden with one or two dependable believers.

We should share the facts as we see them and ask them for their prayerful counsel.

After all, it may be that we are wrong.

If these brothers or sisters feel the cause is right, then together we can go to the offender and try once again to restore the relationship.

Not only can these members of the church assist in prayer and persuasion, but they can be witnesses to the church of the truth of the conversation (Deut. 19:15; 2 Cor. 13:1).

When sin is not dealt with honestly, it always spreads.

What was once a matter between two people has now grown to involve four or five people.

No wonder Jesus and Paul both compared sin to leaven (yeast), because leaven spreads.

(3)     Ask the church for help.

Remember, our goal is not the winning of a case but the winning of a brother or sister.

The word gained in Matthew 18:15 is used in 1 Corinthians 9:19–22 to refer to winning the lost; but it is also important to win the saved.

Our Lord’s disciples were raised in the Jewish synagogue, so they were familiar with congregational discipline.

What started as a private problem between two people is now out in the open for the whole church to see.

Church discipline is a neglected ministry these days, yet it is taught here in Matthew 18 and in the epistles (see 1 Cor. 5; 2 Thes. 3:6–16; 2 Tim. 2:23–26; Titus 3:10).

Just as children in the home need discipline, so God’s children in the church need discipline.

If by the time the matter comes to the whole church, the offender has not yet changed their mind and repented, then they must be disciplined.

(4)     Keep the local church spiritual (vv. 18–20).

It is important that the local assembly be at its best spiritually before it seeks to discipline a member.

When a church disciplines a member, it is actually examining itself and disciplining itself.

This is why our Lord added these words about authority, prayer, and fellowship.

We cannot discipline others if we ourselves are not disciplined.

Whatever we permit in the assembly must first have been permitted by God.

The church must be under the authority of God’s Word.

Church discipline does not refer to a group of Christian policemen or women throwing their weight around.

Rather, it means God exercising His authority in and through a local body, to restore one or more of His erring children, and at the same time to restore the church as a whole.

Not only must there be the authority of the Word, but there must also be prayer (Matt. 18:19).

The word agree in the Greek gives us our English word “symphony.”

The church must agree in prayer as it seeks to discipline the erring member.

It is through prayer and the Word that we ascertain the will of the Father in the matter.

(5)     Finally, there must be real fellowship (Matt. 18:20).

The local church must be a worshiping community, recognizing the presence of the Lord in their midst.

It is not our place to try to convict other church members – it is only the Holy Spirit that can convict both the offender and the church as a whole. (Acts 5).

There is a desperate need for honesty in the church today. “Speaking the truth in love” is God’s standard (Eph. 4:15).

If we practice love without truth, it is hypocrisy.

But if we try to have truth without love, it may be brutality.

Jesus always taught the truth in love.

But keep in mind that humility must come before honesty.

A proud Christian cannot speak the truth in love.

They will use a brother or sister’s faults as a weapon to fight with and not as a tool to build with.

The result will be only greater disharmony and disagreement.

The first internal problem of the New Testament church was dishonesty (Acts 5).

The second internal problem (Acts 6) had to do with people being neglected.

The members and leaders faced these problems with truth and love, and the result was blessing.

It takes both truth and love, and both must be used with humility.

Where do we stand as individuals and as a church?

The important thing is to seek honesty, unity and openness before God for the body of Christ in this place.

There are times when members of the local church may be aware of ‘problems’ between persons within the church.

In such circumstances, it is for the members of the church to lay the matter before God in prayer and then allow God to convict where He sees the need.

We pray for that openness to God’s word and pray that He will use His word in our lives to build us up in Him.

May we each one of us be challenged, encouraged and blessed as we study His word together in this ‘Thought for the week’.

 

 

 

 


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