Healthy Church: Everything in Love

August 13, 2023

Bible Passage: 1 Corinthians 16:1-24

Well, we’ve made it to the end of 1 Corinthians.  If you are new this morning, we have been studying 1 Corinthians these last 6 months and 1 Corinthians starts with the cross of the Jesus, the authority of the Apostles; proclaiming the life, death, resurrection and return of Jesus.  It’s glorious.

Then the next 15 chapters we see the Corinthian church rebuked for their arrogance, arguments, sexual immorality, taking one another to court, judging one another, getting drunk off communion, abusing spiritual gifts, and confusion around their beliefs.  It’s been good, right?

It’s possible you thought the local church was supposed to be full of all these people who have everything figured out and then you read 1 Corinthians.  It’s possible you thought your life was to messed up to be involved in a local church and then you read 1 Corinthians, which is the beautiful story of 1 Corinthians.

Jesus transforms lives.  Jesus is transforming our life.  And Jesus will keep transforming us into His glory until we are face to face with Him in glory.  And that is true for the people of the Corinthian church, that is true of North Village Church, and that is true in all times, in all places, and for all people who are followers of Jesus.  Praise God!

This morning we will be in 1 Corinthians 16 and 1 Corinthians 16 is just affection and encouragement.  These are the final words from the Apostle Paul.  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 16, verses 1-4:

1 Corinthians 16:1-4, “1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so you are to do as well. 2 On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save as he may prosper, so that no collections need to be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you approve, I will send them with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is appropriate for me to go also, they will go with me.”

In verses 1-4 we see the Apostle Paul begin to transition his letter to a close by talking about money.  Isn’t that fitting?  Rebuke, rebuke, rebuke; now give some money.  It’s uncomfortable for our culture to talk about money but look at the wisdom in these verses.

“Collection for the saints” is a reference to the church in Jerusalem that was going through trouble, therefore, the Apostle Paul was asking the Corinthian church to help other churches.  Sometimes we go through difficulty and hardship in life and God’s Word teaches us the body of Christ around the world is there to care for one another in those times of trouble.

In verse 2 there is guidance to set aside money on the “first day of every week.”  It means we want to have a routine to our giving.  We don’t want to casually give money here and there but we want to give with intentionality.

In verse 2 we also see “each of you.”  It isn’t one or two people who financially give.  It isn’t those who have more who financially.  It isn’t some serve, some teach and some give but all who are in Christ are invited to give and in verse 2 we see we are to give “as we prosper.”  Do you see that in verse 2?

As a follower of Jesus, we don’t all give the same amount.  We give according to the Lord’s blessings in our life, so were going to see some who give a little, some who give in the middle and some who give more but as the Lord blesses us we intentionally look to give toward others.

In addition, the Apostle Paul gives direction to set aside giving so that the Corinthian church isn’t only giving when Paul arrives.  Do you see that in verse 2?

As a church in Austin, TX we don’t want people to give under compulsion.  We don’t want to have to try to convince people to give.  We don’t want to try to emotionally move people to give.  We have a vision, our vision takes money, therefore, give, and we will trust the Lord to provide!

In verse 3 we see direction to leave the money with people who are responsible.  Do you see that in verse 3?  There’s accountability in giving and collecting of those gifts.  Amanda Greene leads our financial team.  If you sit in on a financial team meeting you will see Amanda pounding the table at accountability, checks and balances, and making the team recite 1 Corinthians 16 over and over.

Listen to me, as a church family we look to model these same principles.  We encourage a consistent habit or pattern of giving.  If giving online is too removed from your thoughts, then give here in person.  Make giving a part of your worship!

We train our church in north Austin to create a budget, live on a budget, and give according to their budget.  For those who have been given much, then we encourage them to give much but all of us are called to give willingly, cheerfully, and sacrificially.  Look at verses 5-9:

1 Corinthians 16:5-9, “5 But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia; for I am going through Macedonia, 6 and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I go. 7 For I do not want to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits.8 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.”

I love the scope of God’s Word.  The Apostle Paul is heavily invested in the Corinthian church.  The Apostle Paul wants to spend time with the Corinthian church.  Do you see the phrase in verse 7, “I do not want to see you in passing?”

He wants to spend considerable time with the Corinthian church but it isn’t just about the relationships with the Corinthians because there are opportunities for the gospel in Ephesus.

Our focus as a bible believing church in Austin is living out God’s glory in Austin, TX.  Specifically, as a church family we are focused on this part of our city in Austin, TX, 78757.

We partner with the local schools in this part of our city because they are filled with some of the people who have the greatest needs in our city.  We partner with James Gordon in our church family who is leading Fellowship of Christian Athletes in this part of our city.  We opened our doors to a church from Nepal because we want to bless this part of our city.

We knock on doors in this part of our city.  We walk the streets and pray in this part of our city.  We chose branding that resonates with this part of our city.  When I teach God’s Word I am mindful of the people who live in this part of our city but we’re not just focused on this part of our city.

Just like in our passage, there are opportunities for the gospel in other places for God’s glory.  We’ve helped start two other churches.  We financially support a Spanish speaking church in Round Rock because Spanish speaking people are all over our city.

Outside of our city we invest in Central and South America so we are financially supporting a church in Mexico City that we were able to visit last Summer and a church in Guatemala, because our focus is to never turn inward but for the Lord to always lift our eyes upward and outward for His glory!

Listen to me church in Austin, look at verse 9, “A wide door of opportunity has opened up and there are many adversaries.”  Adversaries are going to be expected.

You don’t see a pattern of comfort and retirement in God’s Word.  You don’t see living on the beach all the days of our lives in God’s Word.  No, there are opportunities for the gospel and those opportunities come with adversaries!

It’s hard to build up a church in this part of our city.  It’s hard work to live godly lives in our city.  It’s hard to have conversations with co-worker, serving our neighbors, praying and giving to others.  There are going to be adversaries!

But the God of Scripture has called us, enabled us, equipped us and empowered us to shine the light of His glory.  Praise God!  Look at verses 10-12:

1 Corinthians 16:10-12, “10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he has no reason to be afraid while among you, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 11 So do not look down on him, anyone. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brothers. 12 Now concerning our brother Apollos, I strongly encouraged him to come to you with the brothers; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has the opportunity.”

This is so good.  God’s Word is teaching us we invest in churches in Austin, we invest ministries, we invest fiscally, and we invest physically; but at the heart of all those areas of investment are people, so that at the end of the day we are building into people like Timothy and Apollos.

The Apostle Paul meets Timothy in Acts 16.  Timothy was raised by his mother and grandmother, Timothy comes to faith in Jesus and Timothy shadows the Apostle Paul, so that the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “Be nice to him.”  Do you see that in verse 10?

The Apostle Paul meets Apollos in Acts 18 through a godly couple named Priscilla and Aquila.  Apollos was gifted, trained but didn’t fully understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, so Priscilla and Aquila pour into Apollos, so that some in the Corinthian church are dividing over following Paul, Peter or Apollos, so in the closing words we see the focus on people.

After all, 1 Corinthians is 15 chapters of rebuke and correction, therefore, what do you do with a group of people like the Corinthian church?  What do you do with a group people who are so impressed with themselves?  What do you do with a group of people who have all these factions with one another?  What do you do with a group of people who are so deeply influenced by the culture of their day?

Do you abandon them?  Do you mock them?  Cancel them?  Appease them?  No, God’s Word connects the Corinthian church to the wider movement of His hand around the world.  God’s Word calls the Corinthian church to lift their eyes upward and outward, so that they are investing their lives, financially and relationally, in His hand at work around the world.  Specifically, God’s Word is connecting the Corinthian church to people like Timothy and Apollos.  Isn’t that good?

Listen to me, the theme of 1 Corinthians is spiritual maturity and a part of spiritual maturity is being aware and involved in what the Lord is doing locally and globally.

Locally we don’t want to be a people who simply consume Austin but bless Austin.  In our non-denominational church we don’t want to be a people who remain anonymous on Sunday morning but we are taking steps to relational depth.  We don’t want to be so focused on Austin that we forget about the world but we are also asking the Lord to lift our eyes upward and outward for His glory.  Look at verses 13-18:

1 Corinthians 16:13-18, “13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 All that you do must be done in love. 15 Now I urge you, brothers and sisters: you know the household of Stephanas, that they are the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to ministry to the saints; 16 I urge that you also be subject to such as these and to everyone who helps in the work and labors. 17 I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore, acknowledge such men.”

In verses 15-18 we see the importance of relational connection again but I want to focus on these key characteristics of spiritual maturity in verse 13, so let’s start with this first one; be on the alert.

The phrase “be on the alert” is that of a soldier who is in the battle and the Corinthian church was absolutely getting attacked.  They were dividing over teachers, judging one another, overlooking immorality, so that they had let their guard down, therefore, the Apostle Paul charges the Corinthian church, “be on the alert!”

Listen to me, as a follower of Jesus, we know God’s call on our life is to live for His glory, therefore, are we actively pursuing God’s call on our life?  Are we actively creating a plan to get into God’s Word every day?  Are we actively pursuing a plan to invest in God’s Kingdom with our lives?  Are we actively pursuing a plan to have relationships in our life where we challenging and encouraging one another?  Those types of things won’t just happen!

Little boys and girls sit around and complain but godly men and women take action.  Please stop waiting to “feel” like worshipping God, “feel” like reading God’s Word, “feel” like obeying God’s Word, “feel” like setting aside our own interests and serving the interests of others.  It is little boys and girls who do what they feel like doing but it is godly men and women who actively pursue what God’s Word teaches us.

The phrase “stand firm” also has a connotation of actively knowing what you believe and standing firm in those beliefs.  The Corinthian church was like Jello when it came to their beliefs.  The Corinthian church was being tossed too and fro in their beliefs, therefore, the Apostle Paul teaches the Corinthian church for 15 chapters and then writes, “Stand firm!”

Do you know what you believe as a follower of Jesus?  Is Jesus God in the flesh?  Is God’s Word reliable?  Can we just do what feels right in our own eyes?  There are waves of messages coming at us every day whose primary focus is to challenge the truth of God’s Word; therefore, do you know what you believe, can you defend what you believe, can you invite others to believe, and see the fruit of your beliefs coming to the surface?  Stand firm!

In every other area of our life we learn about our career, we learn about our hobbies, we learn about the places we travel, therefore, in the same way, learn what you believe and stand firm.

The phrase “act like men” isn’t to exclude women.  The men of their day were soldiers and soldiers needed to be brave and courageous, therefore, act like men!  Most of us love the idea of courageous lives.  Most of love hero movies.  Those movies call out to us to take adventure.  Live boldly.

How long are we going to be little boys and girls who play with sin?  How long are we going to try to live for the Lord and live for this world?  How long are we going to make excuses and blame others? (He did it!)

How long are we going to keep spending more money than we make?  How long are we going to let our children shape the spiritual temperature of our home?  How long are we going to keep wallowing in sexual immorality with website, books, and movies?  How long are we going to keep blaming God for the areas of pain in our life and give God no credit for the blessings in our life?  How long?

Jesus has come to defeat sin.  Jesus has come to set us free from the bondage of sin.  Jesus has come to call us to Himself, therefore, let us live like Godly men and women who are in Christ!  Look at this last one.

This last characteristic of spiritual maturity is “be strong.”  Again, this is language of a soldier.  It is language of intentionality.  It isn’t necessarily physical or mental strength but spiritual strength.

We can’t make ourselves strong.  But we can grow in the Lord, mature in the Lord, learn God’s Word, stand firm in our faith, live bold and courageous lives, so that we become strong men and women in the Lord.  This is the invitation of God’s Word!

A couple of weeks ago we took our family to the beach in South Padre and as I was sitting on the beach, seeing these other families I was reminded of our family at the beach when our children were younger.  Now, they are 15 and 18, so they run into the waves, go deep into the ocean and we don’t think much about them.

But when they were young they were terrified of the waves.  The ocean can be scary.  The waves make noise.  Some waves are stronger than others.  The sand is shifting beneath their feet, the ocean is terrifying to a little person.

Therefore, when our children were younger we would have them lathered up in sunscreen, weighed down with floaties, vests, rash guards, goggles, earplugs, holding their hands, sometimes carrying them, do everything we can to help them waddle into the ocean.  Their feet would touch the water and they would run back to the sand.  The wave would crash and their arms would wave in excitement.

But what happened?  They grew up physically.  They got stronger.  They learned how to manage the crash of the waves.  They remembered to put sunscreen on their ears.  The fear subsided.  The ocean became fun.  Not completely.  There are still concerns of jelly fish, sharks, sunburn, and random bacteria that attacks you in the ocean but for the most part, the ocean is a place of fun.

In the same way, spiritually there is a season to get spiritually lathered up and weighed down with floaties but we don’t want to stay there.  We want to mature spiritually.  It’s likely not going to be a life that is up and to the right.

It’s likely going to be more of a loop but we want to learn what we need to pursue as followers of Jesus and whole-heartedly pursue those things.  We want to learn where we need to grow and whole-heartedly grow, we want to find some people in our life to model, and I promise you, the fear will subside, the joy will grow and life in Jesus can be a lot of fun.  Let’s look at the closing verses 19-24:

1 Corinthians 16:19-24, “19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brothers and sisters greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. 21 The greeting is in my own hand—that of Paul. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”

It’s difficult to read these closing words and not think of the people in our church in north Austin who have made such an investment.  What a blessing it is to have Jas lead us in worship on Sunday morning!  She works really hard to give every person every chance to sing out to the Lord.  Isn’t she great?

We have people like Jon and Natalie Anderson who give so much to our church in north Austin on so many levels.  Our ministry leaders like Mindy Honcoop on our Hello Team who helps new people get connected in our church family.  Russell Irby who leads our AV team.  You never notice AV until something goes wrong.  What a challenging area to serve every Sunday?

Amanda Greene works with our Financial Team to think through how we receive money, how we spend money, and how we manage our money throughout the year.  Such a blessing to our church in Austin!

In addition, the Lord has gifted us with elders who are incredibly invested in our gospel church.  Jac Greene, Roberto Moctezuma, Dustin Rogers serve as our elders and they pray for us, they spiritually fight for us, they visit people who are sick, they mediate conflict, they teach God’s Word, and they do it all without any financial gain.  They do it all because they love our church in Austin and they love Jesus.  What a blessing!

Lastly, what a blessing we have in our church family in my wife Holly Dennis.  You know, she serves our church family in whatever areas that need to be served but when we ask her, “What do you want to do?”  She says, “I just want to pray for our church family and help our church family pray for our church family.”  What a gift!

1 Corinthians 16:14, “14 All that you do must be done in love.”

I skipped over verse 14 but the overarching characteristic in the closing words of 1 Corinthians is for everything to be done in love.  We give financially in love.  We invest in people in love.  We grow and mature in love, and it’s because God is love.

And God’s love isn’t just declared as an affirmation but while we were yet sinners God’s love was demonstrated through Jesus standing in our place and taking the judgment for our sin at the cross, conquering death in the resurrection, so that through faith in Jesus we might know the righteousness of God.

I want to invite the worship team up.  Lower the lights and invite our church family to respond to God’s Word this morning.  The invitation of God’s Word isn’t to just know about God’s love but to mature in God’s love.

One day Jesus is going to return, one day we who are in Christ will be raised in glory and one day we will reign eternally with Jesus, therefore, trust in Jesus today and grow in Jesus today, because one day the window of that opportunity will close.

Right now, the window to know Jesus is open.  Praise God!  The opportunity is here!  Respond.  Believe!  Grow and mature in Jesus is open.  But at some point, the window will close and there won’t be any excuses.  Wont’ you respond?