November 17-18, 2018
Love Won Another
Teach and Pray for One Another
ILL: A preacher was very animated and wore a lapel mike with a cord. As he paced back and forth, he kept getting tangled in the cord. So he would stop and jerk the cord, then get tangled again and jerk it again. A little girl sitting up front whispered to her mom, “If he gets loose, will he hurt us?”
Many Christians are on a leash. They are bound up by misconceptions that keep them from being all that God wants them to be. Today, I want to unleash you! I want to dispel the misconception that teaching and prayer are primarily the domain of the professional clergy. God wants all of us to teach one another and pray for one another, and when we do, the church will be unleashed…loose and dangerous!
What do you think of when I say the words “ordained minister”? How many of you picture a professional clergy-person—a pastor or priest or reverend dressed in a black frock with a backward collar? That’s what most of us think of. Let me give you a quick test:
- How many of you are Christians?
- How many of you are ministers?
- How many of you are ordained ministers?
Everyone who said yes to the first question should have said yes to the others too. The word “minister” means servant, and Christ calls us all to be His servants. And “ordained” means chosen, appointed or commissioned. The Bible says that God has chosen you to be His servant; God has appointed and commissioned you to serve Him! So you are an ordained minister, you are God’s chosen servant, and He has gifted you for the task. We are a community of ordained ministers.
This misunderstanding—that only a few professionals are ordained to do the ministry—has crippled the church for centuries. Someone said that the church is a lot like a professional football game: on the field, two dozen guys in great shape play to the point of exhaustion, while thousands who need exercise sit and watch from the stands. Millions of Christians sit in the stands watching the action, leaving their gifts unused, while a handful of professionals kill themselves and others trying to do it all. It’s not what God intended.
My job as your pastor is not to do the ministry to you or do the ministry for you. My job is to teach you how to do the ministry yourself.
Ephesians 4:11-13 (p. 1008)
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
My job, and the job of all our pastors here, is not to do the ministry, but to prepare and equip and train you do the ministry.
Today I want to talk about two things that have long been considered the domain of the clergy: teaching and prayer. I want to show you that the Bible says that all of you can teach one another, and show you how to do that. And the Bible says that all of you can pray for one another, and that your prayers are very powerful. And we’re going to do it.
- Teach and warn one another.
Romans 15:14 (p. 978) I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another. Notice the word “instruct.”
Colossians 3:16 (p. 1017) Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. Notice the words “teach and admonish.”
Paul writes to Christians in these two churches and tells them that he wants them all to instruct, teach and admonish one another. The words “instruct” in Romans 15:14, and “admonish” in Colossians 3:16 translate the same Greek word (noutheteo) which literally means “to put in mind,” then came to mean, “to warn, to admonish, to instruct.” It combines the ideas of warning and instruction; we don’t just tell someone not to do something; we explain why and how. It is a gentle and friendly correction. So while there are three English words, there are really on two words: teach and warn. Let’s talk about both of them, starting with teaching.
First let’s clear this up: Paul is not saying that everyone ought to be a public speaker. There is a teaching gift and not everyone has it. Not everyone ought to stand up front and try to teach groups of people.
ILL: I heard a stat last week: 95% of pastors believe they are in the top 5% for teaching/preaching. Most think they are better than they really are! That’s a serious lack of self-awareness—and why we need others to be truly honest with us.
Some people have the gift; check out my 3 year old grandson! Video of Paxton Some people have the gift! And some don’t. So not everyone ought to stand up front and try to teach groups of people. But everyone can and should teach one another. All of us have things that we can share with each other, and we can all learn from each other.
If all of us are to teach one another, we must all be learners. That’s what disciples are. The word “disciple” means “learner”. At its very core, the church is a fellowship of learners. We are a learning community. We are all learning from Jesus and each other, all the time. Before you can be a teacher and admonisher, you have to be a learner. Before you can effectively instruct others, you have to receive instruction. You have to be a learner, a disciple. That is the fundamental commitment that all of us make that transforms every person around us into a teacher. I’m a learner first. (Would you tell your neighbor, “I’m a learner first.”
If you are a learner, everyone around you becomes a teacher. You can even learn from children.
ILL: My sister, Ann Roth, got home from work about the time her 4th grade daughter got home from school. Hillary sat next to her and asked, “Mom, do you know what ‘potential’ means?” Ann started to give a dictionary definition, but fortunately caught herself, and instead asked, “What do you think it means?” Hillary said, “God has a plan for my life.” Ann said that was a much better definition than what she was thinking!
If you are a learner, everyone around you becomes a teacher. You can learn from anyone and everyone.
This is why Rooted and our mission groups are so powerful. They are a terrific opportunity for all of us to teach and all of us to learn. Every small group is a learning community. We get together to learn from God and from each other. This is why we have group facilitators rather than leaders; they are learners who facilitate the learning process for the whole team. If you haven’t done Rooted yet, I hope you’ll sign up for the winter quarter. If you’re not in a mission group, we’d like you to go through Rooted first and then get in a group and be part of learning community where we all teach one another.
If you are a learner, you can teach others simply by sharing what you learning. More about that in a moment. That’s teaching. Teach and warn one another.
The idea here is to warn people away from improper conduct. We warn people away from trouble, away from sin. In this sense, warning is a very positive thing.
ILL: If I see something about to fall on you, and I yell, “Look out,” and you jump out of the way just in time—that’s good. That’s positive. I don’t think you’ll scold me afterwards for being negative!
When we built our home 19 years ago, I knew our contractor and he let me help out where I could—but he was very nervous with me on the job-site. He was safety-conscious, and always saying, “Danger, danger,” whenever something was unsafe. I don’t think he was a negative person; he was looking out for us. And I’m glad he did. I just wish he had warned me before I shot my finger with the nail gun! “Danger, danger…Joe’s got the nail gun!”
While warning has a negative connotation, it is still a positive act, inspired by love, because it helps people avoid negative behaviors and consequences.
ILL: Paul Cedar says, “My most painful experiences have been when I’ve had a problem and no one loved me enough to tell me about it.”
To warn someone is not negativity, but an act of love. And it often requires courage, especially when it has to do with someone’s character.
ILL: Author Donald Miller tells this story:
I lived for a time with my friend and mentor John MacMurray, where the first rule is to always tell the truth. John and I were sitting in the family room one night when he asked about my new cell phone.
“I got it free,”I told him.
“How did you get it for free?”he asked.
Don told him that when he went to phone store, their computer was down, so they couldn’t verify when he bought it. Don knew it was over a year ago, past the warranty, but when they asked when he bought it, he said he didn’t know, but it was about a year ago. So they just gave him a new phone for free. “It was just a white lie,” Don said.
John asked, ”Did you ever see that movie The Family Man with Nicolas Cage? There’s this scene where Nicolas Cage walks into a store to get a cup of coffee. And Don Cheadle plays the guy working at the counter. There’s a girl in line before Nicolas Cage, and she’s buying something for ninety-nine cents, and she hands Cheadle a dollar. Cheadle takes nine dollars out of the till and counts it out, giving her way too much change. She sees that he is handing her way too much money, yet she picks it up and puts it in her pocket without saying a word. As she is walking out the door, Cheadle stops her to give her another chance. He asks her if there is anything else she needs. She shakes her head no and walks out.”
“I see what you’re getting at, John,” Don said.
“Let me finish,” he says. “So Cheadle looks over at Nicolas Cage, and he says, ‘Did you see that? She was willing to sell her character for nine dollars. Nine dollars!'”
After a little while, Don spoke up. “Do you think that is what I am doing with the phone? Do you think I am selling my character?” Don said this with a smirk.
“I do,” John said. “The Bible talks about having a calloused heart. We no longer care whether our actions are right or wrong. All I am saying to you, as your friend, is, watch for this kind of thing.”
Don wrote, “I went back to the store the next day. It cost me more than nine dollars, but I got my character back.”
Do you think it took courage to do that—to warn a friend? Courage and deep affection for his friend. Don’t be afraid to warn one another. If you see someone heading the wrong direction, doing the wrong thing, love them enough to warn them.
Teach and warn one another. How do we do it? Look again at:
Colossians 3:16 (p. 1017) Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
First, be in the word and get the word in you! Let the message (or word) of Christ dwell among you (plural) richly. This could mean the word or message that Jesus spoke; or it could mean the message about Jesus, the gospel. We’ll take it as both (gospels and rest of NT) and let God’s word dwell among us richly. The “you” is plural—let God’s word dwell among y’all. It’s the center of our community. It’s what we talk about and what we share with each other when we’re together. If we are passing along God’s word, then we’ve got something worthwhile to say.
If you are living in God’s word, you have something to pass along to others. Teach others what you are learning.
- Each day, I hope you do PBJ: prayer, Bible, journal. The idea is to spend some time in God’s word and let Him speak to you. Read the Bible, ask God for one thing for the day, write it down and pray it back to him. Then tell someone what you learned. Pass it on! Several times a week, I post my journal entry on our website—Pastor Joe’s Blog. You can go there and subscribe and read what I’m learning. But you don’t have to write a blog to teach one another—you simply tell someone what you’re learning. “What did you get from God’s word today?”
- Same thing here each weekend: we spend time in God’s word, and I hope you learn something. So go share what you learned with someone else. Pass it on.
2 Timothy 2:2 (p. 1027) And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
What you heard and learned from me, pass on to other who can pass it on to others. We can all teach one another if we’re learning God’s word and simply sharing what we learned. What has the Lord been teaching you lately? As you share that with others, you fulfill this “one another” command: teach one another. You don’t have to be a speaker, just share what you’re learning with another learner.
Second, use wisdom. “Teach and admonish one another with all wisdom.” There are effective and ineffective ways to communicate. Someone said that communication is the art of steering the truth around your hearer’s roadblocks.
The goal in all teaching is learning. The goal in warning someone is a change of behavior. It’s life change. It’s not just giving out information, but making sure that people understand it so that it results in transformation. I’ve seen too many people who feel like they’ve fulfilled their responsibility just by speaking the truth. “I warned them; I told them but they didn’t listen.” How did you tell them? Did you use wisdom? Did you steer the truth past their roadblocks or did you just throw up more roadblocks?
ILL: This is my beef with the misguided folks on Bloomsday who hold a sign that says, “God hates fornicators, adulterers, homosexuals and lukewarm Christians,” and yell through a bullhorn at the passing runners that God will judge them and send them to hell. I don’t agree with them, but even if I did, how are they saying it? Are they steering the truth past people’s roadblocks or are they throwing up more roadblocks? Are they using wisdom?
My concern is not just discharging my duty to tell someone the truth about Jesus. “There, I’ve done my job.” My concern is to persuade them, to help them learn. And to do that, I have to use wisdom.
Third, we teach one another when we sing. We are to “teach and admonish one another through psalms, hymns and songs…singing to God.” This one may surprise you! When we sing here in church, we are speaking to God through song, and we are teaching one another. We are declaring things we believe, and those things speak to others.
ILL: When I was in college, I worked one summer in halfway house for juvenile delinquents. One day, a friend stopped by to visit. He was troubled and wanted to talk, but I was busy with kids. I asked him to wait for me in the living room, and put a Christian album on, then went back to the kids. When I came back half an hour later, he was in tears. I asked what he wanted to talk about and he said, “God took care of it. He just spoke to me through one of the songs on that album.” He went away happy—and I hadn’t said a word. The song had.
When we sing to God, we are also teaching one another, declaring what is true. So sing boldly and teach one another!
So what is the most recent thing God has been teaching you from His word? Let’s take a couple minutes and share that with each other. I want you to see that this is how simple teaching one another is. You are competent. You are a disciple, a learner. Just share something you have learned lately. It’s that simple.
- Confess and pray for one another.
Just like people often think that teaching is the domain of the professional clergy, they also think of prayer that way. “We need prayer; call the pastor.” Or “I need to confess; I better go see a priest.” But James tells us that all of us can confess our sins to each other and pray for each other.
James 5:16 (p. 1046) Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Confess your sins to one another. You don’t have to go to a pastor or a priest. You can go to one another and simply admit your fault and ask for prayer. Once again, this is a very simple deal. I admit my weakness and sin, and ask for prayer; and you do the same thing. We confess to each other, and we pray for each other. And it’s very powerful.
Notice that we are each to confess our own sins, not someone else’s. Too many prayer requests are simply gossip—confessing someone else’s sin under the guise of prayer.
ILL: Years ago in the middle of a Sunday morning service here at Life Center, a lady spoke out in the middle of my talk, and said, “Please pray for my husband. He’s using drugs, and he’s cheating on me, and he lies…” and she was off to the races. I had to interrupt her, promise her we would pray for her husband, and remind her to confess her own sins, not her husband’s. I’m really glad Laina has stopped doing that!
ILL: At bedtime, Lillian Holcomb told her two grandsons a Bible story, then asked if they knew what the word sin meant. Seven-year-old Keith spoke up: “It’s when you do something bad.” Four-year-old Aaron’s eyes widened. “I know a big sin Keith did today.”
Annoyed, Keith turned to his little brother: “You take care of your sins, and I’ll take care of mine.”
Confess your sins, not someone else’s.
James tells us that if we confess and pray for each other, we will be healed. Some scholars think that refers to physical healing, since James was talking about that in the verses just before this. Other scholars think that it refers to soul-healing, the healing we need from sin and its consequences. I think it’s probably both. When we confess and pray, God heals us. He makes us right physically and spiritually and emotionally.
ILL: Kurt Stansell seems to have it all together. He had been married for 16 years and had two great kids, a successful investment counseling business, and he was a founding elder at his church. And he was a sex addict.
For years, Kurt struggled with pornography. He kept repeating a cycle of guilt and remorse, then prayer and repentance, only to find himself back at it again.
Eventually, Kurt found an accountability partner named Stan. At first, Kurt held back; he was less than honest about his problem. But when he finally confessed, telling Stan the whole truth, Kurt immediately felt a weight lifted from his shoulders. He was on the road to wholeness. Hiding his sin only kept him chained to it; bringing it out of the darkness into the light was the first step in being freed.
It’s a wonderful freedom to come clean, to lay down the burden of guilt and shame, to be fully forgiven. I’ve experienced this—I know many of you have too. Sin grows in the shadows. It dies in the light. When you confess, you are bringing your sin into the light, disarming it, and taking your first step toward freedom! Confess to one another and pray for one another and you will be healed.
And when someone honors you by being vulnerable enough to confess their sins, you need to pray for them.
ILL: There was a young priest who was going to confessional for the first time. He went with an older priest, his mentor. After a day of hearing confessions he was approached by the older pastor who said, “You know, when a person finishes with a confession, you should say something like: ‘I agree what you have done is terrible, and I would encourage you to stay away from that kind of behavior from now on.’ That would be better than saying, ‘WOW!’”
Wrong response. Right response: pray. James says that your prayers are incredibly powerful. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” That’s you. If you are right with God—not perfect and sinless—but right with God because of Jesus Christ—your prayers are powerful and effective. When you confess to one another and pray for one another, lives are changed. Let me finish with a story.
ILL: Methodist missionary and author E. Stanley Jones wrote:
For months after my conversion, I was running under cloudless skies. And then suddenly I tripped, almost fell, pulled back this side of the sin, but was shaken and humiliated that I could come that close to sin. I thought I was free and found I wasn’t.
I went to the class meeting (mission group)—I’m grateful that I didn’t stay away. I went, but my music had gone. As the others spoke of their joys and victories of the week, I sat there with the tears rolling down my cheeks. I was heartbroken. After the others had spoken, John, our leader, asked: “Stanley, tell us what is the matter.” I told them I couldn’t, but would they please pray for me? They all fell to their knees, and they lifted me back to the heart of God by faith and love. When we got up from our knees, I was reconciled to my heavenly Father, to the group, and to myself. I was reconciled. The estrangement was gone. (My music was back) and I … began to sing again.
That was a very crucial moment in my life, the moment when I lost my music. My destiny was in the hands of that group. I was a very bruised reed; suppose they had broken me? I was a smoldering wick; suppose they had snuffed me out? Just a criticism: “I told you so. Too good to be true. He was riding for a fall.” But they never uttered a criticism, or even thought of one, as far as I could see. The reaction was nothing but redemptive love. I saw and experienced the power of redemptive love incarnate in a group.
That can happen any time that two or more of us confess our sins to one another and pray for one another. We become a healing community, a forgiving community, a community of redemptive love.
Would you take just a couple of moments and turn to someone you know, and risk being honest? Come clean. Each of you tell the other, “Here’s where I struggle,” and then pray for each other.
I’ll call us back together in just a few minutes.