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        Focus On Christ

        James R. Davis

        Introduction

        1. Jesus prayed for unity.

        John 17:20-21
        Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

        2. Each time the monster of division arose out of their ignorance and confusion the apostles endeavored to point those involved back to Jesus Christ.

        Gal 3:26-30
        For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

        Dr. Harry Ironside told of a church that had the motto JESUS ONLY over its door. At first he was impressed, thinking these believers wanted everyone to know that Christ was at the center of their lives. He soon learned, however, that they were narrow in their beliefs and uncharitable to anyone who was not of their theological persuasion.

        Later a violent windstorm tore away the first three letters of that sign, leaving this significant message: US ONLY. Ironside commented," That more accurately described their haughty spirit."
         
         

        I. Problems Arose.

        A. After the initial beginning of the Church in the first century after the birth of our Lord, men began to deviate from what was originally taught by the apostles.

        Many of these deviations were caused by simple misunderstandings concerning the will of God. Cultural and racial differences caused many problems among those first members of the church.

         1. Racial

        Acts 6:1-5
        And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word. And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch:

        2. Circumcision

        Acts 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

        3. Gentiles

        Acts 11:1-3
        And the apostles and brethren that were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.

         5. Grace

        Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

        4. Teachers

        1 Cor 1:10-13
        Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

        1 Cor 3:3-5
        For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man?

        A young woman who had a part in leading several people to the Lord said to a friend, "The new converts asked me what church I attended and I told them. But frankly, I felt like saying, ' Please don't go there!' You see, our congregation is sound in doctrine, but the members harbor so many petty jealousies and bad attitudes in their hearts that I'm afraid a new Christian would be hurt, not helped."

        5. Eating meat offered to idols.

        1 Cor 8:4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

        6. Socio-economic standing.

        James 2:1-4
        My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet," have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

        B. There was a great tendency toward a competitive spirit in the church of the Bible. Competitiveness was a result of a worldly way of thinking brought over into the Church.

        The story is told of three churches located on the corners of the same intersection. Each began its evening meeting with a rousing song service. On a warm summer night, when all the doors and windows were open wide, one congregation began by singing," Will there be any stars in my crown?" The strains had barely faded away when the folks across the street sang the familiar hymn, "No, Not One!" They had just finished when there rang out loud and clear from the third church, "O that will be glory for me!"

        II. Misunderstanding of Scripture.

        A. Failing to understand Scriptures.

        Mt 22:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

        A Gallop poll conducted some years ago revealed that 60 percent of Americans did not know what "the God Head" was. Sixty-six percent couldn't say who delivered the Sermon on the Mount, and 79 percent were unable to name a single Old Testament prophet. When people are questioned about the Bible on radio or television, it is remarkable and disconcerting to see their complete lack of knowledge on the subject. Some are almost as confused as the little boy who wrote on his test paper that the epistles were the wives of the apostles, and that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife.

        B. First century Christians solved their problems as they focused on Christ.

        1. The church today usually solves its differences by starting another congregation or church.

        Two ministers were discussing the question of how their religious group originated. The first claimed that it all started with John the Baptist. The other countered, "You're wrong, brother. We go back a lot further than that. Don't you remember when Abraham and Lot were surveying the land of Canaan? They walked for a long time over the hills, across the streams, through the valleys. Then Abraham said to Lot, ' All right, you go your way and I'll go mine.' That's when the our denomination got started."

        2. We have "The Church of The Resurrection", "The Church of the Firstborn", "The Bible Church." Each church usually ends up writing a creed book that contains all the things they believe. As people place membership they are taught the creed rather than the Bible.

        C. Religious controversy is due to a plain misunderstanding about the importance of Christ teaching.

        1. The Pope visited sometime ago. The news media is making a big deal out of the members of the Catholic Church not agreeing with the Pope on birth control and abortion. The question is, "Does the Pope and the members believe the teaching of Jesus Christ?

        Mt 22:29
        Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.

        2. Obedience to the Word of Christ is the mark of a disciple. Jesus made it clear in His story of the wise builder and the foolish builder that obedience to his teaching is necessary for stability.

        Matt 7:24-27
        Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

        The difference between the two men was not that one had more knowledge or that one faced more difficult circumstances, it was that one chose to obey the Word of Christ and the other did not.

        A woman who had bought a sewing machine went back to the store to complain that it didn't run right. After a brief conversation, the salesperson began to see the problem and asked, "Have you ever read the instruction book to find out what it says to do?" Sheepishly, she said no and agreed to follow the directions. Later, when the salesperson inquired how the machine was working, the woman replied, "Fine! Instead of bungling along by myself, I started going by the book. Things are running much smoother now." Many Christians have trouble with their lives for the same reason this woman had difficulty running her sewing machine--they don't go by the Book!

        D. The first Christians accepted Christ as the sole authority in matters of faith.

        1. When they accepted Christ, there was no need to accept anything else.

        Col 2:9-10 9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. 10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

        E. There were no creed books.

        Jesus Christ was the supreme authority.

        There was no human creed, that does not mean that the church of the first century did not have a creed. The word "creed" is from a latin word "credo", which means "I believe," hence creed means what I believe. The first disciple had no creed. Jesus Christ was their creed. "Thou art the Christ" was their only confession of faith.

        Mt 16:16

        Acts 2:37

        Acts 16:31

        John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

        John 8:31-32 31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

        John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

        III. Must Rely On the Power of God.

        A. Religious division denies the power of God.

        2 Tim 3:5
        Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

        Titus 1:16
        They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.

         Mt 22:29
        Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

        Mt 9:6-8
        But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

        Mt 22:29
        Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.

        David Culver tells of watching a TV news report showing the destruction in southern Florida after Hurricane Andrew:

        "In one scene, amid the devastation and debris stood one house on its foundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached him. "'Sir, why is your house the only one still standing?' the reporter asked. 'How did you manage to escape the severe damage of the hurricane?' "'I built this house myself,' the man replied.' I built it according to the Florida State building code. When the code called for 2x6 roof trusses, I used 2x6 roof trusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand a hurricane. I did and it did! I suppose no one else around here followed the code.'

        "When the sun is shining and the skies are blue, building our lives on something other than the guidelines in God's Word can be tempting, but there's a hurricane coming--for everyone." [Leadership, Wint 1993. Page 49.]

        B. Power of gospel.

        Romans 1:16
        For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

        Mt 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

        The church was founded upon Jesus Christ.

        1 Cor 3:11
        For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

        Acts 4:12
        Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

        Eph 1:22-23
        And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

        In his book The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer wrote," Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers( meeting) together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship."

         Conclusion:

         Men today discover the power of God when they begin doing the will of Christ.

        1. Recognize that you are a sinner.

        Ro 7:24
        O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

        Ro 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

        We try to ignore the guilt. We attempt to change the standard of right and wrong. It's ironic, when man refuses one standard of right and wrong, he always establishes another standard to take the place of the old one. He is still left with a biting conscience as he does battle to adhere to the new standard.

        2. Recognize God's grace.

        God has already paid the price.

        1 John 4:14
        And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.

        John 8:24
        I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.

        Romans 7:24-25
        O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

        3. Recognize Man's response

        We must accept the gift. Christ sacrifice can be and is rejected by most.

        In order to accept Christ gift we must turn to him. We must accept Christ standard for right and wrong.

        Luke 13:3
        I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

        Mt 10:32
        Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

        4. Determine that you are going to live for Christ.

        Mk 16:15-16
        And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

        Titus 2:11-12
        For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

        Ro 6:3-4
        Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

 

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