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Tuesday
Jun072011

Aim For Restoration

 

Reformation or restoration? That’s a question that has concerned mankind as long as things have been evolving beyond their original identities into things that eventually need to be repaired somehow. Houses, organizations, systems, and ideas all eventually require somebody to make the decision – do we try to reform, that is, make a few modifications to improve matters –  or do we aim for restoration – to try as hard as we can to bring everything back to its original, pristine condition and purpose? For the last half-millennium, many believers in Christ have settled for reformation, while a handful here and there have insisted on pursuing restoration of the first century pattern. What we find from Scripture is that restoration should always be our aim when things have progressed beyond what is scriptural and right.

 

Discussion

I. Reconciliation

A. Progressiveness

1. it is undeniable that society has witnessed a tremendous amount of beneficial progress, and that science and technology have been a great part of the blessing as more of God’s truth has been discovered through investigation, excavation and experimentation

2. progress has been made in social areas as well as people have learned how better to communicate, relate, and treat one another as humans and equals; we have no desire to turn back the clock on progress that has made us healthier, smarter, kinder, and freer

3. some progress, however, has caused mankind to move away from the Bible in issues that are moral, doctrinal, and ecclesiastical, and it is there that the progressiveness is a betrayal of New Testament authority and needs to be rolled back; “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (Second John 9).

4. Paul’s letters to the Corinthians were focused upon rolling back the presumptions that the church members there had made, as they created fissures in the congregation, embraced immorality, and argued over preeminence; his two extant letters to Corinth are highly moral, doctrinal and ecclesiastical

 

B. Chastisement

1. his Corinthian letters are also brazenly corrective, as he spares no harshness in exposing their bad habits and insisting that they restore their attitudes and behaviors to what they had been taught (Second Corinthians 13:1-10)

2. writing like that, Paul was simply continuing a biblical tradition dating at least as far back as the prophets of the Old Testament, who were charged with confronting a community that had progressed beyond the point where it believed it even needed God: “Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the LORD your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord GOD of hosts” (Jeremiah 2:19).

3. it is equally wrong to go beyond the revealed will of God as it is to come up short, and so we strive to hit that bull’s eye, that we do not fall short by aiming low, but that we also do not surge past what God would have us to be and to do

4. today, this occurs when people are willing to go beyond what the Bible teaches to gain acceptance in disciplines that do not honor the Bible – psychology, cosmogony, and modern morality

5. it is axiomatic that all truth is God’s truth, but this does not sanction hypotheses that reject the existence of God or contradict his word; we must have men who “may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

 

C. Restoration

1. that applies in discussions that touch on the sciences and society, that extend sanction to the sinful and replace grace with ignorance, but it also applies within the confines of religion itself where doctrines are debated and ideas are disputed

2. the Western tradition in Christianity has been one of reformation for the last half-millennium, beginning with Luther’s quest to remodel the abuses of Catholicism and return it to its Augustinian model

3. the result was the Protestant Reformation, the development of denominations, and an inglorious mixture of pagan, Catholic, and western traditions that sometimes bears little resemblance to anything biblical

4. reformations are not just incomplete restorations; they are usually just new stages of evolution and steps in different directions away from the original, but still away

5. the Bible insists that we should be aiming for restoration in our doctrine, behavior, and attitudes toward God and one another (Second Corinthians 13:11-14)

 

II. Aiming for Restoration

A. Rejoice!

1. usually, when you finish reading a sad book or watching a movie that does not wrap up with the usual Hollywood happy ending, it’s hard to feel happy or walk away with a spring in your step

2. and when reading a pointed, personal letter of correction and chastisement, it is hard to feel anything but discouragement, remorse, bitterness, pessimism and sorrow

3. yet, Paul wraps up these twin missives by commanding his beleaguered readers to rejoice!

4. joy is a choice, in spite of the hardships and adversity of life, because the Christians treasures in his heart the power and hope to counter any difficulty that life presents, even the threat of death itself; “Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart” (Psalm 32:11)!

a. joy is easy and not even worth commanding when everything is good and pleasurable, but the Christian alone has the resources to rejoice in hope when things are tough (First Peter 1:3-9, 4:13-14)

b. the writer of Ecclesiastes was very plain-spoken: “So if a person lives many years, let him rejoice in them all; but let him remember that the days of darkness will be many” (Ecclesiastes 11:8).

c. the Christian gets a better life: “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Romans 12:12).

 

B. Aim for Restoration

1. to restore something is to return it to what it originally was – whether the finish on an antique or a historical site or building that has gone through a number of modifications until it barely resembles its initial purpose

2. to aim for restoration in the church is to return to the biblical way of doing things – not to abandon modern technologies or vocabulary, but to demand book, chapter, and verse for the things we teach and the methods we use

3. other translations render the phrase here differently, but the Greek word is katartizō (καταρτίζω; pr. kat-ar-tid'-zo; Strong's # 2675), meaning “ethically: to strengthen, perfect, complete, make one what he ought to be”

a. Luke 6:40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained (katartizō) will be like his teacher.”

b. so much dross and chaff attaches itself to faith and the faith and this is the place where the disciples polish their convictions and hone both their attitudes and actions; we know that Scripture alone thoroughly equips the child of God for every good work (see Second Timothy 3:16-17)

4. if we are aiming for personal, congregational, or systemic restoration, the creeds, traditions and opinions of men and churches will only impede our efforts; what we must have is the Bible alone

 

C. Comfort Each Other

1. brethren ought to be able to rely upon one another for comfort in times of distress, whether that is expressed merely in kind words or necessary actions

2. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

3. beyond everyone else – the psychologists, counselors, neighbors, and sometimes even family, we ought to provide comfort borne of a shared faith and understanding of the hardships of a faithful life

4. the Preacher complained, “Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them” (Ecclesiastes 4:1).

 

D. Agree With One Another

1. even more challenging, however, is the command to agree with one another, but this is where true harmony is established or disturbed – it is the ambition and ability to secure a common understanding of what the Scriptures teach and to tolerate differences of opinion in matters about which the Scriptures are silent

2. Corinth struggled with this as much as the church in Rome did (First Corinthians 1:10-13)

3. where the Scriptures speak, we ought to be able to obtain unity, but where they are silent, we ought to be able to suffer differences and remain united

4. we must be careful to distinguish between the two so that we never become guilty of binding where God has not bound or loosing where he has not loosed, lest we imitate the Pharisees or the Gnostics

 

E. Live in Peace

1. Paul was writing to a bitterly divided church where lawsuits, doctrinal disharmony, material disparity, and spiritual ability deepened the fissures

2. the goal remained to live in peace by eliminating those sinful ambitions (Philippians 2:1-4)

3. Jesus taught, “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50).

a. most of their salt came from the Dead Sea and will filled with impurities like carnallite and gypsum; if it was not processed correctly, the salt would be served with a poor taste and would be worse than worthless 

b. if we cannot find a way to get along, considering all that we share scripturally and how insignificant are our non-scriptural differences, our discipleship and claims to unity and harmony are just as pointless

 

F. Greet One Another

1. he closes these commands and this letter with a desire that brethren would greet one another with a holy kiss, a sign of affection and unity

2. it is unfortunate when brethren would prefer to avoid each other, and while that sometimes follows doctrinal disagreements, it is just as likely to result from clashes over pride, ambition and opinion

3. Paul wanted the church in Corinth to aim for the restoration of proper brotherly love (see Hebrews 13:1)

 

Conclusion

We ought always to be aiming for restoration, not only the restoration of our collective practice of faith, but the individual exercise of discipleship that should seek harmony with the example and teaching of our Master.

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