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Tuesday
Jun192012

Those Who Are Outside  

We speak glowingly about those of like, precious faith -- fellow Christians with whom we share deep convictions and eternal hope. Our relationship with others, including those who flagrantly reject Jesus and those whose faith is corrupted by tradition, is more complicated. We are compelled to acknowledge a certain clear separation from them, but if we have any hope of influencing them for good, we cannot simply cloister ourselves away from all contact. Those who are outside the body of Christ are sometimes a source of conflict and temptation, but if we are moved with compassion over their spiritual state, we will have to try to relate to them in a way that expresses concern and love, without falling prey to their doubts or indulgences in the process.

 

Discussion

I. Outside is Not a Good Place to Be

A. Outside the Ark

1. we have all been caught out in a storm

2. think of those caught outside when the floodwaters rose high enough against the frame of Noah's ark that it became clear death was imminent

3. Noah's neighbors had rejected his preaching, mocked his building, and were paying the price; the same is still true today when people deride the gospel call or the peculiar rites that are absent from most human creeds (First Peter 3:18-22)

4. the contrast between being inside Christ and outside of him is simple, but it cannot be reduced to impossible perfection or inactive belief (Galatians 3:23-27)

 

B. Outside Jesus

1. there are occasions in the ministry of Jesus that certain people are depicted as being separated from him, sometimes as much spiritually as physically, and the separation speaks volumes as to their need to change their isolation (Luke 8:19-21)

a. while Mary was storing up messianic prophecies in her heart, Jesus's brothers were very slow to believe in the deity of their brother

b. hereditary claims to salvation were canceled in the new covenant and citizenship in God's kingdom was tied to something more democratic and universal, but under attack today -- submissiveness to the word of God itself, and "If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?" (First Peter 4:18).

2. the apostle Peter represents a vast population of believers who had been in Christ, and who had been of great service, but who drift or run away when the pressure gets too much (Matthew 26:69-75)

a. Peter is literally and spiritually outside, while his savior suffers inside the high priest's quarters

b. when we feel pity for those who are outside, it should even be doubled for those who have been in the body of Christ, only to retreat, "For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them" First Peter 2:21), "since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt" (Hebrews 6:6).

 

C. Judgment

1. being caught outside on Judgment Day will be just as fatal as it was during the deluge

2. in the sermon on the mount, Jesus had taught, "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened" (Matthew 7:7-8).

3. as the gospel call and his teaching approached its climax, warnings of divine judgment assumed the same setting (Luke 13:25-28)

4. Judgment Day is a terror to "those who do not know God and ... those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (Second Thessalonians 1:8), as well as the more obvious perpetrators of great wickedness (Revelation 21:1-8, 22:14-15)

 

II. Toward Outsiders

A. Judging Them

1. there is a very real sense in which we must make judgments about behaviors so that we will know whom and what needs admonition or rebuke

2. that authority does not extend, however, to practicing ostracism or withdrawal from those in the world who need to hear the truth (First Corinthians 5:12-13)

3. associating with worldly people can be a tricky business because there is a risk of damaging one's reputation as well as being led astray by those who persist in indulging their appetites

4. still, the only hope we have of reaching them is by taking the gospel to them, as Jesus did when he ate and talked with sinners, and extending grace to them as he did to the woman caught in the act of adultery, telling her that he did not sentence her to be stoned or even damn her to death, but that she should stop sinning lest she lose her soul on Judgment Day

 

B. Worship Orderly

1. outsiders are sometimes curious about what goes on in worship and perplexed by certain things that happen without explanation or in contrast to the traditions they are more familiar with

2. it is important that we be equipped and interested enough to explain why we believe and do such things, and that our worship reflect the pattern set by the New Testament (First Corinthians 14:20-26, 40)

3. we do not have such miraculous abilities today, but our worship can still be confusing to people who do not know what to expect

 

C. Answer Them Graciously

1. sometimes doors open for the word, whether through a surprise visitor or an opportunity in daily conversation to mention the Lord (Colossians 4:2-6)

2. such chances are somewhat rare and we should always be ready to seize them wisely, making the story of salvation plain

3. seasoning our speech with salt allows us to present Jesus in a away that is interesting, stimulating, and insightful, assuming that we involve ourselves in our communities in such a way that we have contact with those who are outside and can be trusted by them

 

D. Behave Honorably

1. although it might not always be fair, what we as individuals do reflects upon the congregation, the body of Christ, the Bible, and the Lord himself

2. some people are looking for reasons to accuse and demean the gospel and we should not be so quick to oblige them, but should behave honorably in all things, even when challenged by gainsayers or tempted to follow the ways of the world (First Peter 3:13-17, 4:12-15)

3. in fact, a pastor is required to have and to keep a solid reputation for integrity out in the wild: "Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil" (First Timothy 3:7).

 

E. Walk Properly Before Them

1. it is essential to practice and demonstrate love and unity with one another so that those who are yet outside of Christ will consider that being in his body might really be good and pleasant (First Thessalonians 4:9-12)

a. aspiring to live quietly simply means being at peace with your neighbors as much as depends upon you, not fostering conflict over minor and meaningless affairs that often make it impossible to have any influence in the things that do not perish with use

b. minding your own business means refraining from gossip, as well as meddling in other's people's affairs, telling them what you would do and they should have done

c. working with your hands means pursuing self-support without becoming dependent upon charity or welfare to get by, so long as one is able-bodied

5. getting a reputation as a troublemaker, or meddler, or for laziness will justly cause people to tune you out when you want to talk about the faith that makes you the way you are

 

Conclusion

Being outside of Christ is no place to be, especially as Judgment Day gets closer with each passing second. We should neither overstate nor underestimate the influence that we can have, especially on people who are even now not far from the kingdom, but only if our lives and attitudes are consistent and discreet. 

 

Questions for Review

  1. How does Peter use the ark as typical of modern salvation?
  2. How does Paul say that people get "in Christ"?
  3. What did Jesus value more than fleshly relationships?
  4. Why was Peter outside for a while?
  5. How should we refrain from judging outsiders?
  6. What about our worship might confuse an outsider?
  7. What becomes of the outsider on Judgment Day?

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