What would our cities be like if there weren’t any building codes? Hopefully not as shoddy as we might hear about in China or Haiti. Building codes do serve a good purpose. They do save lives. However sometimes we might feel a code has gone too far or lacks common sense. Back in ’03, Builders for Christ came down here to put up our Academy. The building code called for the new trusses to be attached to the old building in a certain way. The Builders being an independent bunch saw a better way of attaching the trusses, and so that’s what they did. Well, the code inspector had an absolute fit and threatened to shut us down. Fortunately our general contractor, Bobby Chasin, was able to convince the city to let us have a variance, and so the Builders kept building.

God also has spiritual building codes for His church. His codes can never be changed. They are perfect, and they save souls. This Epiphany season our sermon series is called, “We Are Light’s together. In order that we may join in God’s work of saving souls, let’s Follow God’s Building Codes for His Church. There are three. 1. Love each doctrine in the Bible. 2. Cherish each soul. 3. Value each worker.

Our text reads, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” – I Corinthians 3:10-11 There is only one way to heaven. Since we are sinners and yet must be holy before God, only He is able to give us the holiness we need. And He has through Jesus, who was holy in our place. Also, all sin must be punished or God is no longer just. But in Jesus God has punished all sin. It is finished! For this reason everyone who trusts in Jesus for holiness and forgiveness is saved. On the other hand all who reject Jesus’ holiness and forgiveness, because they’d rather trust in their own merits, are lost.

By God’s grace we believe these things. But it’s also important for us to understand “why” we believe. It’s not because we were wiser than others – no, human reason would turn us away from Christ. Nor are we believers because we were less hostile to God; no, Paul tells us in Ephesians that we are all equally stubborn. But the reason we believe is through the Water and the Word God built our faith upon Jesus, so that through the Water and the Word, we might others to Him also.

We read on in our text, “If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.” – I Corinthians 3:12-13 Gold, silver, and costly stones are picture language for teachings of the Bible. Wood, hay and straw represent teachings in the Bible that have been changed. I’m kind of reminded of the story of the three little pigs. One built his house out of straw, another built his house out of wood, and another out of bricks. You, children, know what the big bad wolf did to the houses made out of wood and straw. He blew them down! In the same way Satan is trying to blow away our faith in Jesus. But he will not be able to do that, when we love each doctrine in the Bible. For example, in a little while we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. We take God at His Word that Christ’s body and blood are truly present with the bread and the wine. Believing this keeps our faith in Jesus strong. Here’s how. A last will and testament doesn’t go into effect until the person who made it dies. But once he has died and this is proved to a judge, that judge must give whatever is in the will to that person’s loved ones. Jesus has willed to us that God remember our sins no more, that He increase our faith and love, that He care for us until we are in heaven. And Jesus has died. The proof is His body and blood, which the Father sees in us each time we receive the Lord’s Supper, and so the Father must give to us all that Jesus has willed to us. When we think of the Lord’s Supper in the way God has taught us, Satan can blow guilt on us has hard as he wants, but we will still know that the Father forgives us and is caring for us. He has to, it’s in Jesus’ will.

And now consider what happens if a church changes this teaching. Instead of saying this IS
Christ’s body and blood, they say it only symbolizes Christ’s body and blood. If that’s what we believe, where is our physical proof that Jesus has died for us? In our minds we don’t have any. And then when Satan huffs and puffs and blows us with guilt, we can try hard to hold our faith together. We may even try to prove to ourselves we have faith by how we feel or by the things we do, but sooner or later Satan is going to be able to blow us either into self-righteous denial of our sins or into despair. So, then, why would some churches change what the Bible teaches about the Lord’s Supper? Humanly speaking, it makes more sense to say that the bread and the wine represent Christ’s body and blood. And since it makes more sense, theoretically you can get more members for the church. Changing the doctrines does not build the church. Following God’s building code builds the Church, and the first is, love each doctrine, because all of them help to keep us anchor in Christ alone.

We read on in our text, “If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” – I Corinthians 3:14-15 This is kind of an aside, but it shows us how serious God is that we not deviate from His building codes. Those who follow His building codes will receive special rewards in heaven. Those who don’t, will still be saved by grace, but they’ll miss out on their special rewards, even though they may have worked very hard during their life time. For us called workers, this is sobering. For you councilmen and volunteers here at New Hope, this is sobering. It leads us to keep double checking the Scriptures to make sure we’re saying it right. At the same time, however, we also need to make sure we’re following God’s second building code, which is to cherish each soul.

We read, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.” – I Corinthians 3:16-17 If we love pure doctrine, and pure doctrine saves souls, why do we need this warning? We can still harm souls by expecting too much, too fast from people. For example Jesus’ disciples were slow learners. On the night He was betrayed, they were arguing with each other over which of them was the greatest, and so Jesus got up and washed their feet. Or, when Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, after everything He had taught them, after seeing His death and resurrection, they asked Jesus if He would at that time make this world a heaven on earth with themselves as the rulers. Well, Jesus did not give up on His disciples. He did not put out their smoking wick of faith. Instead He would meet them where they were at in their understanding, and then help them to grow a little farther, and save the rest for another day.

Paul gave an example of this in Corinth. Some of the members had grown up only eating meat when they worshipped in an idol temple. They no longer did that. But now whenever they ate meat, they felt guilty like they were committing idolatry. Out of love and concern for these members, Paul would not eat meat until their consciences had caught up with their beliefs. However, by giving them this concession, wasn’t Paul adding a rule to the Bible – “Thou shalt not eat meat”? Customs and concessions can turn into rules that burdens people’s consciences. But that won’t happen if we keep both of God’s building codes at the same time: love each doctrine, cherish each soul. Paul put it this way to Timothy, “Study your best to present yourself to God as a worker who correctly handles the Word of truth – I Timothy 2:15. He also told him,Preach the Word; be prepared when it’s convenient and when it’s not convenient, correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.” – II Timothy 4:2

However, if a church keeps spending their time on people who are slow to learn and maybe even a little stubborn, how can that church ever grow? Wouldn’t it make more sense to let the hard-to-work-with go? Not in God’s building code! Rather keep cherishing each soul and then value each worker in the church. We read in our text, “So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.” – I Corinthians 3:21-23 The Corinthian congregation was divided over which of their pastors was the best, and which had the best ideas for growing the congregation. By favoring one worker over another, they were missing out on the other worker’s gifts. But Christ is the head of His Church. And so He works in all things for the good of His Church and He also gives each congregation all the gifts it needs, as it needs them.

Now in our case here at New Hope there are three fulltime called workers – myself, Mr. Priebe, and Miss Nitz. However, when God urges us to value His workers, He doesn’t mean just us three. You are His workers too. And with all of us working together, receiving input from one another, and praying, and doing everything in a fitting and orderly way, God’s church will grow! But what if we feel we don’t have much to offer? What if we don’t value ourselves that much as His workers? Well, as far as always saying the right thing in the right way, keep doing what Paul told Timothy to do – keep studying the Word. Also just as Jesus guides our life so we may learn from our experiences, when a word of wisdom or encouragement is needed, He will guide us.

In ’03, the builders for Christ came here to build our Academy because the loved the Word and they wanted many more children and families to hear His Word. That’s what God wants and it’s what we want too! So, then, let no one be discouraged over how big our challengers are or how few our resources seem to be. You might say, Jesus is both our general contractor and our building inspector. And so with joyful confidence, let’s follow His building code: love each doctrine, cherish each soul, value each worker. Amen.

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