NEAR-SIGHTED IRON SHARPENING ATTEMPTS
The early church did not emphasize buildings, gymnasiums, and property. They emphasized evangelism. Some churches today exhort to build huge buildings. They want gymnasiums to play ball. They want beautiful structures and landscaping thinking the Lord is pleased therewith.
The world of the early church was filled with the evangelism and teaching of the early saints. They turned the world upside down without building a building. Buildings are all right, if they are not the emphasis of the congregation.
When the buildings and property become the main message of exhortation, the saints and the unsaved community of the area suffer neglect. The Lord pronounces harsh words on an under-shepherd who neglects and abuses the Lord's flock.
The true iron sharpening must emphasize the seeking of the lost souls - no matter what race, economic status, or previous background. Too many exhortations cater to the ones able to swing a hammer or give greatly in the offering. The poor are unattended during many building projects because they may drain the money needed for the carpet of the pastor's new office.
Sermons are, in many congregations, intended to get the people to jump, brag, shake, and yell about a building... instead of weeping for the unsaved, seeking to help the hurting of the congregation, or properly sharpening iron to become loving as the Lord commanded.
In some congregations, the people of the congregation are almost totally neglected during a building project. These congregations usually end with splits and disruption. They may have had, at one time, the right motives. They may have wanted to have the building for the glory of the Lord. Yet, to disobey the Lord in the way that they erect the building, brings so much evil that the new building does not see the blessing of the Lord. Its walls hear arguments, debates, judgmentalism, hatred, etc.
The problem is the lack of proper vision of the congregation. They took their eyes off souls, and looked onto bricks and mortar. They lost spiritual vision. The Lord wants us to see souls added daily, to be fishers of men, to make disciples of all people. When the congregation seeks brick-layers, carpenters, electricians, etc. for the building project... the true vision for souls is forsaken. The Lord allows such a church to reap what they have sown.
The devil does not take a vacation while the building project continues. He will seek to disrupt, backslide, and hurt all he can in the congregation. Jesus does not want us to have beautiful structures for the purpose of pew-sitting. We may have buildings, but they are not the church. The true church is the body of Christ. We build the church by winning souls, and keeping others from backsliding. Whenever a church must enter a building project, it is vital that the church make even greater emphasis to assure that souls are tended, the poor are helped, the widows are given attention, and the worship of the Lord (not the building) is emphasized. To not do so, is tragic!
PREJUDICIAL AND VENGEFUL SO CALLED IRON SHARPENING
ONLY DESTROYS, DOES NOT SHARPEN
Jesus said to preach the gospel to every person. Too often the congregations of today, preach the gospel to those they think deserve it. These congregations set standards that shut out many.
In the early church, some sought to keep out any who did not carry over parts of the Jewish law that rejected the eating of pork, etc. Some sought to exclude those who were not circumcised. Others sought to keep out those who worshipped on a different day. Some wanted to choose their exclusive apostle, and worship only with those who excluded those who followed a different apostle. Prejudice develops, and the sharpening attemps of the congregations become dominated by such standards.
The denominations of the day often seek to have their followers believe that they are the total of the true church. Any other form of worship is degraded. The Lord usually allows them to go on that way for a while. Finally, the Lord will shine the heavenly spotlight on some vile and horrible sins within the denomination. The shock to the pride of the denomination is more than many can bear.
The early church objected to the household of Cornelius being accepted into the church body. Peter preached a sermon to this uncircumcised, un-baptized, Gentile family. Before the altar call could be given, with whatever restrictions the early church may have wanted to include, the Lord saved and filled with the Spirit the whole household. The Lord loves to ignore the prejudices of those who call themselves "saints."
Too many want to trust in works to save. They want the issue to be clothes, jewelry, make-up, tithes, church attendance, proper verbiage, etc. The Lord looks for hungry hearts. Unfortunately, the sharpening attempts of congregations who add prejudice to their message, create a group of "believers" who are unfriendly, non-evangelistic, and snobbish.
It may seem strange to say, but it is sadly true, that if sinners want to find a group of people who will accept, love and care for them, they will more easily find these people in the local bar... than in the local congregation.
There are some lessons to be learned from the local bars. Congregations who are friendly, accepting, loving, and caring places will grow. Many sinners would gladly attend and listen to the Bible being preached.
Many congregations are run by people who are like the Pharisees. The Pharisees insisted on separation from Samaritans, from the poor, from the sinful. If touched by a common person, they would wash the clothes and bathe. They prayed loudly and long. They tithed 23 and a third per cent of their income. They had the great sin of pride. In the same way many in congregations today "strain at gnats and swallow camels". Their sword sharpenings show forth their pride, prejudices, and vengefulness.
True exhortation will be based totally on the message of the Bible. It will push out prejudice and substitute loving acceptance of the different. It will forgive and push out vengefulness. It will thirst for restoration and the adding to the church. It will reject the exclusivism and separate-ness that many congregations contain.