The Man Who Fell out of Church (Application)

January 28, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 4 Comments
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Eutychus was the young man in Acts Chapter 20 who literally fell out of church. This is not a lesson about staying away from window ledges at the local church where you attend, but there are some practical applications to be learned about the dangers that await us if we ever fall into the trap of becoming unfaithful in our church attendance.

1. If you fall out of church, you will fall into ignorance.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:41-42 (emphasis added)

“Stedfastly” means doing something regularly. If possible, Christians should attend church every week – hopefully three times per week if that is how often the church you belong to has services. “Doctrine” means a systematic study of God’s Word: “Bible study.” You can study the Bible on your own – and you should – but God’s plan is for believers to meet together for the reading and teaching of his Word. People are destroyed because of a lack of knowledge. When the flow of water was cut off from a city in Bible times, the inhabitants would get thirsty, dirty, and sick. Eventually they would die. The Bible talks about the washing of water by the Word.

2. If you fall out of church, you will fall into isolation.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42 (emphasis added)

Another main function of the local church in edifying believers is fellowship. In the Book of Acts the early Christian church “broke bread” – they ate together. They also observed the Lord’s Supper, and prayed together. You can certainly eat alone, and you can pray alone, but God designed the local church so that believers could meet together. One of the reasons that God designed it this way is so that we can comfort one another in trials, temptations, and troubles. The local church is also designed for accountability.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

People in general might ask you, “How was the game?” or “How’s your job?” but in church hopefully someone is asking you, “How’s your walk with the Lord?” God created a desire in us to want to be together with others. It is not good that man should be alone (Genesis 2:18).

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

More than just being together, things really get accomplished when people come together in “one accord.” Christians should be unified – of one mind in Christ. The Apostle Paul was on a journey – a missionary journey – and the church at Troas didn’t hinder him. They could have said, “You need to stay here, you’re focusing too much energy on missions. We’ve got disputes that need to be settled.” Instead, they supported him, fed him, gave him a place to sleep, and helped him on his way.

3. If you fall out of church, you will fall into impotence.

[Disclaimer: Despite the vulgar connotation brought to mind by the ubiquitous pharmaceutical commercials on television these days, “impotence” is not a dirty word. “Impotent” is the opposite of “potent.” When something is powerful, we say, “Whew, that is some potent stuff!”]

And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.

Acts 20:9-12

The Holy Spirit used Luke to write this portion of Scripture, and Luke was a medical doctor, so when Luke writes that “Eutychus was taken up dead” we may safely assume that he was actually dead, and that the Holy Ghost used the Apostle Paul to bring him back to life. Then they went back upstairs to continue having church. These were some powerful – some empowered – believers. There are some charismatic churches today which would say it’s okay if you fall asleep in church, fall down, and get hurt. They have modern-day apostles on standby, just waiting for the opportunity to heal you, but my advice is to stay awake in church. (As much coffee as folks drink at church these days, I don’t see how anyone could fall asleep anyway.)

Babies are not very powerful when they’re first born. They need help just to eat and wash. Someone has to take care of them. They have to be taught how to walk and talk and read and write, but eventually they learn how to feed themselves and and take care of themselves. You can be a Christian and not be faithful to church, but why would you not want to be involved in helping new believers survive and grow in the Lord? Where do you give your tithe? How do you know those who labor among you in the Lord, and obey those who have the rule over you? Some people “attend” church by watching church services on television or listening on the radio or internet, but a TV doesn’t pray with you when you have a death in the family. A radio doesn’t come visit you when you’re sick in the hospital.

A common objection to faithful church participation is the hypocrisy of current church members, but, if you feel like your local church if full of hypocrites, don’t let that stop you from coming – they always have room for one more! Besides, there are hypocrites present when you go to work, school, and the grocery store, and I doubt that stops you from going to those places.

Eutychus made a mistake when he fell out of church literally, but he didn’t make the mistake of falling out of church figuratively. He was injured when he fell, but, because he was living in the center of God’s will, his mistake wasn’t ultimately fatal. The local church is there to strengthen, build up, edify the believers, and to get unified so that evangelists and missionaries can be sent forth.

Don’t fall into ignorance, isolation, or impotence by falling out of church. You might be considered an outcast by some if you become actively involved in the local church to the point where you have less time to participate in all the vain and frivolous amusements of this world, but God will in no wise cast out His children.

The Man Who Fell out of Church (Narrative)

January 11, 2013 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 6 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Man Who Fell Out of Church

God’s people were being called outcasts.

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

One of the promises God made to the people of Israel was that one day their “congregation” would be established: their organized meetings for worship, and the business of church government.

Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them.

Jeremiah 30:20

They were a people who had been punished, persecuted, and enslaved. They had become addicted to sin, and they had fallen out of the habit of going to church – of meeting together in a congregation. You may know someone right now who has gotten out of the habit of going to church, or you may be tottering on the edge of faithful church attendance yourself, about to fall out of church. You may have gone through a period in your life when you did in fact “fall out of church.”

In Acts Chapter 20 we find the true historical account of a meeting of the early church.

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Acts 20:7

These events occurred a place called Troas. The Apostle Paul was on his way to Jerusalem. He was trying to make it there for the celebration of Pentecost, and it was a very important missionary journey. He was planning to depart on the “morrow” – the next day – and this was the last time he was going to see these friends – these fellow-servants of Jesus. There were things he had to tell them.

They met together on the first day of the week – “the Lord’s Day” – which was their custom, although certainly Sundays were not the only days they met, worshiped, or ministered.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:

Colossians 2:16

Acts 20:7 says they broke bread – which probably means they observed the Lord’s Supper – and had fellowship. Then the Apostle Paul preached until midnight. I have been in some long church services, but preaching until midnight..?! Paul knew he was going to be leaving, and he had a lot to say.

And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.

Acts 20:8-9

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/firespeakseutychus.jpg?w=291

A young man named Eutychus came to church to hear the Apostle Paul preach. They were meeting up on the third floor of a building, and he sat in the window, fell asleep, fell out of the window, and died! Have you ever wondered if the Holy Spirit put some stories in the Bible for a a little comic relief? Like Balaam’s talking donkey or Samson tying together the tails of 300 foxes, we can’t help but laugh even though something serious is happening. Even funnier is the meaning of Eutychus’s name: “Eutychus” meant “fortunate” or lucky.”

I have heard this passage of Scripture preached on before in church, and the theme was the folly of falling asleep in church, but I don’t think we should be too hard on Eutychus. First of all it was late. There is a good chance that Eutychus was a slave or a servant, and he would have been tired from working all day. That may even be the reason why this meeting took place at night – the first Christians were not able to skip work on Sundays like many of us can. Eutychus did make it to church. Additionally, if the weather was warm, it would have been very stuffy up there in the third loft. It’s not like they could turn on the A.C. Furthermore, verse 8 says there were many lights burning in the upper chamber, which would have produced fumes, and would have burned up much of the oxygen. Have you ever tried to stay awake and alert in an extremely stuffy room? This may be why Eutychus was sitting by the window, but, if so, it certainly backfired on him! So, for whatever reason, Eutychus ended up being “the man who fell out of church” – literally.

It is very important for Christians to attend church faithfully, and to be involved in church ministry activities. God doesn’t “need” me at church – but He knows I need to be there. The Church is the body of Christ. As Christians, we are the body and He is the head. It is incongruous for someone to love the Head, but hate the body. The Church is also the bride of Christ, and, likewise, it makes little sense to love a person, but hate that person’s spouse. When you become a Christian you become part of the capital “C” Church – the universal Church consisting of all born-again believers everywhere – but it is crucial for you to be a part of a local body of believers, too.

The main purpose of the local church is the edification of the saints.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

The Lord uses the local church to help believers to grow and to get stronger. If you are trying to decide on a local church to join right now, pray about it. Search the Scriptures. Listen to the Holy Spirit. God wants you to be attending and serving somewhere.

Next time, we will look at some of the dangers and consequences of falling out of church.

The Slave (His Obligations)

December 17, 2012 at 11:26 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Outcasts of Ministry | 2 Comments
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Last time we saw that:

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.
2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

Now we will see that:

3. The obligations of a slave determine his usefulness.

As a disobedient, runaway slave, Onesimus incurred a debt, or an obligation, he could not pay. But after he was saved, when he became a servant to Christ, the Apostle Paul taught him that he must live up to his obligations. Onesimus owed a debt to Philemon – either for stealing or running away in violation of his legal bondage. Paul wrote to Philemon and basically told him that he did not want to impose upon him as a brother in Christ. Paul had ministered to Philemon and they both served the same Lord, so it would not have been out of line for Paul to simply ask Philemon to forgive Onesimus for Paul’s sake, and let him stay with Paul. But that’s not what Paul did. He sent Onesimus back, and told Philemon, “He may not be able to pay what he owes you, but…”

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it: albeit I do not say to thee how thou owest unto me even thine own self besides.

Philemon vv. 18-19

We have all been in Onesimus’s situation. We all owed a sin debt we could never repay. Isn’t that a wonderful picture of what the Lord did for us on the Cross? And the promise and security we have as believers? “Put that on my account,” says Christ to the Father. “I’ve already paid it all.”

Onesimus was useless as an earthly slave because he owed a debt he could never pay back. But as a servant of Jesus Christ, he had someone to stand in his place, in love, and say, “Charge it to my account.”

When the Lord Jesus spoke to His Disciples, He said,

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.

John 15:14-15

A servant has to obey. Obedience is not really his choice. We might say that’s a big difference – a servant has to obey, but a friend doesn’t. However, it’s different when you’re a friend of the king. See, the king’s friends have a special relationship with the king. The king’s friends are his servants, but they have reached the level of friendship as well, because they have already shown they can be trusted to obey. With whom does a king share his secrets? His closest friends. When the king says, “Jump,” his servants ask, “How high?” But his friends don’t ask “how high,” because when the king says “jump,” his friends are already two feet in the air.

You can see an example of this in the case of Abraham, who the Bible calls “a friend of God.” In Genesis 18, two angels and the Lord came to visit Abraham in his tent in the heat of the day. He was nearly 100 years old, but for about 15 verses Abraham went into hyper-drive. Not only did he get busy ministering to his guests, but he encouraged everybody else to do the same. After a while, the two angels leave, and the Lord stays behind to share His secrets with Abraham – in other words, to talk with His friend.

We can also see David’s close friends (II Samuel 23:13-17) hear him sighing for a drink of water, upon which they risk their lives to go get it from a special well.

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant.

Psalm 25:14

One day in Heaven we’ll have face-to-face fellowship with the Lord, but I’m glad I don’t have to wait to have true fellowship with Him. I can be a trusted friend, and a useful servant now. But I have to remember that God is the owner of my life, not me. I need to be accountable to my overseers – to remember to be loyal to those God has placed in authority over me. Finally, I need to remember that I could never pay the debt for my sins. Christ Jesus had those charged to His account. But I do need to respond in love and live up to the obligations He has graciously entrusted to me.

A runaway slave in ancient times was an outcast. In modern society slavery is no longer legal, but a servant of God, although he might be an outcast in the world, can be a friend of God and a child of God. God the Father will in no wise cast out His children.

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

John 6:37

The Slave (His Owner and Overseer)

December 4, 2012 at 11:50 am | Posted in Outcasts of Ministry | 9 Comments
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This is a continuation of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

The Slave

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

The people of Zion were considered to be outcasts, and part of what led to them being outcasts was that they had been taken into captivity. They had been enslaved by another nation.

Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the LORD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.

Jeremiah 30:10 (emphasis added)

Being called a slave has a negative connotation in society today. One sibling says to another, “Could you go to my room and bring me my shoes,” and the reply comes back: “I’m not your slave!” Therefore, it might sound strange to us when someone invites us to become God’s “slaves.” The most common word in the Bible for a slave is “servant.” Historians estimate that in New Testament times approximately one-third of all the inhabitants of Greece and Italy were slaves. There were millions of slaves in the Roman Empire. Many of the first believers in the New Testament were slaves. Slavery in the United States is illegal today (unless you count some of the housewives or church custodians I know!) But when it comes to being a slave, or a servant, there is no shame in being a servant of the Most High God.

For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant.

I Corinthians 7:22

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

Romans 1:1 (emphasis added)

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

James 1:1 (emphasis added)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

II Peter 1:1 (emphasis added)

Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

Jude v. 1 (emphasis added)

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Revelation 1:1 (emphasis added)

Even the Old Testament saints carried this designation:

And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints.

Revelation 15:3 (emphasis added)

I want to look specifically at the account of a man named Onesimus, who was a slave in the earthly sense and a slave in the spiritual sense. He is found in the Book of Philemon. The Book is called “Philemon” not because it was written by Philemon, but because it is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to Philemon. Philemon was a Colossian believer who owned a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus ran away. We don’t know the reason why. It may have been because he had stolen something from his master, or it may have been because Philemon, as a Christian, had become too lenient on him, and Onesimus took advantage of the situation to plan his escape. Philemon made his way to Rome, which would have been a good place to hide, but there he encountered the Apostle Paul, who led him to Christ.

Paul himself was a prisoner at Rome, but he had a certain amount of freedom to spread the Gospel, and apparently he treasured his relationship with Onesimus. The name “Onesimus” meant “useful,” and the name “Philemon” meant “one who kisses.” If you have ever been made a little uncomfortable by a fellow church member who was little too touchy-feely and huggy-kisssy in his greetings to you at church, you may be surmising that this was the real reason Onesimus ran away!

Despite bearing the name “useful,” though, as a runaway slave Onesimus turned out to be anything but useful to his master. Conversely, as a servant to God, Onesimus became extremely useful. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to make something of a play on words about this in his letter:

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds:

Philemon v. 1

Onesimus escaped from his own bonds, and ended up helping Paul – and the work of the Lord – in Paul’s bonds.

Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me:

Philemon v. 11

Paul wrote to Philemon as if to say, “Old ‘Useful’ was useless to you, but he’s been useful to me – he’s finally living up to his name!”

Whether someone is a slave (servant) to Christ, or whether someone was an earthly slave with an earthly master – and Onesimus was both – three main things determine a slave’s “usefulness:”

1. The owner of a slave determines his usefulness.

See, before Onesimus was saved by Jesus, he wasn’t just owned by Philemon. He was in a greater bondage than the bondage of earthly slavery. Just like you and me, he was a slave to sin, and in a sense he was owned by Satan.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:

I Peter 1:18-19

If you are truly a Christian, that means you were “redeemed.” “Redemption” is the act of purchasing a slave out of slavery. There is a price that was paid for your redemption. It wasn’t a monetary price, and it certainly wasn’t your own good works. Redemption in Jesus Christ doesn’t cost us anything, but it is not free. The price of redemption for the unforgiven sinner, the slave of Satan, is the precious blood of Christ. As the once-popular hymn says, “What can wash away my sin? What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

A slave owned by the devil, bound with the cords of sin, is completely useless to the work of the Lord, but a servant of God, rightfully purchased, set free, and then lovingly owned by the One Who created him in the first place, is very useful.

2. The overseer of a slave determines his usefulness.

An overseer is under a slave-owner, but over the slave. An overseer is responsible for watching a slave work on an everyday basis. A slave knows who his owner is, but he knows his overseer personally. Before Onesimus was saved, when he was a servant in the household of Philemon, he had an earthly overseer. After he met the Apostle Paul, and became converted, Paul in a sense became his “overseer.” As servants of God – even though we serve Him directly – He has placed overseers over us.

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Hebrews 13:17

And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;

I Thessalonians 5:12

As an earthly slave, Onesimus betrayed his overseer by running away, and maybe worse.

If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account;

Philemon v. 18

But as a servant of God, Philemon was a great blessing to his overseer.

Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:

Philemon v. 13

Next time we will see that the obligations of a slave also determine his usefulness.

The Addict (Signs of Addiction)

November 9, 2012 at 10:19 am | Posted in I Corinthians, Outcasts of Ministry | 1 Comment
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Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church

Last time we contrasted some of the characteristics of the worldly addict with those of the ministry addict.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I Corinthians 16:15 (emphasis added)

Now we will look at the signs of addiction:

1. A strong, almost overwhelming urge to engage in a certain behavior

But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing,

Galatians 4:18

It would certainly not be good to be zealous in your affections about crack cocaine. It’s not good to be zealous in your affections about your outward appearance. But it is good to be zealous in your affections about ministry – because ministry is a good basis for addiction. In the world, you are an outcast if you are addicted to the “wrong” thing, and you’re popular if you’re addicted to the “right” thing. But these views of “right” and “wrong” are fleeting and fickle. Sometimes sexual addiction is seen as titillating or a sign of virility – until it ruins someone’s life or someone’s marriage. You might remember the “heroin chic” phase, when the media glamorized the emaciated bodies and dark eyes of runway models who used drug addiction as a means to stay thin.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/head.jpg?w=270

Some addictions seem pretty cool until they go too far and make the addict an outcast. Likewise, an addiction to ministry might cause unbelievers to cast you out – but God won’t consider you an outcast for it.

2. Feelings of low self-esteem

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3

A drug addict or a compulsive over-eater has low self-esteem because he doesn’t think he’s worth anything. A ministry addict has low self-esteem because he believes that serving Christ is worth everything. The message of the world is “believe in yourself,” but don’t you buy into that vain philosophy! In America we love to talk about our “rights” and entitlements – that we think we deserve as individuals. But that’s a false view of freedom. Real freedom comes when we become so addicted to ministry that we give up our “right” to be first, and esteem others better than ourselves.

3. Drawing away from the normal activities of daily life

No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

II Timothy 2:4

One of the dangers of even seemingly-harmless worldly addictions (that favorite TV show that you just can’t miss, for example) is that we become too entangled with them to have time for ministry. Ask someone who is serving active military duty in a combat zone. A soldier ready for battle at any moment can’t say, “Hold off on the fighting for a couple of days – I just started fixing up my car.” He can’t say, “I just met this new girl and she’s all I can think about right now.” Soldiers have to be focused. They can’t afford to be addicted to “fun” things. A worldly addict may find himself dropping out of polite society because of devotion to his addiction, but a ministry addict is someone who is in the world (which is the battleground of spiritual warfare), but not of the world. Nothing should capture our affection, our adoration, or our attention more than the work of the Lord.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21

4. A feeling of euphoria, or pleasure, while engaging in the addictive behavior

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

Psalm 111:2

The worldly addict gets a physical “kick” out of his addiction. That’s one of the big problems with addiction. Addicts build an immunity and need more and more of the object of their addiction. Many scientists believe this phenomenon is caused by chemicals in the brain. The truth is, God understands our need for pleasure – for a good feeling or satisfaction in the works we do. But Christians are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. One of the quickest ways to grieve the Holy Spirit is by exposing His presence in our bodies to the false pleasure of sinfully carnal pursuits. The worldly addict can never be satisfied, but he can get brief pleasure from feeding the flesh with the object of his addiction. The ministry addict, however, surrenders to the Holy Ghost and takes pleasure in those things in which He takes pleasure.

What’s the one thing that the Holy Ghost really longs to do?

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

John 16:13-14

Glorifying the Lord Jesus is the ministry of the Holy Spirit. What can we do to be used by the Holy Spirit to do that?

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.

I John 4:11-13

Stephanas ministered to the saints – to other believers. By so doing, he glorified Christ Jesus, and pleased the Holy Spirit of God. The worldly addict seeks a short-lived artificial high, and makes himself an outcast in pursuing it. The ministry addict seeks an eternal lasting pleasure – the pleasure of the Holy Ghost who dwells within him.

The Addict (His Characteristics)

October 31, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Posted in I Corinthians, Outcasts of Ministry | 11 Comments
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This is the beginning of a series of lessons entitled Outcasts of Ministry: The Addict, the Slave, and the Man Who Fell Out of Church.

What is an outcast? It is someone who has been excluded, or who does not “fit in.”

For I will restore health unto thee, and I will heal thee of thy wounds, saith the LORD; because they called thee an Outcast, saying, This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after.

Jeremiah 30:17

An outcast is someone who has been expelled or driven out – someone whom nobody seeks after or wants to be around. In Jeremiah 30:17 God sent words of comfort to Zion – the people of Jerusalem who were then in captivity. The other nations were calling them an Outcast. No one was inquiring after the Temple or the holy city. Why had God allowed them to reach this condition – to become “outcasts?”

Why criest thou for thine affliction? thy sorrow is incurable for the multitude of thine iniquity: because thy sins were increased, I have done these things unto thee.

Jeremiah 30:15

Their incurable sorrows were caused by their incurable lusts – their sinful desires. God knew their hearts, and He observed their actions, and they were “addicted” to sin.

The first of the three “outcasts” that I want to talk about is the “addict.” To call someone an “addict” has a negative connotation in society today. There are all kinds of addicts. Many of the things that we could become addicted to, according to Scripture, are clearly wrong. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography, fornication are common examples. There are other things that may not be clearly wrong, but are still sources of addiction for many people: TV, radio, internet, junk food, coffee. In the interest of full disclosure I will admit that I myself struggle with a serious addiction. I am addicted to fried chicken and green Kool-Aid.

fried chicken

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/green-kool-aid.jpg?w=273

There, I’m not proud of it, but I admitted it. Go ahead and judge me…! All kidding aside though, I am aware that addiction can be a very serious problem, and I’m thankful for those who have come up with ways to combat addictions. Sadly, though, most of the ways our society treats addiction deal more with treating the symptoms than eradicating the source, and I am afraid we are fighting a losing battle. A true addiction can only be cured by a changed heart.

For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

Romans 7:18-19

O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…

Romans 7:24-25

The only solution to beating a sinful addiction is the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. Once He has set us free, we are to follow the ways the Bible sets forth for not getting involved in our old addictions again.

Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:2

Once you have trusted Christ, you may replace your worldly addictions with the things of God. Are you involved in Christian ministry? Is your family? Most of the things that come to mind when we hear the term “family activities” are worldly activities, but families can and should minister together. And even if you are not part of a ministering biological family, you definitely need to be part of a local church family.

Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God…

I Chronicles 29:3

Most of the time addictions are something bad, but the Word of God speaks of one who had the right kind of addiction. In I Corinthians Chapter 16, the Holy Ghost, through the Apostle Paul, is writing the closing of His first letter to the Corinthians, and He singles out a few individuals who are positive examples to the believers.

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,)

I Corinthians 16:15

The Holy Spirit of God says, of all the things in the world that you could be addicted to, if you’re going to be addicted, here’s what you need to be addicted to: the ministry of the saints.

Here are some of the characteristics of a person who is an addict:

1. His addiction becomes visibly apparent.

You will see this with people who are addicted to certain types of drugs. In the area where I live addiction to crystal meth is epidemic. The judges in the courts of my district have gotten so adept at spotting crystal meth addiction that they can usually tell just by looking at a litigant’s teeth as she stands before the bench. Another example is people who suffer from alcoholism getting the “shakes” when they go too long without a drink.

I Corinthians 16:15 tells us that Stephanas was known. Because he was the first person converted to Christianity in Achaia, he was known to God, but it is because he was addicted to the ministry of the saints that he was known among the other Christians. Worldly addicts are known for selfishness. Christians who are “spiritually addicted” should be known for ministry.

2. An addict is a burden on his family.

As you read this, do you have a loved one for whom you regularly pray to be delivered from addiction? Most of us do. If you belong to a church with a bus ministry or a children’s outreach ministry, how many children in your children’s church or Sunday School services shed tears every week during prayer request time over their parents’ addictions? Not only was Stephanas addicted to ministry, but his household was, too – his entire family. What do they say about the House of [insert your last name here]? Worldly addicts bring shame to their families, but addiction to ministry will spread to your whole family, bringing blessings instead of shame.

3. His addiction is a drain on resources.

Could a forensic accountant examine your checkbook and your bank statements and your household budget and be able to determine where your heart is? Are there entries for tithes and offerings – for missions giving – for love offerings? Or would those entries be outweighed by your entertainment budget? Do you spend more on entertainment – cable TV, internet service, movies, and restaurants – than you give to the work of the Lord? A gambling or drug or shopping addiction will quickly create problems with your finances. But an addiction to ministry…

I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus: for that which was lacking on your part they have supplied.

I Corinthians 16:17

The legacy of Stephanas, the ministry addict, was that he supplied that which was lacking. The worldly addict takes away that which is needed, but the ministry addict provides that which is missing.

4. His addiction makes him difficult to be around.

What’s the worst part about being around an addict? Often, addicts have a variety of unpleasant symptoms that go along with their addictions: bad breath, body odors, slovenly appearance. But the outward signs of addiction are not the worst things about it. Maybe the worst thing is that their addiction comes first. If you’ve been around someone with a desperate addiction, you know that they tend to want to talk about nothing other than their addiction. Unless the listener is a fellow addict, he probably doesn’t have a lot to add to a conversation about gambling or pornography. The nature of most addictions is that they make the addict very self-centered. However, a person who is truly addicted to ministry is somebody that most people will like to be around. Ministry addicts have an attitude of “what can I do for you” instead of “what can you do for me.” This is what the Apostle Paul had to say about Stephanas:

I am glad of the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus… For they have refreshed my spirit and yours…

I Corinthians 16:17-18

Stephanas was the kind of person you would have been glad to see coming. You wouldn’t have had to check your wallet, or hide the women and children. If you were feeling low, he was the type that would lift your mood, refresh your spirit. When the Bible says he was a minister to the “saints” it doesn’t mean that he polished the statues of St. Peter and St. Paul and St. Mary, or that he lit candles for previously deceased Christians. It means that he looked for ways to take care of the needs of other believers – living believers – brothers and sisters in Christ – and he did it to the glory of God. He was excited about it, and he did it with a smile on his face.

Are you addicted to ministry? Do you look for opportunities to be a blessing to others? As a Christian, I should strive to be a blessing, not a burden.

Next time, I will compare the signs of worldly addiction with the signs of ministry addiction.


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