If we do these ten things that build the culture of camaraderie within the church of God. We will be strong and powerful and we will be ever so much happier and thrilled to be a part of what Jesus Christ is doing through us.
Well, the opportunity to give you a sermon today, as Mr. Myers mentioned, came a little unexpectedly, but I had this sermon that I have given a long time ago, and every so often I like to resurface a sermon or rework them and I've been looking at it, it's been sitting in my office, on top of one of my stacks of stuff. I'm not the most organized acadamian, I'm afraid. But then I haven't found many that are highly organized. We mostly don't use filing systems, we use piling systems. And I have to sort through the piles fairly often so I know generally where things are and if it's something that catches you off guard well that's when you sort through the piles to find out where things are. But this one happened to be at the top of the stack on the left-hand side of my desk, and it is a topic, I think, that is very beneficial for us in the church all around the world to be thinking about because we live in an age that is losing camaraderie. That rapport, that warmth, that spirit of togetherness and teamwork. We're losing that.
We see the world facing one schism after another. Internationally, you've seen the news. America is divided inside itself, and working at cross purposes to its normal national interests. We have new alliances being made of all things between the state of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Allying to block what's happening in Iran with their nuclear development. Now, to have the Jews and the Arabs in a not secret pact, because they have had secret pacts, various ones of them with Israel at various times through history, but this one is fairly public and has been in the news over the past couple of weeks. We know that we are seeing increasing tensions, but you see the breaking apart of the usual alliances, sometimes the forming of other alliances, and sometimes not. Sometimes you have nations out there, almost it seems like floating and looking for connection to their advantage.
We don't have a spirit of teamwork in the world and we don't expect it, I suppose. But we certainly should have a spirit of teamwork and a culture of camaraderie within the Church of God. And that's the title. The Culture of Camaraderie. And if you're taking notes on your computer you will spell camaraderie right because in fact it will correct how you try to spell it. And if you don't have a computer, it's c-a-m-a-r-a-d-e-r-i-e. At least that's my spelling of it. Camaraderie.
It's a list. This is a list sermon, but it's a list of topics that are, we know are important, but I want them to be viewed as to how they pull this together and how they energize and inspire us. And it's the ten elements of the culture of camaraderie. That's essentially what we're going to be going through. So you get ten points that we'll be making notes about, thinking about. This is a sermon that is not complete when it's finished. It's one for the thinking. For the mulling over, discussing, in the week to come.
1. First of all, the first element of a culture of camaraderie is a visionary goal orientation. Visionary goal orientation.
We know our goal but do we stay oriented to it? Let's look at that goal. It's in Matthew 6. It's no secret. This is one of our key memory scriptures. I know because I looked it up. Just joking, I remembered it, too. Christ is talking here about not worrying about what we're going to wear, what we're going to eat, etcetera, etcetera. In fact, it's quite marvelous to read that part starting in Matthew 6:28, it looks like here. So why do you worry about clothing? He said. This is in Matthew 6. Consider the lilies of the field. These beautiful flowers and how they grow. They neither toil or spin. And yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. And you can take the lily, or you can take almost any flower that God created, especially when you get down and look at it up close, you know? And if you can't get down and look at it up close, you get a camera and take a picture, and then you look at the picture up close. One way or the other, you look at it and you marvel at the intricate detail. And the closer you look, the more marvelous it is. Consider the lilies of the field and how they neither toil or spin and yet I say to you to Solomon and all his glory, when he was the king of Israel in the golden age of the history of Israel around in the 900's B.C., he was not arrayed like one of these when he was in his finest regal robes. He wasn't as pretty as a flower, just a regular flower that God made. Now, if God so clothes the grass of the field which is, today is and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So then it continues on leading us to our destination verse; therefore do not worry saying 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?'' We didn't get up this morning worrying about what we would eat, or what we would drink. Well, I worried because I was concerned that I had enough good coffee beans in the freezer for a decent cup of coffee later in the morning. And then I remembered, Oh, we've got a lot of beans in the freezer, so I didn't have to worry.
Or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek, that's what the world is all concerned about, for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things and then comes the killer verse, it's Matthew 6:33, But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you. Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Have a visionary goal orientation. We get caught up in our everyday cycle of life; the shopping, the schoolwork, the drudge of traffic, any kind of thing we want to do. Now, of course, we have so many more electronic distractions of the video game variety, and email, and facebook. You know, that's all well and good if they are well and good in their place in a reasonable amount, but they consume vast amounts of time. They waste vast amounts of time if you let them. We need to focus more on God's Kingdom. That's why we're here. That's what our message is.
We have, in a sense, we have a product if you want to call it that, to use sort of the commercial analogy, that we have to offer the world. It is not that we are a humanitarian organization, although we try to be involved in what we are able to be involved in within the constraints of Galatians 6:10. You can jot that down and look it up later. But our main product, and our main output is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. Because the true Church of God comprehends and understands it. And the Kingdom of God itself is as it says it is. It is a mystery to most of Christianity. They know it's in the Bible. They even sing hymns or songs about it sometimes on Christian radio stations. Some really beautiful ones, too. I'll look at one of the verses that one of the songs came from in a minute. But, they don't understand how it plays out within their theological concept of when you die you go to Heaven or you go to an ever-burning hell, but where does the Kingdom of God come in? It isn't understood.
Go down, next time you're in a Christian bookstore, wander down the aisles of the books that are on doctrinal topics, and they'll be in alphabetical order, so you wander down until you find the K's, and you will find very few books, or almost none, about the Kingdom of God. Where the Kingdom of God is a part of the title. Because it's simply not understood. For us, it is our bread and butter, it's our meat. It's what we do and who we are. And so to have the same goal orientation pulls us together. Whatever our background, personality differences are, that pulls us together. And we have to make sure that it is pulling us together so that we aren't pulled apart.
To pursue the Kingdom of God is the greatest service and love we can show for all of mankind, so visionary goal orientation is of critical importance. However, we're still in Matthew 6, I wanted to point something interesting out here, this is slightly, but not, off topic. It was Matthew 6:34, Christ was saying, Seek first the kingdom of God and it's righteousness, and all these things, all these other things, clothing, food and shelter, etc., will be added to you. Therefore, He says, Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about it's own things. He just used a humorous technique. It's called personification. He made tomorrow into a person. Tomorrow will worry about its own things. And then he threw in a classic Jewish understatement. Sufficient for the day is it's own trouble. Every day has enough trouble of it's own. The reason I point that out is that Jesus Christ had a sense of humor. And you didn't notice it here because it's a dry sense of humor, it's ironic sense of humor here, but He had that and this is one of the classic cases, I have another sermon, I couldn't find it in the pile this morning, because it's in a different one, about the humor of Christ. But since we're here I thought I'd point that one out, because that actually is a part of one of the points that we'll be making here shortly.
2. The next point, number two. We've given number one as visionary goal orientation. And number two is a mission focus.
Now this ties directly, obviously, to number one. Let's go to, we're in Matthew, let's go to chapter 24 of Matthew. We have a mission, that is our primary mission, we do good unto all men, especially those as we have opportunity, but especially to those of the household of faith, that's Galatians 6:10 that I mentioned earlier. But Matthew 24:14 makes a statement that we have to do our part to help fulfill. Matthew 24:14. This is talking about the end of the age. And we're in the end of the age. We're nearer the end of the age than we have ever been before. And this gospel of the Kingdom, meaning the Kingdom of God, will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. And a great part of that preaching, based on the other scriptures and the other direct commands that Christ gave His people, His Church, is that we would do a great deal of that preaching. There will be other ways that He will bring things about in the course of the final fulfillment of things, but the Church has the main duty to preach the gospel. That is the gospel Jesus brought. It's not the gospel just about Jesus as a person, it is the gospel He brought. In the course of telling it, we talk about Christ, that's for sure. But it's the gospel that He brought and He handed off to His apostles, disciples first, then they were the apostles, and then to the church at large historically as we move down line from them. This gospel must be preached in all the world. That is something that has to be done. We know that is part of the command for us to do and that is made clear in several places. The end of the first three gospel accounts, let's look at Matthew 28 because it gives Christ's summary there, but you'll see, you'll find one at the end of Mark and the end of Luke, and one of those it specifically speaks about preaching the gospel. But in Matthew 28:18 it says, all authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth. That's Christ speaking to the Church through the apostles, because He spoke to them first. All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples, and how are disciples made? By preaching the gospel. The seed of the gospel has to be put into the minds of people at large, and then some of that seed God causes to germinate in our age and that we, then, have to harvest just as we are being spiritually harvested ourselves. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the age. Mission focus. Preach the gospel and prepare a people. Our motto for the United Church of God. Right on our seal. And it is a marvelous Kingdom that we're focused on. I mentioned this verse earlier, but it's in Hebrews 12. This is one where one of the traditional Christian singers that's a very fine voice made a beautiful song out of this one. It's in the section at the end of Hebrews 12, it's a great stir to action before we get to this sort of salutatory comments of chapter 13. It starts in Hebrews 12:25 to give us the paragraph that leads into the verse we're focused on after that. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. That is God who speaks to us. For if they did not escape who refused him, referring to ancient Israel and their many rebellions and such. Whom He spoke to on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth, on Mt. Sinai as well as other times, but now He has promised saying yet once more, I shake not only the earth but also heaven. Now this 'yet once more' indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken as of things that are made which cannot be shaken, that the things which cannot be shaken remain. So we know based on prophecies of the end of the age, and then prophecies at the end of the Great White Throne Judgment, meaning the lake of fire and the consuming of the planet in that sense the shaking of it with the fire that consumes it all and the atmosphere being the Heaven of what is left won't be shaken. Therefore since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, or I think in the King James it says an 'unshakeable kingdom', Let us have grace that we may serve God acceptably with reverence and Godly fear. So, a mission focus on God's Kingdom and a proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the harvesting, or the preparing of people. God's people. Mission focus is the second part. When we have the same goal and the same mission, and we're focused on that mission, we tend to forage as a team. That overwhelms all the other obstacles within human nature.
3. Number three in our list of the ten elements of the culture of camaraderie, inner loyalty. Inner loyalty.
Not an outer loyalty that is proclaimed but not acted upon, but I mean an inner loyalty that's soul deep. First of all to God, the Father, and Jesus Christ, inner loyalty to God. And inner loyalty to the true Church of God, and the work of God that is being done. And frankly, we'll get to another point that covers that, but an inner loyalty to God's word would, I think, fall into that line as well. That inner loyalty has to be functional within the Body of Christ.
Let's go to Ephesians 6 for understanding that. Sorry, chapter 4. Ephesians 4. Right book, wrong chapter. We'll begin in Ephesians 4:7 and lead to the key verse here in a moment. But to each of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift. Therefore, He says: "When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and He gave gifts to men." Now these are the spiritual gifts that Christ, Himself, specifically gives. Now this, "He ascended" - what does it mean but that He first descended to the lower parts of the earth? In other words, He came to the Earth and then He ascended back to the throne of the Father. He who has descended is also the One who has ascended above all the heavens that he might fill all things. And He Himself gave some to be apostles, so here are the gifts He gave to men, some to be apostles, some prophets, and we had apostles in the early New Testament Church of God, we're part of that, by the way, the New Testament era of the Church of God. There were the twelve. Barnabas was also an apostle, and Paul was, and James was, James the brother of Christ, because as you remember, the other James, James the brother of John, was one of the first of the twelve to be martyred, that was recorded in Acts 12.
So, we have the apostles, there were a few other apostles as well. And some prophets. There were prophets in the New Testament churches at that time, and even several prophetesses, the daughters of Philip, the deacon who became an evangelist who lived in Caesarea in the book of Acts. You might wonder why did we need prophets in the church back then. Well, a good reason would be for why is because the New Testament wasn't written yet. There was a need for some specific communication through whomever God chose to bring to the attention of the apostles. Details that needed to be revealed. That, of course, then comes down to us in the package. We call the New Testament because we haven't seen in our era prophets other than the general job of all of us working together to support the preaching forth the council of God. Prophecy is not always just foretelling, it is speaking forth, or forth-telling God's way in the New Testament.
Some evangelists, we've had those, and pastors and teachers for the equipping of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the Body of Christ. So we have then an inner loyalty to the structure that Christ established. And a loyalty to doing whatever we fall into that category within the Body of Christ, a loyalty to the service that God has called us to. Supporting, encouraging those who have more responsible positions than maybe we do, although we all have very responsible positions when you look at it in the broad sense, very responsible positions. So, an inner loyalty to Christ and the Father, to the Church of God and recognize that special calling of the ministry and the support and effort that we work together to do God's work. Otherwise we will work apart. And that is not our goal. So that's the third one.
4. The fourth element of the culture of camaraderie is a sense of duty. A sense of duty.
Somebody might say, well, what happened to love? Well love comes in. It's all over here, isn't it? Bear in mind, true love is based on a sense of duty, and if the duty is not there, it's not true love. Duty is very powerful. Sometimes I think that's underestimated. When you stop and think about, especially in our day, especially 2011, sorry, 9/11 in 2001, we are seeing an erosion in the fabric and the fiber of America more and more as we go along, and other nations, too. But there has been a generation of young men whose sense of duty has been quite amazing in our time. Some of them have been written in books, others are written about them, that's what carries them on into great personal danger to kill people and break things, and prevent those people from killing their people and breaking their things, which is the purpose and the ways of the world. We're not a part of that. My Kingdom is not of this world, Jesus said, otherwise my servants would fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews. My kingdom isn't from here. We have a different kingdom and a different mission and a different purpose, but the sense of duty we see around us often in the military and other responsible positions like that, we need to reflect that at a deeper level, spiritually.
I Corinthians 9. In mulling over an example of that, I don't know if you can pick a better example among men than the apostle Paul. Maybe there is some that is good, but Paul was remarkable. We know the apostle Paul's story. We know that as he said he was an apostle born out of time. He was called after everything else he was a persecutor of the church, a deadly persecutor of the church, he was responsible for the martyrdom of Stephen. In Acts 7 he was the one overseeing that. He was, in a sense, the Gestapo of the Pharisees. He had the authority and the officers to go in the night and knock on the door and drag people out of their homes and haul them off to prison, and scourgings, and beatings, and even to death. He did that. And we also know the story, where in the book of Acts, God struck him down on the road to Damascus. A reason he was going to Damascus was because he had a sheaf full of letters of extradition. He was going to arrest church members who had fled from Jerusalem to Damascus and bring them back so they could be beaten or whipped or put to death like Stephen had been. And the irony of his position, especially looking at it from a 20th Century, 21st Century perspective is remarkable. He was a slave to duty as he saw it, and he was fearless and persistent. And having a sense of duty, for him, is what made him one of the dynamos of the Pharisaic movement. God harvested that sense of duty and turned it completely around. He changed his dedication to the truth, and to serving Christ instead of fighting Christ in all those things. So we read this remarkable statement. It comes in chapter 9. Let's see if I can, I have tiny verse numbers. 2 Corinthians. There's no verse 16 in 2 Corinthians 9. Tricky thing, the Bible. 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians. Chapter 9. Now Paul is talking about his responsibility as now an elder and actually an apostle. One who is sent with a message. A message he is very actively preaching and we know the kind of service that he provided in that sense the trouble that he went through to preach the gospel, to establish congregations, to pastor churches, to train other men to do the same. Some of that is written down in 2 Corinthians, where I was lost before. Chapter 11. But here it comes back to focus on his sense of duty and the gospel 2 Corinthians 9:15. But I have used none of these things. The things mentioned are taking income or the tithes from the brethren in an area that he was opening up. He was pioneering. He left their tithes to support pastors that he trained to look after them as he moved on to another area. They lacked mass communication in those days so you had to be there, they had to be within the sound of your voice to preach the gospel. But I have used none of these things, nor have I written these things that is should be done to me, for it would be better for me to die than anyone should make my boasting void. And then 2 Corinthians 9:16 is a rather quixotic verse. And this is the one we're looking for. For I preach the gospel, and we know what gospel it is, the gospel of God's Kingdom, for if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me. Duty. It is my duty, I have to do it. I cannot not do it. For necessity, or duty, is laid upon me. Yes, he goes on to say, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. I have to do it. He has to follow through. It is a sense of duty that drove Paul forward because he had a lot of pain that he willingly endured. He went on to say in 2 Corinthians 9:17 for if I do this willingly I have a great reward. But against my will I have entrusted with a stewardship. I have to preach the gospel. I have to build the church. I have to carry the message of God's Kingdom to as many as I can reach. Paul exhibited a remarkable sense of duty. A sense of duty that we should share in serving God, serving the brethren wherever and whatever way we can. To stand up for the truth of God, to be able to give a reason of the hope that lies within it, as Peter said. That lies within us, when we're asked. Not to shrink away when somebody asks something or makes a comment about world events in prophecy, but to step in and speak about that. Where the door opens and someone is interested in listening we have a duty to add a comment, to engage in a conversation wherever that opportunity arises.
So, a sense of duty, combined with an inner loyalty to mission focus and a visionary goal orientation really begins to build and coalesce a group together, all focused in the same direction, all moving. But there's more. There's a lot more.
5. Number five. There's a love of God, man, and the truth. The love of God, man and the truth.
Let's go back to the book of John for this particular point. John 15. Now this is Jesus' final teaching session with His disciples before everything wraps up and He is going to be arrested and all the events that transpire leading to His crucifixion on the daylight of that particular day He was in. This is the beginning of the 14th and He's still in teaching session after the Passover meal and then the institution of the New Testament Passover symbols. So in chapter, I'm sorry, I said 15, I meant 14 and verse 15. John 14:15. If you love Me, keep My commandments. The love of God. And we show that love by following God's commandments. Bearing in mind that God's commandments are the true commandments. That is the definition of His way of life. So, we are to love God the Father and Christ above all by keeping God's commandments
And we are to have a profound love for mankind. Now this in John 15:12-13. We find it easier to love those who are near to us, and in the church, we should be near to each other in affection. This is My commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, than lay down his life for his friends. Christ laid down His life for us. But you know, He laid down His life not only for those who are His disciples, but for every man, woman and child that would ever live. They will have their day. Whether now, whether in the millennium, whether in the white throne judgment, they will have their day and calling to the knowledge of the truth and accepting that sacrifice He paid on their behalf. So we can't read verse 15 in a parochial sense. Parochial meaning just narrowed down to us. It applies to all of mankind. A great love of God, man, and the truth. Notice John 14, again, right where we left off, just a little ways past, He promises to send God's Spirit and He refers to it as the spirit of truth which the world cannot receive because it neither sees it nor knows it. And I had put it instead of him because the spirit isn't a him. In English. It might be in Greek, but it isn't in English. It's not a person.
And then in John 4. We love God. We love mankind. We love our brethren in particular, but we love all of mankind. We love our neighbor as ourselves. We also have to love God's truth. God's Spirit is not only the spirit of truth that if we're tuned in to God, and following Him faithfully, staying close to Him, it leads us always into His truth. So, John 4:24 is particularly perceptive for us. God is spirit. He communicates this with us through the power of His Spirit directly. And those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. So we have to love the truth.
A remarkable thing is the exceptionalism of the true Church of God is that it teaches the truth. Traditional Christianity doesn't understand the truth. You say, they know a lot. Yes, they do. They mixed a lot of paganism with it. Which is pretty much what the ancient Israelites did, except they did it in a broader, more in-your-face scale by far. Traditional Christianity does not understand God's truth. It will when it's day comes and we, many of us in the church today, came out of various elements of traditional Christianity, and find that we can look back and we can see the dramatic difference of what we understand from the Bible, from God's word, God's truth, versus what we understood before.
So, we have to love the truth as God has revealed it to us. We need to, in the course of loving God and man and the truth, we need to recapture the true values. Always seeking what is the right way to do things. This is an active love. It's not just an affection that hides in our mind or our heart, it's an active love. We need to listen to the stories of the true church in our era and those that we can read about because there are histories that talk about the primitive church or the early church or the Jewish church in formal church history documents or textbooks, that's what they refer to the church that we are now. The early church of the apostles did not look like traditional Christianity. Church historians, I mean secular church historians in universities and such, they know that. So they refer to it as the primitive church or the Jewish church because they kept the Sabbath and the Holy Days. Or the early church, before things changed and the pagan philosophies, the immortality of the soul and going to Heaven and going to hell were inculcated doctrinally into Christianity, or into that part of Christianity. But there is another element of building a camaraderie through our love of God, and man, and truth, and those are the stories of our own history in the church. You know, what was your first Feast like?
Some of you, I'm going to tell you a story, I remember it well, from one of the areas we served. There were three deacons there, and one evening we had a deacon's meeting and so we were sitting around talking and they were remembering their first Feast because they all sort of came into the church about the same time, and they went down to, I think it was Lake of the Ozarks, and they camped. And because they had come into the church and were baptized only a few months before the Feast their Festival tithe was pretty minimal that year. But they all camped and had the most marvelous Feast ever in spite of all the rain and the fact that their campground had been a hog pasture only weeks before the Feast. They didn't mind. Oh yeah, it smelled a little, but we hosed it off. It's was remarkable. You know, hearing those kinds of stories builds the camaraderie among us. Where those who are a generation or two down from then, you know, going to the Feast has always been kind of nice and tidy, running water, comfortable hotel or motel room or condo sometimes, but to hear this, I call it tribal story telling, to hear those stories helps to build the camaraderie and the love for God's truth and His way. Now that's number five.
6. Number six. Number six is, a zealous, invigorating, dynamic, positive fellowship. Just put fellowship down. Or zealous fellowship.
But it needs to be invigorating. It needs to be dynamic and it needs to be positive. Have a great love for God's people. We love all of mankind, but we have to have a special love for the family of the Church of God. The apostle Peter made this clear in 1 Peter 1:22. Just jumping right in to the beginning of a paragraph or a complete thought. It says, since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth, and that's what brought us, that's how we come to be here and not wherever else on the Sabbath day is because we began to see we needed to obey the truth. Keep God's commandments. Keep the Sabbath. Ultimately repent of our sins and be baptized and receive God's spirit. Since you have purified your souls by obeying the truth and sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart. So we have then a love of the brethren as an identifier, an example of the evidence of God's spirit within us and the camaraderie that we want to have. that invigorating, strong love for God's people.
There are other elements of fellowship and in that sense, frankly, friendship. And maybe we should add that. Fellowship and friendship. Strong, loving marriage. That's one of the human fellowship that has the firstest with the mostest. That last line there, bad English, is from General Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Confederate States during the War Between the States in America, also known as the Civil War. And he was a very good general, much to the chagrin of the Union Army a couple of times. Very effective and he had a philosophy, he says he didn't say it but others say he did. His philosophy was to be the firstest with the mostest, and then you win the battle, and that makes sense. But the firstest with the mostest of friendships in our human experience is marriage. So when you're married, build a strong, loving marriage. If you're looking forward to being married someday prepare yourself to do that. Develop this sense of fellowship and friendship with others that will see it's highest and best opportunity in the human realm when you are married.
But there is a vigorous energy about good friendship and good fellowship. Let's look at some Proverbs. Chapter 27 of the book of Proverbs. This particular one is verse 17. Chapter 27, interestingly, we get into the book of Proverbs in one of the classes I get to teach here at Ambassador Bible Center is called The Writings. I think it's about twelve different books of the Old Testament that we have to cover in a semester and Proverbs is one of them. And Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Daniel, Ruth, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther and Job. I think that's all it is. I can't count them while I'm reciting them, so I'm not sure how many that is. But this is one we always touch on. It's Proverbs 27:17. Iron sharpens iron. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Now when you're sharpening the blade on a knife, a butcher, he's doing work and his blade will dull, he'll stop, rinse his blade, and then he pulls a long piece of steel with a handle on it, hard steel, out of a sheath on his hip, and he'll go whip, whip, whip, whip, whip with his blade of his knife going down one side and it comes back and he goes down the other side of that blade until he hones the edge of the knife. But it hones on iron, or steel. Steel on steel in this case, which is just iron that's extra hard. Those who are really talented, and scary, there are some of the restaurants where they chop up the food in front of you and cook it on the table that is actually a stove that you are sitting around, they sometimes will take two knives and do the same thing. And so you get this rhythmic action where they're running the knife blades up and down each other, putting a sharp edge on them. I don't do that. I can use the steel, it's got a big hilt on the bottom which protects me. And I only use the top quarter of it anyway. But I would never try it with one knife blade on another, and yet those who are good at that, it's remarkable. Iron sharpens iron. So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. You see, friendship is not just nodding in agreement, it is active thinking and discussing. There might even be a difference of opinion about this or that or the other thing. Well, embrace those, listen to them, discuss them back and forth. It helps you to improve your wisdom and your understanding of God's way.
Iron sharpening iron is a wonderful dynamic in friendship, and something to be looked forward to positively. There's a lot more in this chapter though. Notice Proverbs 27:5-6. Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Or, as the King James says, than secret love. Open rebuke is better than secret love. Sometimes the best way to help your friend or for your friend to help you is to give you an open rebuke. Say you're wrong, you need to not do that. Or not think that. And this is why. Rather than say, well, he's wrong, he shouldn't do that, and I really probably should have said something. Then, well, maybe, he wouldn't like me. That's love carefully concealed. We need to be able to talk straight and lovingly with each other. Faithful, it goes on to say in Proverbs 27:6. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. We need to be willing to give those and to receive those. That's insurance that keeps us close to God and close to His truth. But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. So a vigorous, zealous, dynamic, positive fellowship and friendship is a critical part of the camaraderie. But there is another element. It isn't just in our discussions and getting corrected lovingly by our friends when we say something out of order. Or we're contemplating some action that is out of order of God's way of life.
Romans 12 has another aspect that I think is more enjoyable. And here in America we're going to enjoy a national holiday that kind of focuses on this principal. Romans 12:13. We're going to back up to Romans 12:9, it's one of Paul's famous long sentences, which are part of long paragraphs. He was a master at those. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. Brotherly love is what we're talking about. That positive, dynamic fellowship. That energizing experience of knowing each other in the faith. Affectionate to one another in brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, on our own, but especially together, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints and then finally, given to hospitality. We serve and help each other. Encourage each other and we enjoy the hospitality and the gatherings of God's people. So many will be with family, but many of the brethren will be together on this day, this feast of Thanksgiving. It is a feast, indeed. About the only feast America comprehends, many nations have similar days that they give thanks for. Canada did it last month. Thank God for the blessings the nation has been given. We have even more than just the nation.
But we need to be given to hospitality. That's a part of that kind of fellowship and that pulls people together. The opportunity for that interesting, fascinating discussion and that exchange, you build the bonds you share the stories, you get to know each other to where you can communicate later across the room. You know, raise an eyebrow and whoever saw, you waited until you saw their eye contact, raise the eyebrow, nod in that direction and they know what you're talking about. And it saves time. You can talk to people in front of you and nod to somebody else and you get two conversations going. You know, it's just like texting and all those other fascinating, multi-faceted ways we converse in our electronic age. We used to be able to do that just by talking and nodding, you know, to others at the time. That's number six. That great fellowship and friendship.
7. Number seven is enthusiasm and resourcefulness. You have ten elements of the culture of camaraderie.
Camaraderie comes into it's own when you develop this engine that generates enthusiasm and resourcefulness. Resourcefulness means a can-do attitude. Not a can't-do, or nah, I don't have time for that or whatever we might come up with, but the can-do attitude. We see a need, there's some trash that fell on the floor, one of the children at the potluck couldn't manage that little plate and it tipped over and instead of waiting and watching to see who has to clean the mess up, you're up, you're off your chair, and you're over there patting him on the back and say, let me help you with this, and clean it all up and give it, no don't give it back to him, put it all in the trash. Help them get another plate full of food. The can-do, quick-to-move attitude. Anticipating the needs. And this I enjoy, because over the years in pastoring, pretty soon you realize certain brethren have a knack. They are always watching. So then I watch them so that I can see what's going on. They're watching somebody go through the potluck line and they're struggling with managing the plate or whatever. It's starting to fold when they put the lasagna on the outer edge of the paper plate, and they're watching that and they are there before a disaster occurs and that piece of lasagna falls into the dessert, you know, that creamy topped dessert, they're there, their hand is under the plate and reinforcing it, oh let me help you here, and they help the person along, whether elderly member who's just managing to get down the line, or one of the little ones that needs a little extra help. And they anticipate the needs. They look around. They're always watching. Where can I lend a hand? If you do that, you will find that there will be opportunities to serve. Or you get to watch somebody who beat you to the draw. You think well, I'll get it next time and you watch closer.
But that kind of spirit then, it solves problems before they become significant. You look at somebody, watch everybody walking in and you can see when somebody has had a really down week, especially if you know them just a little bit. You really know their face, or the way their shoulders are a little more stooped than normal, and you make a mental note and get right over to them at the first opportunity to give them a good word of encouragement. Cheer them up. We all have been cheered up by people who do that. We know how encouraging that is. We walk away from services and go back home feeling a lot better. A lot more a part of what Christ is doing through His people because somebody had the enthusiasm, and resourcefulness, and the camaraderie to be tuned in to our needing a little encouragement that day. Well, that's a talent. A special talent. And some people come by it naturally, God really gave them an extra dose of it, but we can all develop a high skill level there, as well.
A highly responsive help to requests for volunteers. There are always projects that need to be done in a congregation. We're within an extended family as well. Be ready to jump to and help make things happen. I'm reminded as we turn to James 2 to summarize this, I'm reminded of a story in the Old Testament where David was lamenting that the Philistines had taken control of his home in Bethlehem, his home town. And how he longed to be able to drink from the well there in Bethlehem. And three of his mighty men, standing by, they looked at each other, this is an example of camaraderie, all the mighty men were a tightly knit team, but this was like Seal Team 7, so to speak. They nodded at each other and one of them nodded away, I'm just imagining the scene, because they are listening to David, and the other two nodded back, and they slipped from the crowd standing around King David and disappeared into the night. And you read the story, they came back, they fought their way, dispatching who knows how many Philistines, because these were strong men. They got to the well, and two defended the third while he drew the water, and then they fought their way back out and over the Bethlehem wall, and beat the street as hard as they could back to David before the next day dawned, and gave him the water from the well at Bethlehem to drink. Now there was a can-do attitude. It kind of brings tears to your eyes in a way that you can imagine King David's feeling about that. He was deeply honored and deeply touched that they would be willing to do that. And so he poured the water out, he said I won't drink this because of the danger you put yourselves in to get it. And so it was, in a sense, a thank offering that he poured out the water on the ground. But that's the can-do attitude. That's the enthusiasm, resourcefulness, in a sense it's God's way in action.
James 2. James was here just the other day, he can't have gone far, oh, there he is. James 2:14, it begins, what does it profit, my brethren if someone says he has faith but he doesn't do anything? He has no works. Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food and someone says "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled". Oh, I put an Irish accent on that, no aspersions to the Irish, because they are very hospitable and I apologize, let me see, who's accent can I put to that? "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you shall not give him the things which are needed for the body, then what does it profit? What kind of help was that? Thus also faith by itself without works is dead. But if someone should say "You have faith, and I have works." I say show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works. It's not enough to just say you believe in God, you've got to act on it. That's what the next verse says. You believe that there is one God. Oh, big deal. You do well, even the demons believe and they tremble. We have to act on what we have come to understand and know. Enthusiasm and resourcefulness.
8. And number eight in our list of ten in the culture of camaraderie, is daily prayer.
And this, maybe, should be nearer the top of the list but the list is in somewhat of a random order, but we need some basic anchors at the end, I think. Prayer is one of them. Jesus said when you pray in Matthew 6, not if you pray. It's when. In Psalm 55:17. You can jot that down and read it later if you want. Who knows, you may sing it as a hymn, this is in one of our hymns. That David prayed, he called to God morning, noon, and night. He prayed not just once a day, but three times a day. Morning, noon and night, and that's Psalms 55:17. Now we need to pray in the morning, we need to pray in the evening. We need to give thanks for the food when we have a meal. Even when we're just having our lunch by our self at work and we pause and thank God silently for that in a short prayer. Paul talks about being instant and continuous in prayer. Those are the kinds of prayers that you pray while you're driving, with your eyes open, I say that last item because as a teenager learning to pray, making it a daily morning and evening practice, I realized one day after I got the chores done and headed to high school I had a 2-½ hour drive after milking a bunch of cows and haying the horses, the usual things you have on a farm or a ranch. I'm driving to work and I got to Duster's Corner and I realized I hadn't prayed. Argh, I'm going through the correspondence course, and I had just been going through that part of it, so I thought, I've got to pray before I get in school. So I closed my eyes and I pray a little bit and I look up real quick. Found out within about 300 yards that's not good. Missed the corner. Fortunately that was the paved road made the corner. There were two gravel roads that converged at a four-way stop down there. So I landed on the gravel road and came to a very sheepish stop at the stop sign and looked every way, ah, nobody saw that, good. Made my left turn and continued on my way realizing you know, you can pray with your eyes open if you need to. That was a good lesson. But daily prayer, being close to God is critical to being close to God's people.
The camaraderie we have, this team spirit we have is not just with our brethren in the congregation we're in, but with the church at large. We feel for the brethren in the Philippines right now, we pray for them and we're doing what we can to help them because of the horrible typhoon, which is a hurricane as called over there. A typhoon that came through Tacloban. We are very concerned about that. But our camaraderie is not just with those of us alive. We have a camaraderie with all those who have gone before us, and whose stories we read, and whose stories we hear about in the true church. We have, most importantly, a camaraderie with Jesus Christ and God the Father. And, by extension, even the angels. We don't really know any of their names except Michael and Gabriel. We don't really talk to Satan, or Lucifer, or the devil. Those are three names he has. But the only other angels we know are Michael and Gabriel. But we can imagine the time when we'll get to know even them. There's a camaraderie there. We're all together in this. The angels shout for joy at the repentance of one sinner. Every time we have a baptism you notice that you know, even though we can't hear them, they're in the third heaven that the angels are rejoicing. So they have a camaraderie with us, we can include that in our camaraderie with the brethren and with God and Christ.
Our prayers need to be detailed. Just like the incense that was beaten and then sprinkled on to the coals and the censer of the priest to give off the wonderful fragrance, it was powdered, and so likewise it's a symbol of our prayers, so our prayers need to be detailed. You know, not just well, God bless everybody. Okay let's go. That's not enough detail. You've got to ask God specifically about things. And the need to be directed towards God's Kingdom. That's a whole nother story in Matthew 6. The sample prayer of Christ. Matthew 6:8-13 is quite remarkable because, well, let me just show you. That's point nine, or point eight. We're almost down to the end of our list but just notice this. This is a fun little read on the Sabbath to mull it over some more. Christ is telling the disciples how to pray. Therefore do not be like them. Those who like to have their prayers heard by everybody at a big performance. For your Father knows the things you need of before you ask Him. So this is how you pray. Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Hallowed be Your name. We have it written like that, but the sense of it, it could also be written as may Your name be hallowed. May Your name be hallowed. May Your Kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. We have a request for God's Kingdom there and then we ask God for our daily bread, our needs. And ask Him to forgive our sins, our debts. Debts to Him are sins. And to be forgiving toward others. And we ask Him for help to not be lead into temptation, to avoid temptation, to deliver us from the evil one, for Yours is the Kingdom, and the power and glory forever. And thus we have the Kingdom again. Kingdom at the beginning, Kingdom at the end. When you get into the background of this there are actually four separate requests for the coming of God's Kingdom. I'm just showing you the two here, because maybe some day I'll want to give that sermon and then we'll look at the other two. So it's a focused prayer life with occasional fasting. Not just on the Day of Atonement but occasional fasting for particular needs in the church, or for the brethren, or for our own lives asking God's intervention.
9. Next is Bible study. This is number nine. Bible study. Number eight was daily prayer.
Someone once said that our members strive to understand the Bible at the same level as the ministry. And in the Church of God I think that's true. We do want to understand God's word. But we need to be careful and treat God's word with great awe and respect. It is His word. It is the divine word of God. It interprets itself. We have, and we have documented, key keys, important keys in understanding the Bible. Our study of God's word should be prayerful, asking God for understanding of His word in all things, and then of course be faithful to follow what's in it. But I want to show you a verse we don't usually use in this case, but I just covered this, or haven't covered it yet, just about to cover it, in the Major Prophets class. It's in Jeremiah 18. It's a very interesting chapter, especially the first half of it. It has to do with the analogy of the potter and the clay, which ties in. You know, God shapes us. How does God shape us? The word which came to Jeremiah 18:1 from the Lord saying arise and go down to the potter's house. A potter is a pottery manufactory of the day, which they made one pot, or one cup, or one pitcher, at a time. So they were called potters. They worked in clay. And there I will cause you to hear my words. So I went to the potter's house, Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 18:3, and there he was, the potter, making something at the wheel. You put the clay on the wheel, you keep your hands wet, you kind of shape this moist clay into the shape that you want it to be. Is making something at the wheel and the vessel that he made of clay was marred. Now I've never made one on the wheel, but I have tried to make things out of mud. Mostly pies. Mud pies. When I was very small. Now I know why I don't normally bake regular pies. My younger sister and brother could make better mud pies than I could. They were just dirt. It was clay, because that was the kind of soil we had on our farm. But the clay was marred, in Jeremiah's experience. So the hand of the potter, you probably hear the potter grunt. Oh, he pressed too hard, collapsed the side wall of the pot, so what does he do? He just puts his hand on it and pushes it all down flat, little more water, reshapes the clay and then suddenly a new vessel begins to come out of what he had before. It was marred in the hand of the potter so he made it again into another vessel that seemed good to the potter to make. And God said to Jeremiah; "O house of Israel, can I not do with you, as this potter? Can I not make you into a better vessel? That I want you to be, not what you want to be. Look at the clay in the potter's hands. So are you in My hand. And then He said, if you will repent, and if you will change, this is in the following verses, then I will make you into a magnificent vessel. But you must be clay in My hands. Moldable. Learnable. You know, when we study God's word we need to be the clay in God's hand. That He's teaching us. He's educating us spiritually which is far more powerful in the long run than our physical education. Physical education is necessary. But Israel didn't listen to God. Neither did Judah in Jeremiah's day. We know the story and it's summarized in Jeremiah 18:15 which brings us to the point I wanted to make. Because My people have forgotten Me, they have burned incense to worthless idols, they have caused themselves to stumble in their ways from, notice this, from the ancient paths. And where is the ancient path? It's in God's word. This is the best history book the world has ever seen, or will. It teaches the ancient paths. And you think, well what's the ancient paths? To walk in the pathways and not on the highway. The ancient paths is an analogy of God's way. If they had followed God's way which is timeless. In once sense God's way of life, His word and His way of life, is generation proof. No generation, from Jeremiah, from before Jeremiah, from Adam and Eve down to now and on into the future, no generation can change the truth of God, or the word of God. It is generation proof. And yet, most generations try to change it. They did then. That's what He's getting after them for. They wanted to ignore God's way. We've got a better idea, we want to look like these people around us so we're going to incorporate other ways of worship and we'll still honor You, God, we'll put Your name on things. We'll have the offerings at the temple, but in the evening we'll go to the Baal's. And we worship there. In riotous behavior, heavy drinking and sexual immorality, that's what they did. Now our society is not very different than theirs. So studying God's word is to realize it's revealing to us the ancient paths and we must respect and honor those ancient paths and know that they have been here far longer than we have. Far longer than man because it comes from God's word. From Him. From the Father and the Son. And the knowledge has been revealed down to us through the one we now know as Jesus Christ. He was fundamentally the Lord God of the Old Testament. But it is the way of the God family. The way of the Kingdom of God. So when we study God's word we need to be prayerful. Be asking God for His wisdom and His insight, but studying it, learning it, being able to talk about it, this fits into the camaraderie scheme of things because we all study the same textbook, we all know the same illusions, when I told about the three great mighty men of David who got the water in Bethlehem, here in the auditorium, I was seeing people nodding. You remember that story. The more of the stories of the Bible we know, and we can share back and forth, the more we grow in our appreciation and depth of understanding of them. So Bible study and studying the same things that we all study, makes and builds a marvelous team and a marvelous family of God's church.
And then being faithful, of course. Faithful with God's word and not twisting it or embracing heresies and there are many of those going around in all different aspects of God's way. Beware of those. That breaks up the camaraderie. That puts schisms into the body. We want the body to be glued together. To be strong and powerful and healthy.
Finally, the last quality, and I think it is the key quality indeed of the ten elements of the culture of camaraderie because we're talking about building a culture for God's people here. Not just a one off type thing. Where, you know, we're going to do this and we're done, we don't do that anymore. No, this is a culture that thrives and builds from Sabbath to Sabbath. From church activity to church activity. From Feast to Feast. It builds and it grows. And we are able to communicate just like I said, just with a look sometimes, and a nod, and communicate deeply as we discuss God's word in our lives and the challenges we face.
John 16:33. I don't know why you have to turn there because we know this one. We read it at Passover service. Although, most of our young people, children, don't sit in on the Passover service so it's a good thing that we do read it. This concluded the teaching session that Jesus gave right after the Passover service and before they began their walk down in to the Valley Kidron, going up into the slope of the Mount of Olives where they stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane, and where He prayed, which is John 17, well possibly chapter 17 was put there. Maybe it was closing prayer for what He had been teaching here. But this was part of the teaching session before the prayer. These things, in John 16:33, these things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. You have peace in Me. In the world, in the world, you're going to have trouble. Trials, tribulation. You're not going to have fun in the world, but don't worry, don't get discouraged. Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world. And there's a humorous rejoinder there. Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. Yeah, you're going to have trouble in the world but don't worry about that, I already took care of it. I helped you through it. Be of good cheer I have overcome the world. If Christ has overcome the world, then by staying close to Him, we will overcome the world and we will be in the Kingdom of God together. All of us, together. And that's the joy. A healthy, Godly, sense of humor is a part of this. Again, you don't think of this as humorous, He's going to go die. Well, Christ could laugh in the face of death.
10. And this was an element, the fact that He even had good cheer when facing tragedy and trial was evidence of the divine sense of humor.
Likewise, we don't want to take ourselves too seriously. We need to be able to laugh at ourselves. That's a good thing. Why do you think Isaac was called Isaac? Because Sarah lost faith and she laughed when God said Sarah will have a child. You know what? Within a year's time she'll have a child and Sarah's laughing. And he said, why did you laugh? And she said, I didn't laugh. Well, she didn't laugh out loud, she just forgot that, because this was Jesus Christ before manifested physically dining on the fatted calf with Abraham and the other two angels and Sarah, and she said I didn't laugh, she laughed silently, inside, but he could read her thoughts. Oh, forgot that. Gotta remember He reads thoughts. Oh no, you laughed. And you will call him Isaac. But sometimes I've heard people get after Sarah for laughing, but they really shouldn't. You go back and read that, two chapters earlier, Abraham laughed. It says he fell on his face and laughed when Christ told that to him. He knew about the promise before Sarah did. And they laughed. They laughed for joy is what they were laughing for, and so their son's name was laughter. A sense of humor has come down to us as a sense of fair play. Dictators and tyrants who take themselves too seriously and think that they are God, in the flesh so to speak, they don't have mercy. They aren't gentle. They can't identify with the human condition. They think they're above it. They're not. They're not, but they think they are. But those who can identify with the human condition, they know that we are all human striving to become God-like, they have a healthy, positive, upbeat sense of humor. They don't take themselves too seriously. They take troubles and trials in stride as Jesus instructed us to do.
So we need to be of good cheer, we need to study God's word, we need to daily be praying, staying close to God, develop the enthusiasm and resourcefulness, the can-do attitude that helps bond us together, have a zealous, vigorous, dynamic, positive, friendship and fellowship with each other. Love God, man and the truth of God with all our hearts. Develop a core sense of duty as Paul did and an inner loyalty to God and Christ and to what they are doing through us and stay focused on the mission of the gospel of the Kingdom and then have a visionary goal orientation. Always looking on to the world tomorrow. If we do those ten things, brethren, those are the ten elements that build the culture of camaraderie within the church of God. And we will be strong and powerful and we will be ever so much happier and thrilled to be a part of what Jesus Christ is doing through us.