Instruct One Another
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
There’s an old cartoon that shows a man, yacht captain’s hat on his head and scrimshaw pipe in his teeth, perching on an upturned lobster crate and carefully inscribing the final letter of a woman’s name on the stern of his rowboat. Behind him stands a little girl in a sundress. The little girl says to the man, “Can I ask you something?” What we and the little girl notice, and the man has apparently forgotten, is that the boat is upside down.
In general, people don’t like being corrected when we’re doing something wrong. It’s not that we wouldn’t rather do it the right way; it’s just that we don’t appreciate someone else noticing our mistake and pointing it out to us. There’s a certain amount of shame and embarrassment attached. And on the other side, correcting or instructing someone, especially if it’s a friend or loved one, can be just as uncomfortable. Yet, who among us believes we know everything? And who believes we always do what’s correct?
That’s the value of community. Nobody has to know everything because the total knowledge and experience of the group is greater than that of any individual. Paul wrote, “I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.” He knew that the Christians in Rome, while not perfect, collectively knew the gospel message and the way to live and that they, being also good and well-intentioned people, were able to instruct each other as they saw the need. They could notice what was wrong and tell their fellow Christian what he or she might have forgotten.
To benefit from instruction, either giving or receiving it, we must be humble. We must acknowledge that we aren’t perfect. We make mistakes. We don’t always do the right thing. If one of our Christian brothers or sisters notices that we’re doing wrong, he or she should feel confident about taking us aside and instructing us because we are humble enough to accept correction. And if we notice a brother or sister in error and we know how to correct that error, we should feel confident about sharing, also with humility, what we know. Nobody wants a fellow believer to continue down the wrong path, because we all know that the farther we go, the harder it is to turn around and come back.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we receive immediate salvation. Then we begin a lifelong process of sanctification by the Holy Spirit, a renewal from the inside out. It’s God’s way of perfecting us, making us whole and complete. Our part in this process is to practice the spiritual disciplines. This is something we’ve never done before, so we are bound to make mistakes. Our knowledge of the gospel might be incomplete. Our understanding of scripture might be full of errors. Our attempts at prayer might be clumsy and feel ineffective. At times, we might feel that we are doing everything wrong.
That’s where the fellowship of believers excels. No one person knows or has experienced everything, but the total knowledge and experience of our Christian community is much more comprehensive. If we love one another, forgive one another, and honor one another as Jesus does us, we can instruct and be instructed by one another with humility and grace. When we do, our community grows stronger, and we are better able to share the love of Jesus confidently and generously with one another in the church and with everyone else we encounter in our daily lives.
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (nursery care available), then stay for our annual Chili Cook Off.