Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:
‘Do We Seek to Edify: Ourselves or HIS Church?’
© June 2, 2013 by Steve Mickelson
Let us pray…
At first blush it would seem that the topic of this Sunday’s message has something to do just with languages or tongues. While the account of the Tower of Babel does explain how it is that we have such a diversity of languages and people over the face of the earth, there is much more to the story, which may sound familiar to a lesson we recently shared, that being how Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan in the Garden of Eden in Genesis, Chapter 3.
You may recall that Satan appealed to Eve and Adam, who was with her, that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would be elevated to the same level as God in their understanding of good and evil. Fearing that they would next eat from the Tree of Life, God exiled Adam and Eve from the garden both as a punishment for their transgressions and to prevent them from doing another. Genesis 3:22-24 (ESV):
22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
Now, back to the tower. For centuries, the human race has aspired to be at a higher plane, as evident by the building of structures such as the Eiffel Tower, Empire State building, CN Tower, Burj of Dubai, and so on. While like the Tower of Babel, most of these towers afford an overview of relatively low nearby terrain. I recall when the CN Tower in Toronto, there was a three month wait for dinner reservations at the tower restaurant. We had some friends of my sister visiting from Sydney, Australia. My dad thought it would be nice to take them to restaurant and enjoy the view of the city and lake as far as Rochester, New York. On the evening of the reservation a foggy cloud bank rolled in and all you see from the tower was parts of Toronto Island.
But the Tower of Babel was to be constructed to heaven as a monument to its builders, before they disappeared or were dispersed. Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV):
The Tower of Babel
11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.
It is ironic that a tower built as a testimony to its builders, so that they would not be forgotten or dispersed, ended up being the reason God made them become no longer unified in language and they were dispersed throughout the world. History indicates that the tower eroded so that the lower portions fell away. There were some writings that indicate that Alexander the Great had located the remnants of this tower and intended to rebuild it. This plan was abandoned after the untimely death of King Alexander. Which brings us to the next Scripture verse, Psalm 2:1-6 (ESV):
The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed
2 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”
To aspire for something, is a desire to reach a higher plane, where, by definition:
People seek to achieve or they aspire, not to be confused with inspire, as in the works of the Holy Spirit. The definition of inspire is as follows:
Biography courtesy of the United States Air Force:
Those who aspire seek to be filled with pride in self, while those who inspire, seek to have others filled with the Holy Spirit. An example of aspiration may be found in the sonnet, High Flight written by John Gillespie Magee, Jr. Portions of this poem appear on the headstones of many interred in Arlington National Cemetery, in the U.S., particularly aviators and astronauts. John Gillespie Magee, Jr. was an American Pilot Officer serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen.
Magee came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.
In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19 years of age, crashed to his death. His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire.
High Flight – By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
“Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds –
and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of –
wheeled and soared and swung high in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there I’ve chased the shouting wind along
and flung my eager craft through footless halls of air.
“Up, up the long delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace,
where never lark, or even eagle, flew;
and, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
the high untrespassed sanctity of space,
put out my hand and touched the face of God.”
While the sonnet is beautifully worded, it is an example of the flesh’s desire or aspiration to reach God in a manner that is not in harmony with the Spirit of God. An irony here is that the author, a son of missionaries, composed prose that presumes the protagonist, a pilot, could fly high enough in something he built to touch the face of God.
To reach God and Heaven requires not a tower, or an aircraft or any other worldly means. To reach the Spiritual plane mandates us not to take actions that are the result of aspiration, but to follow inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit to achieve that state of Spiritual Grace which allows us to lead others to find His Grace, as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:50-57 (ESV):
Mystery and Victory
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ
In this passage, we see the difference between the mystery of the flesh, which is of the world, and the victory that goes to the Holy Spirit. To achieve this state of Grace, we must replace our human impulses by our faith in Jesus Christ, Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV):
Jesus the Great High Priest
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
You may recall that after being anointed by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was taken to a desolate place, where he fasted and was tested by Satan. Jesus was brought to a high place and offered by Satan all authority over all that he saw from that great height. But Satan failed to tempt Jesus, as our Lord did not aspire to grow his own personal power and authority or to be placed upon an equal plane with God the Father. Instead, Jesus, in a perfect example of faith, replaced conceit and ambition with humility and obedience, Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV):
Christ’s Example of Humility
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
And the confusion we still observe from Babel today, tends to interfere with not only building of towers of aspiration, but the building of the church body if we aspire to build the church in a worldly manner. Such confusion hampers both the health and growth of the church body, as we read in, 1 Corinthians 14:6-18 (ESV):
6 Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? 7 If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? 8 And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? 9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.
13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsidersay “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
The body of members that compose any church are subject to a Spiritual standard where the mind and the spirit are in harmony. This facilitates an understanding among the members and eliminates confusion and misunderstandings which hamper growth of the church body through the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray…
Hymn #355: Higher Ground (I’m Pressing on the Upward Way)
Communion: Responsive Reading #626
Benediction (Colossians 3:17):
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.