2 Thessalonians Sermon # 4 Sermon Series “What Can Shake Thy Sure Repose?”
November 15, 2015 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 Today’s Sermon: “The Unshaken Church”
A Celebration of 50 Years of God’s Faithfulness and Love
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Today is a day for celebration! Today we want to give thanks and praise to our great God for a half-century of His amazing grace, love and faithfulness to us, in this location, in this building, in Maple Glen, PA. 50 years ago this congregation held its first service in this building, and today I want us to rejoice and celebrate God’s goodness to our congregation, as we look at this Scripture and as we look back to what he has done.
2 Thess. 2:13-17 can be understood in three main points:
1. We rejoice in the Triune God’s amazing work of salvation and sanctification in us.
Paul tells the believers that they are: Loved by the Lord; chosen to be saved from the beginning, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Why? So that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. And furthermore, our great God loved us, and by His grace has given us eternal encouragement and good hope!
What Paul wrote about the believers in Thessalonica is also true of us in Maple Glen. In Christ, you and I are beloved of God; we were chosen to be saved from eternity past; and God’s Holy Spirit is at work, making us holy as God is holy. Why is God doing all this for us? So that we can share in Christ’s glory, for eternity future!
And to keep us till then, God has given us eternal encouragement and good hope! And so we rejoice in the work of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, in saving us and sanctifying us! Hallelujah!
So take a minute and reflect on the work of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in you. Think about how He has called you to Himself. Meditate on God’s work of salvation, sanctification, and glorification, from eternity past to eternity future, to you and for you and in you.
Rejoice! You and I are here, worshiping God, enjoying all the blessings of Christ, only because of the sovereign and gracious work of the triune God, on our behalf!
2. We thank God for the means He has used to accomplish His work.
“through belief in the truth…He called you to this….through our gospel,
the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.”
Notice the primary means that God uses to accomplish His work of salvation and sanctification:
– through the gospel which was preached to them
– through their belief in the truth.
– through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.
These are the normal means or methods through which God does His work of saving people, of planting churches, and of growing believers into full maturity in Christ. He uses the proclamation of the whole Word of God; He prepares the hearts of people to hear and received the Gospel, so that they believe the truth; and then He comes and lives in them, through the Holy Spirit, so as to convict them, encourage them and make them holy.
Isn’t that roughly how the Lord worked in your life? Someone proclaimed the good news of Jesus to you; God opened your mind and heart to receive it as the Truth; and the Holy Spirit came to live in you, changing you from the inside out.
Now in addition to the means that God uses to save/ sanctify us individually, this morning I would like us to consider the means which God used in this congregation, in a collective way, over the last 50 years. For this story is a source of praise and thanks to the Lord as well.
This congregation was planted in 1903 in Philadelphia, as it reached out to German immigrants in the Nicetown and later the Hunting Park sections of the city. The church was a training school both for church planters and for missionaries, and indeed in the first few years, believers went out from this congregation to places such as South America, China, and Tibet!
The church continued to grow, both spiritually and numerically. Often they saw 20, 30 or even 40 people a year profess faith in Jesus and get baptized. Membership climbed to 276 in 1937, and nearly 300 people attended Sunday school each week. The church was meeting in the Hunting Park section of Philadelphia, just a few blocks north of Board and Erie.
In 1953, the congregation celebrated 50 years as a church (see the golden booklet), and members such as Byron and Verletta Cassel, Myles and Leah Rickert, Gordon and Doris Riggall were active in the church.
But the late 50s and the early 60s were a tumultuous time, both for Philadelphia and for the church. The neighborhood was changing and the church property was being vandalized; members were moving to the suburbs; the church had a net loss of almost 50 people in 6 years, and there were only 8 young people in the youth group
On top of that, our denomination was going through some radical changes. The name was changed from the Mennonite Brethren in Christ to the Bible Fellowship Church. The denomination also voted to change its doctrine to a more God-centered perspective on salvation.
There was a lot that was shaking the church.
But into that situation God called Rev. Donald Kirkwood to pastor the flock here, in 1958. Pastor Kirkwood understood and preached the truth of God’s sovereign grace, and even though the congregation shrunk in numbers, God continued to use His Word and the Holy Spirit in this congregation.
Eventually, in 1963, the congregation sold the building they had been meeting in since 1924 (almost 40 years), and while they looked for a suitable new location, they met for worship at the Germantown YMCA, for 2 years, (not an ideal setting for church growth.)
The leaders of the church spent 18 months looking for the right location for a place to worship and meet. They nearly purchased a church building in Jenkintown, but at the last minute, it was sold to another congregation. That was a disappointment.
Then on Jan 8, 1964, Pastor Kirkwood led a congregational meeting at the Glenside home of Byron and Verletta Cassel, with 21 members in attendance. Pastor Kirkwood told the members about a five acre piece of land in Maple Glen; they voted 16 to 5 in favor of purchasing the property. On Aug 13, 1964, the church paid $23,000 for the land we are now on; they also took out a $110,000 mortgage to build a new church building. The name was changed to the Maple Glen BFC. On Nov. 1, 1964, a ground breaking service was held here.
However, there were many bumps in the road to the construction of this building. First, Horsham Township held up their tax exemption status, which delayed the start of construction. Then there was a lack of a water supply needed for mixing the concrete. And finally construction slowed down, due to a shortage of laborers.
While these delays were occurring, the congregation struggled in its rental facilities in the Germantown YMCA. Membership and attendance continued to drop.
But finally on Dec. 18, 1965, the new building was completed, and a service of dedication was held here the next day.
And we are the beneficiaries of all their efforts- not simply this building and beautiful plot of land, but of the spiritual leadership and the discipleship and the fellowship of the saints that has taken place over the last 50 years! Pastor Carl Spackman was a big part of our spiritual growth in the 17 years her served here (1971-1988).
Over the last 30 years, at least 20 people have been sent forth from this congregation as missionaries, church planters, and Christian workers. These men and women have had to especially stand firm and hold on to the apostolic teachings while they endure all sorts of challenges. So we have had the privilege of sending out people such as Mark and Dayna Blair (Uganda, Kazakhstan, and now China); Dave and Becky Riddell (France, and now International Leadership for World Team); Chuck and Nancy Snyder [The deaf community]; Bruce and Heather Beal [Wycliffe/ Translation Work- Mexico], and most recently, Mark (and Jungmin) Sanders [Harvest USA].
In those years we’ve seen God at work through Joyfully Serving the King in the summer; through our participation in Inter-faith hospitality; through ministries of mercy connected with Alpha Pregnancy Services and Bethany Christian Services; through tens of thousands of dollars given out through our benevolence fund, and so much more.
But not only has the Word of the Lord gone overseas and cross-culturally from this church during this half-century; it has also been the bread and butter of all the Sunday School courses and all the sermon series and the small group Bible studies that have taken place here.
At least 190 people have professed faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord and been baptized upon profession of their faith, in the baptismal tank behind me here, and that includes some of you.
Hundreds more have grown in the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, including a truck driver, an abortion clinic director, students from Temple Ambler and Arcadia, etc.
I give thanks to the Lord for what He has done in this place for the last 50 years!
So let us give thanks to the Lord for:
The gospel which has been preached faithfully for these last 50 years;
The faith in God’s Word, the belief in His truth, which the Lord has graciously given to us; and
The sanctifying work of the Spirit, shaping us, convicting us, assuring us, and spurring us on!
3. We dedicate ourselves to remain faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“So then, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”
We are exhorted to stand our ground and hold fast to the apostolic teachings which have been delivered once and for all to the saints. Furthermore, these teachings must be passed on to the next generation, who will in turn pass them on. And as we stand firm and hold on to these, we will be able to withstand the gale force winds of persecution, of false teaching, and of temptation.
Brothers and sisters of the Maple Glen Church, we are unshaken! We will share in Christ’s glory! We will not be moved by either outward persecution or inward false teachers, because we are founded on God’s eternal purposes! God’s effective call rests upon us from the beginning of eternity to our eternal glory with Christ!
And so our hope and confidence are not in big programs, tightly scripted worship services, or charismatic leadership. No. We stand firm and secure upon the Word of God and the Spirit of God working in us.
And so I would also exhort and encourage this body of believers to remain faithful, especially in light of the very probable persecution that Christians will be facing from our culture. Our size or our programs will not be the issue when we are tempted to be shaken and to become fearful at the threats and attacks that may come our way. What will matter will be whether we are standing firm and holding fast to the Biblical truth we have been entrusted with.
Let me conclude by personalizing Paul’s words as if he wrote it to our church:
From all eternity God has loved the church at Maple Glen. He chose us from the beginning from all the sinners in this area. He sent pastors, elders, deacons and laymen to you with the gospel—the good news that Jesus Christ came into the world to die for hopeless sinners. And in the preaching of that gospel, God called His elect, with overcoming power, to Himself. And the result was that you believed the truth and began to be sanctified by the Spirit. And you will one day obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, hold on tightly to God’s gracious truth.