Be Ye Harberous

“But above all things have fervent love among you: for love shall cover the multitude of sins. Be ye harberous one to another, without grudging. Let every man as he hath received the gift, minister the same one to another, as good disposers of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God ministereth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is praise and dominion forever, and ever, Amen.”

I would begin with a prayer from the Puritin book, “Valley of Vision” entitled, “Humility in Service.”

“Mighty God,

I humble myself for faculties misused,
opportunities neglected,
words ill-advised,
I repent of my folly and inconsiderate ways,
my broken resolutions, untrue service,
my backsliding steps,
my vain thoughts.
O bury my sins in the ocean of Jesus’ blood
and let no evil result from my fretful temper,
unseemly behaviour, provoking pettiness.
If by unkindness I have wounded or hurt another,
do thou pour in the balm of heavenly consolation;
If I have turned coldly from need, misery, grief,
do not in just anger forsake me:
If I have withheld relief from penury and pain,
do noth withhold thy gracious bounty from me.
If I have shunned those who have offended me,
keep open the door of thy heart to my need.

Fill me with an over-flowing ocean of compassion,
the reign of love my motive,
the law of love my rule.

O thou God of all grace, make me more thankful,
more humble;
Inspire me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from
the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties,
my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me.

With all my calls to gratitude and joy
may I remember
that I have reason for sorrow
and humiliation;
O give me repentance unto life;
Cement my oneness with my blessed Lord,
that faith may adhere to him more immovably,
that love may entwine itself round him
more tightly,
that his Spirit may pervade every fibre
of my being.
Then send me out to make him known to my fellow-men.”

PREFACE

I am certainly not one for delivering homiletic sermons. That is to say a discourse that is designed more for spiritual edification than doctrinal instruction. I do it not out of a belief that homiletics is an inferior form of hermeneutic, but rather from an infirmity on my part to instruct in such a type of discourse. However Church history is a suffusion of homiletic preachers, the greatest among them Charles Spurgeon. As such I do believe there is a place for such a form of edification and will strive thereunto today as the need may be. Anyways, If ever there was a motto and maxim verse for our Church of Grace Haven, I would believe it to be 1 Peter 4:9. “Be ye harberous one to another.” followed with the context of 1 Peter 4. Grace Haven was conceived as a local body of believers who desire to glorify God by existing as a true church body which shelters both weak and weary Christians within the inlet of God’s grace. As Boenhoffer wrote, “Costly grace is the sanctuary of God.” Grave Haven exists as this sanctuary of God.

HAVEN

The word “Haven” was an excellent choice of words for us because it gives a genuine picture of the Christian reality. A haven is a simple harbour which is a deep body of water easily accessible from the sea but sheltered by land. Thus in times of storm and pestilence, ships would take shelter from the sea and drop anchor within the stillness of the harbour. The Apostle Peter draws from this a parallel to the Church which we will observe here today.

ATTRIBUTES OF A HAVEN

The first thing of interest to us in the caricature of the Church as being “harberous” or a “Haven” as we like to term it is the fact of its easy, strategic accessibility. So too the Church is to be easily open to them that have need of it. We say with Christ, “Come unto me, all ye that are weary and laden, and I will ease you.”

The second observation we may make is that it is a space suitable to many and all sizes of ship bodies. A suitable harbour is as wide as it is deep, allowing many ships to drive deeply into its refuge and anchor themselves alongside others. John 6:37, “All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me: and him that cometh to me, I cast not away.”

A third quality of a harbour is its purpose. A harbour is for the purpose a ships safe docking, not sailing. A harbour is by nature large enough to rest a ship from its work, but too small for the ships work to be done. It is a temporary, albeit habitual, landmark visited by ships in times of storm, resupply, weariness, and rest. A ship cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by remaining anchored at harbour, it must venture out into the perils of the sea. However, a ship also cannot successfully fulfill its mandate by venturing in the perils of the sea without taking repeated refuge in a harbour. It will help the ship to do its work, but will not do the work of the ship. So too, for the Christian, the Church is to be a habitual anchorage point, “Not forsaking the fellowship that we have among ourselves.” Furthermore the Church is a sufficient help to the Christian for his needs. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bossom, and shall guide them with the young.” Isaiah 40:11. “Upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” “Then faith is by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” John 17:17 reads “Sanctify them with thy truth: thy word is truth.” But this verse does not end here, so to the Church as the Christian harbour is not his only location. We read in John 17:18, “As thou dies send me into the world, so have I sent them into the world.” “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you alway, until the end of the world, Amen.” To the Christian, we must exit the harbour and venture into the perils of the sea for a time to fulfill God’s great commission.

The fourth observation I would make of a harbour is one that Peter makes clearly in chapter 4. “Be ye harberous one to another, without grudging.” Why would Peter add the grudging part to this passage? Characteristic of a safe, sufficient, and strategic harbour they are of great economical and national importance. This being so, harbours are as advantageous and as easily accessible to enemy ships as the nation which encompasses them. So too Christians can bring into the haven of the Church ships of woe and war as easily as fervent love.

FERVENT LOVE

Peter identifies the two things Christians can choose to harbour within the inlet of the Church. The first is given in verse 8. “But above all things have fervent love among you: for love shall cover a multitude of sins.” “A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another: as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know, that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” The ships at sea can identify a harbour by the stillness of its waters, so too the world can identify a Church by the love and grace sheltering it. Spurgeon gives an accurate explanation of the effect of love covering a multitude of sins. “It covers them sometimes by not seeing them; for, where there is much love, we are blind to many faults which, otherwise, we might see; we do not exercise the sharpness of criticism which malice would be sure to exercise. Besides that, when love applies herself to prayer, and when, in addition to prayer, she kindly gives admonition to a beloved friend, it often happens that true Christian love does really prevent a multitude of sins.” Spurgeon went on to paint a picture of such covering. “Often, we cannot see the faults in them; and when we know they are there, we go backward, like the godly sons of Noah, and cover the nakedness upon which we will not think of looking, “for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” So, loving does not cover our own sins, but those of others. It makes it easier for us to forgive and to assist. “Let him know that he which hath converted the sinner from going astray out of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”

WITHOUT GRUDGING

Now the second choice for Christians to harbour within the Church Peter admonishes against in the next verse. “Be ye harberous one to another, without grudging.” Noah Webster defined grudging as follows, “To hold or harbor with malicious disposition or purpose; to cherish enviously.” Interesting use of words. We can harbour fervent love within the church and overcome the pestilence and storms that are outside the haven of the Church or we can “harbour” malicious disposition or purpose. “Be ye patient therefore, and settle your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth near. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned” says the Apostle James. “From whence are wars and contentions among you are there not hence, even of your pleasures, that fight in your members?” Sadly, this is why I must often pray with the Puritan from the prayer beginning this sermon, “I repent of my folly and inconsiderate ways.” And again, “If by unkindness I have wounded or hurt another,
do thou pour in the balm of heavenly consolation;
If I have turned coldly from need, misery, grief,
do not in just anger forsake me:
If I have withheld relief from penury and pain,
do noth withhold thy gracious bounty from me.
If I have shunned those who have offended me,
keep open the door of thy heart to my need.

Fill me with an over-flowing ocean of compassion,
the reign of love my motive,
the law of love my rule.”

GOOD DISPOSERS

Hence arises the question, “How do I fervently love and be harberous one to another?” Verse 10 answers, “Let every man as he hath received the gift, minister the same one to another, as good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” Spurgeon said, “God gives much to you that you may give it to others.” This is what it means when Peter directs to indeed share what talents, abilities, and assets without grudging. If we grudge we rob God of his glory, others of love, and ourselves of joy.

This is the fifth and final observation I would make of Peter’s parallel of the Church to a harbour. A harbour is a place of dockage as well as shelter. It is here, that a harbour also exercises an economic factor in addition to a safety one. It is a place where safe ships come to do safe business in mutual commerce. So too do Christian men, women, and children increase their grace by “ministering the same one to another, as good disposers of the manifold grace of God.” We must be willing both to share and receive from the gifts God has given. We must also be willing to recognize and identify God’s gifts in our lives. We cannot bury them as a poor steward and must repent if we have done so as the prayer earlier before stated in, “I humble myself for faculties misused.”

GRACE HAVEN DISPOSERS

After Mr. J’s sermon from a few weeks ago where I was especially rebuked for my harbouring a grudging disposition, God began to cultivate something of this fervent love in my heart. As I began to stop covering up my own many, gracious so sins and rather cover up the few, small sins of other I began to see their gifts. When I was able to finally be able to perceive these gifts which are the manifold grace of God in others, I became more and more able to identify and receive them in others. I realized that I was thee most unqualified and ill-equipped in the Church to do any form of speaking or ministering. As the puritan prayed, God had “Inspired me with a deep sense of my unworthiness arising from
the depravity of my nature, my omitted duties, my unimproved advantages, thy commands violated by me.” Every man here is more qualified than I to be a good disposer of the manifold grace of God within them. Mr. A. with his ability to think critically and teach simply, Mr. W. with his accomplishments in music and composition, The F brothers with their exceptional minds and ability to both learn and teach, or the two farmers in our church body who while peaceful and quiet men are the boldest among us as unapologetic patriarchs and local missionaries in both business and family, Mr. L. with his exceptional ability to take command, exhort, admonish, and lead, the A. boys who have invested their lives with profitable knowledge, Mr. O’s boys who follow their father so joyfully, even Mr. V’s Young son who wants himself to be the instrument to bring joy into the lives of others, and my brothers also who want to take godly dominion of the arts and sciences. Men, “You are a steward and if a steward should receive his lord’s goods, and keep them for himself he would be an unfaithful steward.” says Spurgeon, “Child of God, see to it that you faithfully discharge your responsibility as one of the “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” I plead with you all, do not hold grudges as I have, or ask with me of God to give us repentance unto life. Because grudging keeps from giving.

FINAL PLEA

I furthermore plead that as we stop covering our own sins and start covering those of others we will be diligent to identify, affirm, develop, utilize, and share with each other in holy fellowship the graces God has given us. Be bold to exercise your gifts in the Church. Peter goes on to reckon up two of the gifts we have received as speaking in the Church and ministering in the Church, that the pure words of God may be taught. “If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God ministereth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom is praise and dominion forever, and ever, Amen.” This is a good directive to all of us. First it is optional, “If any man speak, “If any man minister.” Second it is invitational, “let him speak” “let him do it.” Third it is directive, “Let him speak as the words of God.” Fourth it is unconditional, “Let him do it as of the ability which God giveth.” Fifth it is purposeful, “That God in all things may be glorified.” So old and young men, I with the Apostle Peter encourage you in the spirit of fervent love to choose the option, receive the invitation, take the direction, be ok that it is unconditional and rejoice in the purpose. “Now therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on the bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering: Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel to another:j even as Christ forgave, even so do ye. And above all things put on love, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body, and be ye thankful: Le the word of Christ dwell in you plenteously in all wisdom, teaching and dmonishing your own selves, in Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with a grace in your hearts to the Lord, And whatsoever ye shall do, in word or deed, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God even the Father by him.” Colossians 3:12-16

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