Forming the Church We’re Called to Be

Church Choices, Life Choices

By Karen Polich

Choices aren’t always easy. At times there is not a clear answer on right and wrong. Continuing the sermon series, Becoming the Church We’re Called to Be, Pastor Michael M. Cook laid out how to handle the “grey areas” of life in 1 Corinthians 8. Listen to the podcast here.

At first glance, this text may not seem applicable to us today, but look deeper. The Corinthians expressed personal liberty in their behavior and saw no issues with their choices because they weren’t choosing something that went against their walk with God. Their knowledge of God was how they determined right and wrong. Paul pointed out several problems with this.

While knowledge is essential, it is not sufficient. Ultimately, love limits liberty.

In this case, the food didn’t bring them closer to God or push them farther away. The issue was the impact of decisions on the new believer and non-believer.

Their situation is a prime example of the grey area. These areas bring real challenge. How do we live them out? How do we answer questions from the grey area that our children and grandchildren ask?

We are free in Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:17, Galatians 5:1) But what if fully exercising our freedom causes others to head down the wrong path?

Love is the key. Knowledge says go for it, love says, how does this impact someone else?



Pastor Cook gave five terms to assist the believer in filtering right and wrong.
Excess. Do I need it? Is it right or wrong for me? Hebrews 12:1
Expedience. Is it useful? 1 Corinthians 6:12
Emulation. Is this going to allow me to walk as Christ leads? How would Jesus handle this situation? 1 John 2:6
Example. Would this represent righteousness? Is it a good example to others? Romans 14:13
Evangelism. If I do this, would it benefit those who do not know Christ? Colossians 4:5

As Christ followers, we have a biblical responsibility for each other. At times, we may need to give up our liberty and freedom out of love for another. What are we teaching with what we do? The last thing we want to be is a stumbling block to someone else. In the grey areas, we have to decide if we will choose “me” or “we”. Choices may not hurt me, but we must consider others.

What life choices are you making in the grey areas? When the choice isn’t clear, remember LOVE is the key.


Foundations of Marriage

By Karen Polich

The Bible lays out the foundations of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7: 1-16. Paul gives a clear picture of a Godly marriage. A God built marriage is centered in Christ and soaked in His Word. Not married yet? Seek God first. Married to a non-believer? Seek God and honor the vows you have taken.

“A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.” – Mignon McLaughlin

On Sunday, Pastor Michael M. Cook shared the biblical outline for the foundations of marriage and three keys areas of a Godly marriage; happiness, harmony and permanency. Listen to the podcast here.

We should experience happiness in a Christian marriage. God was the creator of marriage and established the sanctity and purity of a monogamous relationship. It is between one man and one woman. Happiness comes when we honor our husband or wife above our own desires. If happiness is lacking, we need to go to God in prayer. He is the ultimate authority on marriage.

We should exhibit harmony in Christian marriage. God calls for physical, psychological and spiritual harmony in marriage. Marriage is a partnership. It is meant to be lived out together. When God is at the center, marriage bears fruit. Harmony is essential and needs to be in place in each area. When harmony is lacking, lean into each other and make the effort to bring harmony.

We should expect permanency in Christian marriage. It is a life-long contract, not an experiment. Longevity is part of God’s design. When the Word of God is at the center of marriage, it establishes stability. Make prayer a priority. A God-centered marriage brings serenity into the home.

“A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short. ” – Andre Marios

Allow the Holy Spirit to reign in your life. Make Him the center of your marriage. God has laid out the foundation to build a marriage designed by Him.

Conquest to Victory

By Karen Polich

“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are!”  John C. Maxwell

We each have the opportunity to live a victorious life. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 contains the elements of a victorious Christian life. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s Sermon, Conquest to Victory here.)

Are we aware of the Savior’s purchase? We have been purchased at great price and are not our own. That can be a hard concept for us in America where we are so focused on freedom and independence. As Christians, we signed up and are free from sin, but discipleship of our lives is not ours to control. We need awareness of Jesus as Lord and Master over us.

Are we awake to the Savior’s presence? We’re sealed by the Holy Spirit. 1 John 4:4 says, You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. We have been given the power of the Holy Spirit, living in us.

Are we available for the Father’s purpose? The call on our lives and the gifts we are given differ, but we all have the same purpose. We are called to bring glory to Him and His name. What gets in the way of living out our purpose? Sometimes it’s fear. It can also be the result of our casual approach that puts distance between us and God. Distance is a killer. The casual moments may be our weakest. Without intentional focus we are prone to drifting.

Living a victorious life brings us closer to God. It allows us to live with the intent of bringing Him the glory He deserves. When we understand we have been bought at a hefty price and know our purpose, we can move into the dimension of success. It’s the conquest to victory.



Missing the Mark of Holiness

By Karen Polich

“A Holy life will make the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns, they just shine.”  – Dwight L. Moody

Have you noticed, at times Christians can stoop lower than even the most immoral non-believer in their behavior? We all fall short, but there is a difference between boastful embraced sin and sin we turn from. Within the church, a life of perpetual, unrepentant sin is a personal tragedy that leads to a negative public testimony without the removal of it from the fellowship. Sin in the fellowship that comes with no desire to change must be dealt with.

Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon, Missing the Mark of Holiness from the Forming the Church We’re Called to Be series here. Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13 focused on how the church in Corinth had lost its way. As believers, we are called to more. We are called to change the culture around us and show Godly influence in the world around us. We cannot have a flippant attitude toward sin. As a church, if sin is allowed to go on, what testimony does it send? God’s Word is clear. In sincerity and truth, the sin must be removed and put out of the fellowship. (Paul was clear that he was speaking about the immoral behavior of believers, not the lost. See scripture above.)

Church discipline is something done out of love, like the correcting of a child. It is about love for people but hate for sin. The church is to help, bearing witness to the testimony of Christ, not hiding in isolation. A church without holiness has nothing to say to a lost world. We are called to be different and to be the salt and light for a lost world. Matthew 5:13-14

It starts with the close examination of our own hearts. How are we choosing to live? If we are allowing sin to infiltrate the outpouring of our lives, how long before we are just another bad apple in the bunch?

The church must demonstrate within its own body what holiness looks like. Everyone is a sinner. Believers are forgiven in Christ but must choose to pursue a life focused on Christ and free from the shackles of sin. To miss the mark and fall short is one thing. To live a life saturated in chosen sin is another. As the church, we are called to live in obedience and shine the light of Christ into the world. Church discipline is a necessary part of a genuine testimony focused on His Kingdom.

Be Humble and Kind

By Karen Polich

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” – C.S. Lewis

God chooses to use humble people. Those with humility are nothing more than servants for the cause of Christ. His purpose becomes our purpose. With humble hearts, we seek gentleness, want to serve and have compassion for others. Though we may step on ourselves with our actions and words, true humility shines through. The most humble to walk the earth was Jesus Christ.

“Pride and fruitfulness are incompatible.” – Michael M. Cook

Teaching from 1 Corinthians 4:6-13 Pastor Michael M. Cook continued the sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, with Be Humble and Kind. (Listen to the podcast here.) Paul was speaking to the church in Corinth. With no word in the Roman and Grecian language for humility, the concept couldn’t have been an easy thing to teach. How can we be humble and kind? Avoid conceit and embrace humility. The passage distinguishes the characteristics we should avoid and those to embrace.

Characteristics to avoid, as demonstrated in the Corinthians’ conceit.:
1. Puffed up. The danger comes in feeling so good about what’s going on in our lives and who we are following (Christ) that it causes a critical attitude leading to judgement and self-righteousness.
2. Boastful. It doesn’t make spiritual sense to boast. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
3. Full. Are we actually satisfied with where we are and think we have it all figured out? We are called to press on toward the goal… Philippians 3:4a

Characteristics to embrace, as Paul described of the apostles.:
1. Spectacle. In contrast, Paul described the apostles as servants placed on display for others to learn from. The crown only comes after the cross.
2. Fools. When we are focused more on Christ than ourselves, it doesn’t matter if we are thought of as fools. Our focus is simply on Him. There is not concern for what others think.
3. Filth. At times we will be seen as the scum of the earth. Speak the truth and watch how satan will try to make you feel. ‘You’re intolerant…’ No. The truth is the truth, but we may not be regarded well.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4

Humility is the great unifier. We are not deserving of what Christ has done for us. If our focus is on others and squarely on the love of Jesus, we will have the ability to be humble and kind.

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be thankful. Conceit is self given. Be careful.” – John Wooden

Know Your Church: Recognize Yourself

By Karen Polich

Even with a mirror, we don’t always recognize what we look like and the state of our hearts. Pastor Michael M. Cook’s latest sermon mapped out three categories of individuals who make up the Church. Taking time to assess which category we fall into may be the beginning for forming the Church we’re called to be.

The natural individual. (1 Corinthians 2:14) The natural lacks a spiritual component. This individual has not been saved and has no appreciation for the things of God. They will drop out, move out or lash out when it comes to God’s call. While they have looked at the Gospel and may be very “moral”, there is no understanding. (1 Thessalonians. 5:23) But in Christ you are made alive (Ephesians 2:1)

The carnal individual. While possessing both a physical and spiritual nature, the carnal is dominated by the old nature and controlled by the flesh. The physical overwhelms the spiritual and there is a lack of maturity and growth. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2) How do you know if you fall in the carnal category? Jealousy and strife mark the carnal individual. This Christian will eventually kill everything touched and puts selfish interests ahead of anything else. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

It hurts the heart of God to see Christians in the carnal state. “This is not an identity you have. This is an activity you have chosen”. – Michael M. Cook

The spiritual individual. (1 Corinthians 2:15-16) Converted in Christ, this person is obedient and yielded to the spiritual side over the physical side. Jesus resides in their hearts and presides over their life. Jesus is preeminent in their life. This individual lives the life change that comes from the Holy Spirit. The spiritual individual is growing and seeking God, choosing to let Him lead the way.

Do you know Christ? If not, seek Him today. Know Him, but choosing the carnal? Pray for God to set you on a path that leads to the spiritual. Listen to Pastor Michael M. Cook’s sermon series, Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, here.

The Message of the Cross

By Karen Polich

The message of the cross lays out God’s plan. The cross is the first and last word on salvation. There is no debate or discussion. No other way, no other plan and no other action leads to salvation. We choose the cross where Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins once and for all, or we choose to turn from it.

Apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, there is no salvation.

Pastor Michael M. Cook discussed three elements of the cross in Reforming Our Message, part of the Forming the Church We’re Called to Be, sermon series. Listen to the podcast here. (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)

Through the cross, Jesus saves anybody. There isn’t a different plan for different people based on culture, ethnicity or any other factor. We are all free to choose the cross. When we choose the cross, the power and wisdom of God come. (1 Corinthians 1:24) God will not only tell you what is right, He will help you do what is right.

Through the cross, Jesus separates everybody. The cross is the great divide. We are either perishing or being saved. (1 Corinthians 1:18) People reject, ridicule or receive the cross.

“God never said, I’ll show you and then you will believe. He said believe and I will show you.” – Michael M. Cook

Through the cross, Jesus sanctified somebody. Salvation is past, present and future. Past salvation was the moment in which He saved me, giving me complete freedom over sin. Present salvation is the power of practice over sin. Future salvation will be the complete freedom from the presence of sin.

The average Christian doesn’t always see the need for the cross. “I have my salvation. I’m done. What more is there?” We need the cross every single day. When we come to the cross, we are pardoned. When we give Jesus authority over our life and put ourselves on the cross, we have power over sin.

Imagine the throne of your life and the cross next to that throne. Jesus on the cross, I rule my life. Flip that and give Jesus authority to lead my life which places me on the cross and you see the life of someone who has put Christ at the helm.

We all have a choice as to who rules our life. Me or Christ? To live a successful and victorious life in Christ, we must die to ourselves on the cross and make a daily covenant to be a Christ follower, putting Him in the driver’s seat.

Are you living the message of the cross?