¡°GETTING TO KNOW YOUR CHURCH¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: Matthew 16:13-20 January 12, 2014.
1) The dynamics of the church: ¡°What is a church¡± may be a simple question to some but complicate to others. It is simple because we go to church every week at least once a week to some and we believe we know what it is. It may be complicated if you want to study it on theological point of view. Countless books, articles, seminars and debates had been written, published, organized trying to find out what the church really is. Without making it so complicated for all of us to know, the church was built by the Lord Jesus Christ. From the day the first church was formed in Jerusalem over 2,000 years ago till this 21st century, churches were organized, buildings were erected, congregations worship the Lord in churches no one may count the numbers. People from all over the world, regardless of background, education, social-economic status, language and ethnicity or culture, millions over millions attend churches each and every Sunday in every corner of he planet earth.
2) The dangers inside the church: The church of Jesus Christ is facing great dangers on her 2,000 years history. The most serious danger the church faces is not from political persecution, not from challenges of false religions, not from the influence of secularism, agnostics or atheists. The greatest danger the church faces is the deteriorating decay inside the church by the people in the church: the eroding force of many Christians who suppose to build the church, but instead they are tearing down the church. More and more of those who call themselves Christians don't know what the church is, don't care the wellness of the church, don't know that their attitude and life style have great impact on the future of the church. Some of these Christians either don't attend or support the church as God wants them to. Others will split a church to set up their own small groups on their term, at their will. Too many of this kind of Christians greatly weaken the future of the church.
CHURCH IS THE HOUSE OF GOD: (1 Timothy 3:15)
1) The church is where God lives: In the early Christian history, few people understood the meaning of the church. Writing to Timothy, a young pastor in Ephesus, Paul explained the nature of the church: The house of the living God. This is based on the historical background of the tabernacle God asked Moses to build while the Israelis were wandering in the wilderness. (Ex 25) God wanted his people to know his presence was always with them through out the 40 years in Sinai. Until King Solomon built the first temple, both the tabernacle and the temple were symbols of God's presence among his people.
¡°House of God¡± represents the place God stays or lives, like a house of anyone of us is where we live and stay. We all know that this is a symbolism because God is spirit and cannot lives in any structure built by human hands. (1 Kings 8:27-30) The reason God calls this his ¡°house¡± is to show his people he is ¡°in¡± here with them. How many of us today really treat the church as ¡°the house of God¡±, a place where God lives? We need to have reverence, respect and honor when we come to the church where ¡°God is here.¡±
2) The church is where we worship: Both the tabernacle and the temple in the Old Testament were the place God's people come to worship, to give sacrifice and offerings, to seek forgiveness of sins and to offer praises and honor to God for his goodness and mercy on his people. God's people are to worship Him as God set in the Bible, not as if they can make decision if they want to or not. Worshiping God each week, or seven days, is so important that God listed it in the Ten Commandments. (Ex 20:10-11) Worship God once a week is both a duty and an honor all God's children need to do.
3) The church is where we honor God: ¡°The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.¡± (Habakkuk 2:20) Most of us will respect and honor a palace where the emperor lives. We will also honor the White House where the president lives. How much more should we respect and honor the church where God lives? We all need to have a spirit of reverence and respect when we enter the sanctuary to worship God. No one should treat the church like a market place or a party room. If your heart is not ready to worship, you may stay in the fellowship hall. Once you are in the sanctuary, your heart needs to concentrate on God, not anything that may distract your spirit from showing honor and reverence to God. You don't need anyone to ask you to turn off your cell phone. You also should not bring a book or anything to read when you are in worship. God is in his house and he sees how you treat him.
CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST: (Ephesians 1:22-23)
1) Christ is the head of the church: ¡°And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be the head over everything for the church.¡± (1:22) This is about the authority of Christ over everything in the church: her people, her leaders, her business, her goals, her operation and her organization. Christ is the supreme commander of all things going in the church, no one person or group of persons, no title whatever man may call, no personal ambition of anyone, any group may control the ministry and purpose of the church. When any group of people violates the authority of Christ over the church, they are NOT the church but a civic organization. So, a church and her people should have the highest and utmost respect to Christ, seeking and following his word and guidelines in the Bible in their beliefs and practices of church business. As the human body obeys the human head, the church, the spiritual body will obey Christ in all things the church does. No church or individual Christian could disregard the authority of Christ and still call church or Christian.
2) The church is the body of Christ: ¡°God appointed him to be the head over everything for the church which is his body.¡± (1:22-23) This is about the need of the body and its connection to the head for survival and function. Just as Jesus said it clearly in John 15:5, ¡°Apart from me, you can do nothing.¡± This is a very important doctrine to the church and all Christians. No church can do any good, bear any fruit, apart from a close relationship with Christ. The only way a body will live and function is to keep connected with the head, as a branch needs to keep connected with the vine. This is about our vital needs of Christ, his support and resources to keep us going. Christians need to keep a close walk with Christ and his life giving power from his word in the Bible. God wants to see the church grow to the fullness of him in all things we do.
3) The church is to glorify Christ: ¡°¡±Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish but holy and blameless.¡± (Eph 5:22-23) This is about the purity of a church God desires to see. Christ has done his part by his death on the dross and the cleansing of our sin by his blood and his word, now it is our part to maintain our cleanliness and blameless condition so God may receive us to Christ in glory. Both the church and individual Christians need to heed this qualification to be a radiant, dynamic church that will bear much fruit to glorify God. (John 15:8)
THE CHURCH IS CALLED FOR A MISSION: (Eph 4:1)
1) The church is those God called: ¡°As a prisoner of the Lord, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.¡± (4:1) The Greek word, ek-klysia means ¡°those who were called for a mission.¡± A church is not about a building or an organization at a certain location. A church is about the people whom God called out of the world. This is about our status in the eyes of God. We are not like others in the world, we are special people God called from the world to be his children. This is a precious and honorable status to be called. Do you realize you are special in God's eyes that he calls you to be his children. So, we are not and cannot live like others in the world.
2) The church is called for a mission: ¡°Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy spirit.¡± (Matt 28:19-20) God calls us out of the world for a very important purpose or mission: to bring his message of salvation to the rest of the world, to baptize them and make them his disciples. Most Christians understand and enjoy the privileges of being called to be God's children and all the benefits that come with the status. But only a few know and accept the responsibilities of going, teaching the world God's message and baptizing them to be God's disciples. This mission is given both to the church and to individual believer. God expects each one of us to bear fruit, to bring others to know him and believe in him. How much you have done or willing to do for this mission?
3) The church is called as a family: ¡°Consequently you are no longer aliens or foreigners but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household (family).¡± (Eph 2:19) Just as each and all members of a family is honored and responsible for the well being of the family, each and everyone member of the church is also honored and responsible for the well being of the church. No member should think or act like a visitor in the church. We all are called to become parts of this body, the family of God, this church. We all are responsible and honored to help, serve, give and grow this family we are called to be with. Every member of the church is equally responsible for the growth and health of the church. We all are equally responsible for the needs of the church both in giving of resources and service to keep her beautiful.
THE CHURCH IS ALSO ABOUT THE BUILDING:
1) Church building glorifies God: ¡°Solomon sent message to Hiram: You know that because of the wars waged against my father David from all sides, he could not build a temple for the Name of the Lord his God until the Lord put his enemies under his feel. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side and there is no adversary or disaster. I intend, therefore to build a temple for the Name of the Lord my God, as the Lord told my father David when he said: You son whom I will put on the throne in your place will build the temple for my Name.¡± (1 Kings 5:2-5) To have a part in building God's church is a special honor and blessing. This takes lots of love, hard work and sacrifice of much material resources to achieve it. Those of us had that honor is by the grace of God. If you come to this church later, don't have that honor or privilege of building this church, you can do the same by giving service and resources to keep it clean, running smooth and well furnished. Church buildings everywhere give tremendous testimony of those who gave so much to build them for the Lord. Inside the Church of the Garrison in Sydney, Australia, names of those who died in building that church were engraved on the bricks of the walls. They were hardcore prisoners sent from England. They had little resources to give to build that church, so, they gave their lives to make it happen. What can you give to this church building?
2) Church building used for God: Every church building was built for the use of spreading the gospel of salvation, for the teaching of God's word to grow Christians and for the fellowship of believers to strengthen God's work in the church. These are the three main purposes of a church building: we use the building to preach God's word so people may be saved. We use the building to teach God's word so Christians may grow stronger; we use the building to hold functions for fellowship among Christians so we build support, care and mutual service to each other. How much have you participated in these works of the church? How much have you joined, served in the ministries of this church? If you are sporadic in the ministries of the church, you have not been faithful to God's grace of giving us this beautiful building.
3) Church building and your life: Even in a society as mobile as it is today, church buildings still serve as important part of Christian life. We hear the gospel message in a church, we were baptized in a church, we learn, grow and serve in the church. We got married in the church, we dedicate babies in the church, we celebrate special occasion in the church and if Jesus tarries a little, we may hold our funerals in the church. On the other hand, we worship in the church, we teach and learn God's word in the church, we worship, sing praise, pray and give in the church. We help keep the church clean, cooked or change diapers for our babies in the church. We bring our children to church to learn about Jesus and become believers in Christ in the church. Many of you give resources sacrificially for financial needs of the church. I can list many more what we can do or have done in the church. The church is a big part in our lives all through the years. When Jesus comes back to deliver the church, we will go to see him in heaven as a church.
APPLICATION OF TRUTH:
1) The church built on the rock: ¡°On this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.¡± (Matt 16:18) The ¡°rock¡± on which Jesus said he will build his church is the confession of Peter that ¡°You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.¡± (16:16) The church of Jesus Christ is not the same of any other structure man may build but only God can. Churches were built to spread that same message: ¡°Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world, the only Son of the living God.¡± So, when we come to church, we need to remember what is a church and why Jesus built his church. The church of Jesus Christ, both the people whom God has called and the buildings God's people had built, will always stand to shine the True Light. How blessed we are to be part of this wonderful gift of God to us and to the lost people in this world. Until the day Jesus comes back, we have a mission to do: to bring the world to know him and worship him.
2) The church is pillar of truth: ¡°If I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.¡± (1 Timothy 3:15) This is about Christian conduct which can build up or tear down the church. The future of a church is not about size, money or fame. Many gigantic and beautiful church buildings in Europe had become tourist spots, no longer bearers of God's truth. How Christians conduct their life in the church and the world is the determining factor of the future of the church. If we want our church to grow, to be dynamic witness of the truth, we all have to be strong pillars of the truth built on the foundation of Jesus and his word. We all have to learn more, commit stronger and hold up our honor as God's children so our church will not just last longer, grow bigger but also be more faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ who called us into his household.