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Sunday, December 18, 2016 am                                                        Christian Index

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN (6)
The Christian and the Body of Christ

 

In our study about what it means to be a Christian we have been addressing growing as a Christian.  WE have seen the need to grow, noticed several hindrances to our growth and how to deal with these.   Today and in our next lesson we want to notice some specific areas that challenge our growth as Christians. 

Today we want to focus the Christian and the church.   The church is a subject misunderstood in so many ways.  Not only do some not fully realize what the church is, others fail to grasp its importance when it comes to growth, both for you and as the body of Christ.  While a single lesson can only touch the surface of this topic, we want to address how the church can help us grow as Christians. 

 I.         The Christian and the body of Christ –

a.       What is the church?  The church is not a building.  Rather it is a group of saved people.  Universally, it would describe all who are saved. 
Locally, it is descriptive of a group of the saved who have joined together in a specific area, that are “ordered, arranged and organized to work and worship together as a local church”[1] as prescribed to her in scripture.  As we join together, we become a body of the Lord’s people answering directly to Christ as our head (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15, 5:23, Colossians 1:18) and following His instructions.  

b.       One of the many descriptions of the church is that of a body.  
Paul explained this in detail in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.  Romans 12:4-5.

c.        As a Christian, you are part of the body of Christ – His church! – every part of the body HAS a function.  We need to find out what that function is and do it. 

d.       Why should I be involved?

                                                   i.      Because of what the church is

1.       It was a part of God’s eternal purpose – Ephesians 3:10-11 – His wisdom is demonstrated by the church (i.e. we know more about Him because of the church).  Considering this, we ought to be careful before we seek to change her.

2.       Jesus built His church – Matthew 16:18-19

3.       He purchased it with His own blood – Acts 20:28

4.       IT is the body of the saved!  Something we WANT to be a part of. 

                                                 ii.      Because God expects me to be part of a local church

1.       As you study the New Testament, you will find much of the epistles are written to local congregations.  While there are things you can do as an individual, there are also things God expects us to do collectively (as part of a congregation).  Within the pages of scripture, we find what the church is, what is expected of us and HOW we are to carry these things out.  It is implied that God WANTS me to be a part of this! 

2.       Consider this: Many of the letters written to local churches also addressed those who made up the congregation – saints! 
For example: 1 Corinthians 1:2 – He writes “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…”  In vs. 10, he will challenge them as “brethren” to act in harmony.
Colossians 4:15-16 after Paul tells the Colossians to greet the brethren in Laodicea, he speaks of reading the epistle to “the church of the Laodiceans.”
The point is the Bible recognizes the church as the saints that are part of it.  He expected ALL saints to comprehend these things and they were conveyed within local congregations.

3.       Other than temporary circumstances (moving from one area to another, the need to leave an ungodly congregation or being put out of it because you stand for truth (cf. 3 John 10), you do not find those choosing simply to be “saints” and NOT part of a congregation. 
Consider: Paul – Acts 9:19 – after being converted we find immediately he is spending time with the disciples in Damascus (implied – they were organized). 
Acts 9:26, when he had to leave he goes to Jerusalem where he sought to join the disciples there.  The word “join” means to attach oneself to.
Acts 11:25-26, Later, we find Paul and Barnabas and others in Antioch where for a whole year “they assembled with the church and taught.  NOTICE also Acts 13:1, Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

4.       Some are hesitant to identify with a congregation for various reasons. 

a.        Maybe they don’t know enough about a congregation.  They are “investigating” – fair enough.  But how long will you let that be your reason.

b.       Some don’t want to put themselves under the authority of the leaders in a congregation.  Such can be a misunderstanding of the purpose of leaders.  Be reminded in Hebrews 13:17 that we obey those who rule over us (including elders) because they watch out for our souls.  Also, see 1 Thessalonians 5:13-14 – we recognize those laboring among us and esteem them highly for their works sake…  Friends, that is NOT a bad thing! 
Or maybe it is a matter of one who doesn’t WANT to submit.  Be honest!  Is that a good thing?  IF the church is designed to build you up, why would you NOT want to be built up?

                                                iii.      As a part of the body (local church), I am expected to do my part -
Ephesians 4:16, the church (temple) is expected to grow and that happens when every part does its share.  Note vs. 11-12, “functionaries” are given to equip the saints for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.  We have a WORK to do and that involves building up the body!
1 Corinthians 12:25-27 notes that when one member suffers, the whole suffers.  This is true physically, AND spiritually. 
Hebrews 10:24-25 – let us consider one another in order to stir up good works…

                                                iv.      Because I will be accountable for doing my part
2 Corinthians 5:10, we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ and be judged. 
Galatians 6:5 – each one shall bear his own load

                                                  v.      For the sake of the future of the church – if there is to be a future church, we must do our part to make that happen.  Perhaps more accurately, for the future of THIS church!
I am continually reminded of the words of Jesus in Luke 18:8, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on earth?  A good question that we have an answer for, but what about the work that I am involved in?  Am I concerned enough about this church that I want to see it survive after I am gone?  While we let God “whittle on His end of the stick”, don’t forget that we need to be “whittling” on OUR end of it!

                                                vi.      For the sake of the purity of the church
1 Timothy 3:15 – conduct yourself in the house of God…which is the pillar and ground of truth.
 if the church is to be the true church, we must maintain its purity, both doctrinal and moral!   The problem with Corinth -1 Corinthians 5 – some were ignoring the problem.  Same is true in Revelation 2 – Thyatira and Pergamos.

                                              vii.      Because I want to grow as a Christian.  I cannot emphasize how important the church is to growth.  One who chooses to neglect the church in his/her life does so at a loss to himself.  You miss out on the strengthening she can provide and the opportunities you have to be a strength to others of like precious faith. 
You miss out on being part of the spiritual family we have addressed throughout this study.  A family that cares about you and wants to see you thrive spiritually.  They love you and will do what they can for you – including exhorting and admonishing you when it is needed.

 II.       What can I do to promote growth in the Lord’s church? 

a.       Realize that it is not a suggestion!  We have established that.  Remind yourself of what the church is and what it can accomplish for you in your life.   If you understand what the church is you will see its vital role in our lives!  We need the church AND the church (local congregation) needs us!

b.       Realize you CAN do something.  Again, go back to the illustration of the church as a body – every part does its share.  Every part has a function, and most have more functions than they realize. 

                                                   i.      You can let your light shine (more next lesson). NEVER underestimate the power of a proper example – Matthew 5:13-16.  Titus 2:11-12 – the grace of God has appeared teaching us to deny worldly lusts and ungodliness, and to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age. 

                                                 ii.       You can attend as often as possible and worship properly – “in spirit and in truth” – John 4:24, cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15, etc.
People sometimes ask, “Do I have to attend every service?”  To which, I would reply, “Why would you NOT want to attend extra opportunities to build up and be built up by your brethren?”  Attending any service is not just an academic exercise – it is designed to make us stronger.  Is it a genuine inquiry? OR is it seeking to get by with as little commitment as possible?  We will talk more about Bible classes in a moment. 

                                                iii.      You can give properly (more in a moment)

                                                iv.      You can build up the brethren (more in a moment, AND our next lesson)

                                                  v.      You can study and pray – these are matters of your personal growth.  Personal growth leads to growth within a congregation.  I.e. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
And in your prayers, think about the church and struggles that your brethren are enduring. 

c.        How important is the church to me? As we have emphasized several times in this series, our mindset determines how seriously we will do everything we do. 
When it comes to growing within the body of Christ, and helping the body grow, you have to see this body as important.  Something worthy of investing in.  Think in terms of investments.  It is defined as devoting your resources to something for which you expect to get a return. 
A spiritual investment means that you are devoting your resources – time, money, talents and energy into your eternal destiny.  And the church ought to be a part of that!  Examples:

                                                   i.      “Invest” with your material things give financially and generously - 1 Corinthians 16:1-2, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, etc.   Think of what the church is able to do or hindered from doing because of your giving.   NOTE: This is not about the amount, but about the heart. 
Give of your time and resources.
WHEN you do this, you will be more interested in the well-being of the congregation.  Most investors don’t intend to waste their investment.  They will do what they need to so that it will succeed.   The same is true with the church – what you put into it is how precious it will be to you. 
NOTE: Money CANNOT buy your way out of your responsibilities.

                                                 ii.      “Invest” in Bible classes

1.       One of the qualities of a strong church is well planned and effective Bible classes.   Classes that take into consideration the needs of the congregation.  

2.       If you want to grow as a Christian, attend Bible classes! As a rule, you will not find strong members who deliberately shun Bible study. 

3.       If you want to REALLY grow, “invest” in the Bible classes. Make them as effective for you as possible.   That means you make preparation, cf. Ezra 7:10 – he had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the LORD and to do it and to teach it.  Get proper rest when you can, set aside time to prepare the materials beforehand.  Do what research you can and prepare to participate. 

4.       Taking this further, why not seek to teach a class according to your ability. 
Teachers of Bible classes, who properly prepare, benefit the greatest from their work.  It is not an easy thing to do, but it is so rewarding. 
AND, desperately needed for many reasons. 
a) IF we are able, the Bible tells us we are expected to be teachers – consider – Hebrews 5:12, by this time you OUGHT to be teachers.
 NOTE: Yes, there are some who are not able to teach (even some who desire to, but they do not possess the abilities to teach in a given setting), BUT typically there are many more who CAN teach but will not, than who CANNOT teach but desire to.
b) If you are able to teach, you are needed!  Many congregations suffer because there is a shortage of teachers - few step up to take their turn teaching.  The result is a handful have to do it all the time and it wears on them.   They become frustrated and may eventually burn out. They are not afforded the opportunity to sit in a class as a student and learn from others.
c)  The answer is for EVERYONE who is able to step up and teach according to their abilities and in turn.   And if you are not able now, commit to becoming able.
d) Is it hard work? Absolutely! To do it effectively requires sacrifice and diligence.   IT requires a commitment to be a godly person (but you need to do that anyways) But the reward is tremendous growth in His word and as a Christian.    And that is the point we are seeking in this lesson. 
e) If you are willing, see the elders and let them put you to work.

                                                iii.       “Invest” in your brethren – your brethren are your greatest source of strength when you are struggling.  Make them your spiritual family.  Make them a source of your strength as a Christian.  Be there for each other - Romans 12:9-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, etc. 
Consider Hebrews 3:12-13 calls for us to exhort one another daily.

 

The future of the Lord’s church depends upon how strong we make her today.  And how strong you are, will determine how strong she is.  Just ask yourself: IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE ME… What would happen to the church here?  Would there be Bible classes?  Would they be quality classes?  Would we even meet more than once a week?  Would we know and prefer each other? How much work would we be able to do financially?  What shape would the building be in?  Etc. 

So how important is the church to you?  How important is this congregation to you?  Is she stronger because of you?  Are you stronger because of her?  If not, you can change that.  Will you?  Think about it!



[1] http://www.gospelway.com/church/church_nature.php