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Sunday, March 12, 2017 pm

 

SPIRITUAL INDICATORS

How important is the church to me?

 

We are in the midst of a study addressing our need to go on to perfection.  Our goal in this study is to encourage us to grow as we ought and to provide us some tools to help us do that.   Yesterday morning we addressed our need to grow by examining Hebrews 5:12-6:1.   But IF we are to grow, it is going to begin with honest examination.   Just like we go to a doctor to examine our physical health, so we need to go to “the great physician” to examine our spiritual health.  To do that we are looking at some spiritual indicators.  A spiritual indicator is an indicator (much like an oil pressure gauge, a blood pressure monitor, or a progression chart) that is designed to help us see where we are spiritually in relation to where we OUGHT to be.  Last night we began the first of 3 lessons taking a spiritual inventory.  We examined how we are growing personally as Christians (examining what is our priority? how much do I study the Bible and how much do I pray? How well do I control my tongue? Do I understand repentance? And How much do I care about others?)  Tonight, we want to take our examination in a different direction.  We want to address our need for the church.

The church is a subject misunderstood in so many ways.  In many places, it is a neglected topic and its purity and even its existence is in danger.   That is why we need to on a regular basis talk about the church - from the pulpit, in our Bible classes and in our private studies as well as with others. 

I am convinced that if we are to go on to perfection, the church needs to be an important part of our lives.  So this evening as we continue our examination of spiritual indicators, we are going to ask, HOW important is the church to me?  Again, we are going to ask some questions that we need to answer with brutal honesty!

 I.         Do I understand what the church is?

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.       Ask yourself: Do I understand what the church is?  What I am I doing keep the church what God intends for her to be? Tonight, we answer that question not how she can help me and I can help her.

 II.       Why should I be involved?

a.       Because of what the church is

                                                   i.      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.

                                                 ii.      Jesus built His church – Matthew 16:18-19, and purchased it with His own blood – Acts 20:28

                                                iii.      IT is the body of the saved! It is HIS body – Eph. 1:22-23.  Something we WANT to be part of. 

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

                                                   i.      As you study the New Testament, you will find much of the New Testament was 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! 

                                                 ii.      Consider this: Many of the letters were written to local churches, yet they 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 communicated within local congregations.

                                                iii.      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.

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

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

2.       Some don’t want to put themselves under the authority of the leaders in a congregation or be accountable to others.  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.  Friends, that is NOT a bad thing! 
IF the church is designed to build you up, why would you NOT want to be built up?

3.       Others might say, well I’ll just attend a church and not worry about identifying with a congregation. IF that is how you feel, may I ask: WHY?  What if everyone had that attitude? There wouldn’t be a local church for you to attend!  Friends I am convinced God wants me to do my part!

                                                  v.      Ask yourself: Have I found a group of God’s people who love Him and the truth and have I joined with them?

c.        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? 
Ask yourself: 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!

d.       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.

e.       Because I want to grow as a Christian.  I cannot emphasize how important the church is to your 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 that is the church.  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.

f.        Ask yourself: Am I as involved in the Lord’s work as I should be?  What am I doing to keep her pure?  What am I doing to ensure the Lord’s church will be here after my departure?

 III.     What am I doing as part of this body?  Am I doing my part?

a.       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!

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

b.       Realize I CAN do something.  Every part has a function, and most have more functions than they realize. 

c.        How am I representing the church to others?  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. 
What kind of impression am I leaving with others concerning the church?  Am I making her as attractive as possible?

d.       Do I attend as often as possible? Hebrews 10:24-25.  You will not benefit from the church if you are not here! 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. 

e.       Do I worship properly?    we need to be worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), cf. 1 Corinthians 14:15, etc.  I am convinced this is one of the works God has given local church to do.  In fact, there are elements of worship to REQUIRE the local church to properly carry them out.
WHILE God intended worship to be directed toward Him, in His wisdom every act also edifies us.  That is why we should participate with the absolute best of our ability.  Worshipping God properly is not only a mark of maturity, it promotes attitudes that will produce maturity.

f.        Do I stand behind my elders?

                                                   i.      God in His wisdom provided elders to be leaders in a congregation (that has matured).

                                                 ii.      These elders are to be of high quality and qualifications – 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:7-9 and they are entrusted with a serious task – shepherding the flock (Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:2-3).

                                                iii.      We are expected to stand behind and support our elders – Hebrews 13:7, 17,
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 – recognize those who labor among and over you and to esteem the highly in love for their work’s sake…

                                                iv.      Do I support my elders?  Can they depend on me?  Do I encourage them?  How do I speak of them when they are not around?  How do I respond to decisions they have made?  Do I consider that they are looking out for my spiritual welfare?

g.       How am I supporting this church? When it comes to growing within the body of Christ, I have to see this body as important.  Something worthy of investing in. 
An investment is devoting 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. 
In our next lesson, we will address this.

 

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