God First Spiritually – How Important is the Church? (1)

See full series: 2019-sermons
See full series: lights-in-a-dark-world-2019

God First Spiritually – How Important is the Church? (1)

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr

Passage: Ephesians 3:10-11`



Sunday, June 2, 2019 am             

Seeking First the Kingdom of God (4)
The Church – We need each other
(This Outline is 2 Lessons

           As we continue to examine the spiritual aspect of our example (which will influence every area of our lives), we want to remind ourselves of the one spiritual institution God provided for us to help us as we shine our lights in this dark world – the church.   While in times past we have engaged in an extensive study of the New Testament church, we need to be reminded of its importance from time to time. It is also especially relevant in this portion of our study as we continue to address seeking first the kingdom of God.

I.    The church in God’s pattern –

  1. What is the church? A word used in two senses in scripture –
    Universal – referring to the body of all who are saved (a relationship with God – added to it by Him)
    Local – a group of Christians in a given location that join together to do the work He has given us to do collectively. This group ought to be related to our understanding of who is in the universal church (i.e. those we believe to be saved).
    We typically class these works in 4 categories – Evangelism, worship, edification and limited benevolence.     Time will not permit a detailed discourse on these works, but that is what we find the church engaged in, in the Bible.
  2. The importance of the church –
    Ephesians 3:10-11 – a part of God’s eternal plan.   God has always made provisions (and expectations) that we meet together from time to time. It helps us deal with the world.
    It was built by Jesus – Matthew 16:18-19 and purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28).
    When we are saved, we are added to it – Acts 2:47
    It is described as the pillar and ground of truth – 1 Timothy 3:15
  3. The New Testament serves as a pattern for the church – within its pages we learn about organization (local – independent & autonomous, limited authority of elders, deacons), its work, worship, name and means of entrance, etc.
    We need to follow that pattern.
  4. The church and the world – we are designed to stand out and project the light of Christ to a lost world. We need to be concerned about our influence.   We do this primarily as individuals, but we also ought to be concerned collectively what the world thinks of us (for good or bad).
    Thessalonica – from you the word sounded forth – 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9, the world sees who we are. The church at Philadelphia speaks of a church with an open door that no one could shut (Revelation 3:8).
    NOTE: We cannot let what others think of us keep us from doing the right thing. Obviously, the point is, we let our lights shine individually and by what we do together (collectivity) in our community, BY reflecting the word of God.

II.    How important is the church to me?

  1. God wants me to be a part of His church.   The body of the saved, but also a local group of believers joined together to do His prescribed work.
    We find plenty of evidence in the NT for local congregations.
    First, most letters were written to congregations, implying their importance.
    Second, we find examples of joining the church and working with a congregation. Paul sought to join the brethren in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26).   Later we find Paul and Barnabas in Antioch (Acts 11:26 & 13:1).   There are so many things associated with being part of a local church.
    Clearly, this is what God wants.
  2. What can the church do for me?
    1. I realize this expression is subject to abuse.   Many totally misunderstand what the church is, and they ask this with expectations that the church cater to their wants and desires.   That is NOT what the church is about.   Understanding the church ought to compel us to ask, “What can I do for the church?” instead. But beyond that, we need to understand the importance of the church as a part of our lives. So it behooves us to understand FROM God’s word some things the church can do for us.
    2. It can ground me in the faith.
      One of the works involved in the church is teaching.   Not just those outside (evangelism), but also within the body (edification).
      Edification is primarily about building us up spiritually – consider Ephesians 4:11-16.
      1 Timothy 4:6 – Timothy is to “instruct the brethren in these things.”
      2 Timothy 4:2-3 also points toward this as Timothy is instructed to preach the word.
      That is why we emphasize teaching so much.
    3. It can give me a spiritual family to turn to with my struggles – sometimes this world produces struggles in our lives.   We become discouraged, frustrated, maybe even frightened at what is going on around us.
      Our brethren are there for us to help us.   They genuinely care and understand the spiritual nature of our battle.   That is why scripture continually challenges us to care for each other – it is borne out in our Christian love –
      Philippians 2:20 – Timothy was described as one “like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state.”
      We bear one another’s burdens – Galatians 6:2, Romans 12:10, 15   – kindly affectionate to one another; we rejoice and weep with each other
      Hebrews 12:12-13 – strengthen the hands that hang down, and feeble knees…
      1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 – Paul commended them for their brotherly love.
    4. It can be a place of refuge from the carnal ways of the world – in the times we live in, we desperately need this. Those who deal with the world on a regular basis, need a place where they can come and meet with others who will not use profanity, filthy entertainment and the various ungodly ways so prevalent around us.
      Acts 4:23-24 records Peter and John, after being released going to their brethren who prayed to God in praise.   Vs. 31 – they were strengthened by the Holy Spirit.   While miraculous, it demonstrates how the disciples together were there for each other, especially in the midst of that hostile environment.
      Acts 12:5, 12-17 – as Peter is in prison about to be executed, the church was praying for Him.   Peter, when released by an angel, he goes to them where they are together praying.
      This is one reason we have a mid-week Bible study – as a refuge from the world.
      Hebrews 10:24-25, 3:12-13 – beware, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief…exhort one another daily…
    5. It can help bring me closer to God – James 4:8, Hebrews 10:22 – let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith…
      What better way to draw closer to God than to be with others who are seeking the same goal? As the Lord’s church, we will worship God “in spirit and in truth”, offer spiritual sacrifices to him as we do (Hebrews 13:15-16).
    6. It can hold me accountable – keep me going in the right direction.     Numerous passages encourage us to encourage one another, especially when we are straying or struggling.   Galatians 6:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:14 – warn the unruly…This is NOT a bad thing!
      Most don’t like being corrected, but if we are honest, we know its necessary and should humbly accept it.
    7. These things will only be helpful, if I am seeking first the kingdom of God.   And do not forget, that the church IS the kingdom.   Just a different description.
  3. What can I do for her?
    1. An equally important question. IF with the church we are letting our lights shine in this dark world, we ought to do all we can to build her up and preserve her.   We need her in our life and want her to accomplish maximum effectiveness for us.
      To this, she needs to be so important that we invest in her.   Typically, what you invest your resources in, is something you will be concerned about its success.   The more we put into the church, the more we will care about her.
    2. Ensure her purity – Ephesians 5:26-27 describes how Christ gave Himself for the church (His bride) to cleanse her, and to present her to himself a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle.
      2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul desires to present the church in Corinth “as a chaste virgin to Christ.”
      How is a church impure? By tolerating immorality and error in its midst.   Consider 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, Revelation 2:12-29 – the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira that tolerated error and immorality in their numbers.
      Also of note is Laodicea, Revelation 3:14-22, that was condemned for its lukewarm attitude. She was called upon to repent and purify herself (vs. 18 – refined gold, white garments, and eye salve for healing).
      Many are compromising the purity of the church today, by tolerance (as we have addressed), watering down the message that keeps her pure, failing to discipline, etc. Some of the churches are growing IN NUMBER, but are they growing closer to God?
      A big, thriving church is meaningless if God and our Lord are not at its foundation.
    3. Ensure her future – many churches today are dying. The reasons are many. Sometimes it is indifference and apathy (as we addressed two weeks ago). Sometimes it is an unwillingness to adapt to culture (without compromising God’s word). And often it is because we see the corrupt world around us and we are NOT prepared to deal with it.   We WANT TO do something, but we don’t know how to respond to its attacks. Part of the answer is to ground ourselves in the truth and beware of what this error is.
      In Revelation 2 & 3, 3 of the 7 churches were in danger concerning their future – Ephesus that had left her first love, Sardis that was dying (described as having a name that they were alive, but they were dead), and Laodicea – the lukewarm church.
      We need to do what we can to ensure the future of the Lord’s church in this community.
      Luke 18:8, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”   A sobering question. We ought to make this personal and local – When he returns, will He really find faith HERE?
    4. Do I actively participate? The local church is not supposed be merely a “spectator sport”.   We are expected to be actively involved in her work.
      Am I here when we assemble?
      We worship God by participating together – in this God is glorified, AND we are edified.  John 4:24, Colossians 3:16, etc.
      We contribute with our resources on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
      We ought to be involved in building up each other as saints – preferring one another to those of the world. Romans 12:10, Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Peter 2:17 – “Love the brotherhood”.
      As we have opportunity, we seek to reach the lost and bring them into the fold (2 Corinthians 5:10-11, Acts 8:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:6-9, etc.)
      And of course, we are to build each other up – a purpose of this lesson.   (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
    5. Do I promote unity? Unity is fundamental to growth and edification.   If we are biting and devouring one another, we will not be growing (Galatians 5:15).
      Ephesians 4:1-3 calls for us to be endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
      Philippians 2:1-2 describes the depth of our unity.
      1 Corinthians 1:10 says there are to be no divisions among us.
      Romans 14 challenges us to deal with differences in matters of liberties (Romans 14:19).
      John 13:34-35 – recall how Jesus noted that all will know we are disciples by loving one another (and showing it). The world needs to see how united we are. It is fundamental to letting our light shine spiritually.
      If spiritual matters are important to me, I will seek to promote unity by my actions and attitudes toward my brethren.
    6. Do I support her with my resources? We all have talents and resources.
      For some it is giving – 2 Corinthians 9:7-8, cf. Acts 4:34-37; For others it is our abilities – to lead in worship, to encourage and uplift, to help brethren with their physical needs – transportation, chores, etc. Whatever our abilities, we need to use them to build up the kingdom of God – 1 Peter 4:11, Romans 12:4-8, etc.
      The local church is an organization.   Organizations need workers to do the work at hand.   That is why we should be interested in this.
    7. How do I portray her to this world? The whole premise of letting our lights shine has to do with living so that the world will see the need for God in their lives.     The church that is sound, active and vibrant can be an asset in this.
      As we let our lights shine in EVERY area of our lives, let them see the influence of the Lord’s church there – both universally and locally.     There may be circumstances where as we stand for truth, we will be maligned by the world. So be it! BUT, there are also times when that need not be the case – by our attitudes and actions toward those outside. Do we make the Lord’s church as attractive as possible?
      To do this, we must live as if she is important by our example and words. Do NOT belittle the Lord’s body to outsiders (or insiders for that matter).   Do not live so that the name of the Lord (and His church) is blasphemed because of you.
      Consider 1 Corinthians 6:4-7 in a passage where Paul is telling is not to take each other to court (sue each other).   Vs. 7 notes that we ought to be willing to suffer wrong rather than let the world see the church tainted.
      Romans 2:24 – the name of God is blasphemed because of you.   When we behave badly, even as individuals, it can discredit God.

The point of this lesson (these lessons) is to remind us of how important the church actually is.   We need the church that God gave us as we strive to shine as lights in a dark world.     The church can be invaluable if we appreciate all that she can do to build us up in the faith and keep us on the path to heaven.   So how important is the church to me?