God First Spiritually – The Church (3) – The Church Within Our Community

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

God First Spiritually – The Church (3) – The Church Within Our Community

Sermon by  Thomas Thornhill Jr



Sunday, June 30, 2019 am              


We are in the midst of part 2 of our study dealing with shining as lights in this dark world. Part 2 deals with being an example in every area of our lives.   We began this section by emphasizing how the kingdom of God needs to be first in our lives. I devoted a handful of lessons to this by discussing what it means to put God first, dealing with apathy, righteousness, and even comparing ourselves to the atheist by the way we live (a lack of prayer, faith, respect for God’s word, etc.).     We then devoted 2 lessons to the church – both universal and local. In these lessons we addressed: How important the church (including the local church) ought to be to us? AND What can I do for her? (Ensuring her purity, future, promoting unity, actively participating and devoting resources to her.

Last week we went in a different direction, but based on recent studies, I would like to revisit the local church for another lesson. In this lesson I want to address The Lord’s Church in the Community.

I.  Some observations

  1. Let it be clear, that our goal is not to convert someone to the church, but to the Lord.   It is Jesus who saves us, not the church.   Acts 4:12, And in everything we do by our example this is what we are seeking to accomplish.    It is the example of Jesus that we are to imitate (Philippians 2:5, 1 Peter 2:21) and HIS light that we are to shine (John 8:12, Matthew 5:16)
  2. However, the local church is part of being a Christians.   It is the “body of Christ” and Christ is our head (Ephesians 1:22-23, 5:23) When Paul used that analogy in 1 Corinthians 12:12-27, he emphasized the importance of every part doing its share. This was in the context of a local church.
    We know that when we come together, we are edified (built up spiritually) both in worship and in our fellowship with one another.
    AND, when we let Christ be our focus, we will ALSO reflect properly His church (both universal and local).
  3. As Christians letting our lights shine, you could describe our goal in 2 parts.
    1. We are striving to get to heaven when this life is over.   Philippians 3:14, 20; 2 Timothy 4:6-8
    2. We ought to desire to take as many with us as possible.   That means we are seeking the lost.   Hebrews 10:31, 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, etc.
  4. Something many of us struggle with is how to reach others.   How can we introduce the gospel to them?   While there are many approaches, and ultimately our goal is a personal study with them, one way is to bring them with you “to church”. Bring them to our Bible studies and worship services. Introduce them to the body of Christ in this community.
    All are welcome, and I am convinced that is one thing we can do –
    1 Corinthians 14:16, 22-25 indicates that in our assemblies, we can (and should) have visitors.
  5. So in this lesson, I want to focus on some things we should consider as we welcome visitors.

II.    What do people want to see in a local church?

  1. Again, let me clarify, this is NOT about catering to whatever the community wants.   There is far too much of that in the religious landscape today, and it is by far, the most popular approach to God.   That is what you find in community churches – emphasis on entertainment, social programs, and shallow preaching that fails to get to the heart of the matter – souls are lost and they need Jesus.   That is the tragedy of the times we live in and the mindset that has been engrained in the masses.
  2. BUT, there are many who see though this and are turned off by it.   They want the Bible rather than pop-culture and current trends.   There are some out there who are searching for the truth and churches that put God and His word first.
    And when you consider what the New Testament says, it is clear that not ALL will respond. In fact, it is typically a small minority that is genuinely looking – consider the parable of the sower – the good and honest heart (not all will accept it), examples in scripture where only a few obeyed, Matthew 22:14 – many are called, but few are chosen, etc.
    However, be reminded of what Jesus said to His disciples, John 4:35, Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!
    In Luke 10:2 He noted that the harvest is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray that Lord of the harvest to send out laborers for the harvest.
    The point is, we must not become discouraged to the point of giving up because the masses are just not interested.   Let’s seek after “the few” who are genuinely looking.
    NOTE: I’m not saying to ignore everyone else, we need to try and reach anyone that we can – that’s what the great commission is about – Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:46-47, etc.   But the point is, those who are genuinely looking are the ones that will respond with a good and honest heart.   They may be few in number, but they are out there.
  3. What are THEY looking for? Studies have been done of visitors to churches.   While many of the things they are looking for are superficial (e.g. what do you offer the children, programs, etc.), there are two things prevalent that I want to address.
    1. Do they love each other? People want to see brethren that really love each other in a congregation.   We claim to be a family.   Do we act like it. Others are looking.
    2. Are they genuine? Do they see that we are just “putting on a show” or “just keeping house for the Lord”, or do they see that we are genuinely interested in obeying God with a true heart.

I want to focus on these because they are also what God wants to see in us.

III. What is GOD looking for in us?

  1. Do we love each other?
    1. Continually there is an emphasis on loving one another.   It is the glue that holds us together and stabilizes us even in the difficult times.
      IT was one of the themes in 1 John.   Notice 1 John 3:10-11, 4:7-8, 11, 20-21, etc.
    2. Are we loving and affectionate? Are we the family God wants us to be?
    3. John 13:34-35 – again be reminded that the world has the right to judge us by how we love each other. IF we are blessed with visitors from the community, what do they observe in the way we treat each other? Do they see something they would want to be a part of?
    4. Are we biting and devouring one another? Galatians 5:15 warns us about this.
      1 John 2:9-11 speaks of the one who hates his brother.
      Thought: Galatians 5:14-15 – we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.   The love we show for one another, will manifest true love toward ALL mankind when we are all that God would have us to be.
  2. Are we genuine?
    1. What does it mean to be genuine? Unhypocritical.   Unpretentious. Sincere. Not fake or counterfeit.
      We are not just going through the motions to APPEAR welcoming, etc.
      2 Corinthians 6:6, as Paul describes various things that he had endured, he includes some proper attitudes including “sincere love” (“genuine love” – NASB)
      Philippians 2:20, as Paul sends Timothy to these brethren he speaks of one “who will sincerely care for your state” (“genuinely be concerned…” NASB).
      2 Timothy 1:5, Paul speaks of Timothy’s “genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice…” (NASB – “sincere faith”)
      1 Peter 1:7, as we are grieved by various trials, “the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes… is found to praise, glory and honor…” (NASB – “proof of your faith”)
      Many other examples could be added to these, but we see the idea of genuineness and that it is something God demands in us.
      AND quite honestly, others want to see this as well – we are living in a world that is SO FULL of the disingenuous (in advertising, political speeches, etc.), and they are seeing it in the shallow religious world as well – with all the flashy lights, loud music, emotional testimonies, etc. People are looking for something genuine.
      And honestly, they ought to see it in us, WHETHER it is what they are looking for or not!
      1 Peter 3:15-16 – having a good conscience and good conduct that shames your critics.
  3. How are we to be genuine?
    1. Are we following His pattern? This is simply non-negotiable! By its very definition, that which is genuine is TRUE.   That which is FALSE is NOT genuine.   Thus false teachers are not presenting the genuine gospel.
      1 Peter 1:22 – we purify our souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren…
      James 3:17 – the wisdom form above is “without hypocrisy” – clearly the word of God, is the wisdom from above that is to be applied.
      Matthew 7:21 -23 – we have to do the will of the Father in all things
      2 Timothy 4:2-3 – Timothy is instructed to preach the word “in season and out of season” – because there are many who are NOT genuine.     The word of God will weed out those who are not genuine.
      NOTE: This doesn’t mean we should be harsh in our presentation of the truth. We are to weigh our words carefully. Not only WHAT we say, but how we say it – Colossians 4:6 speech seasoned with salt (this applies to the preaching of the word as well);
      James 3:1 warns teachers that they will receive a stricter judgment – does this apply ONLY to the content, or the delivery as well?   Look at the context! (James 3:1-12).
    2. Are we reverent?   Reverence is the idea of being respectful and serious
      God is to be served and worshipped with reverence.   Hebrews 12:28
      1 Timothy 2:2 – our prayers to God for our leaders include leading quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence (NKJV). NASB –“dignity”.
      If we are genuine, we are going to show God the reverence He is due.   It will be reflected in our appearance and our demeanor.   It will be reflected in our worship – not flippant as we lead worship or as we participate.   Seen in starting on time, etc. We will not be treating the worship like a chore to be endured, but a privilege to be with God and our brethren. Consider Psalm 122:1, I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
    3. People notice when all we are doing is going through the motions, and they notice when our worship is genuine – God centered (cf. John 4:24 – in spirit and in truth).
  4. Are we holy? To be set apart (sanctified). This has to do with our purity of life as we have noted on numerous occasions. In a previous lesson we addressed how we are to keep the church pure (Ephesians 5:27).
    2 Peter 3:11 speaking of the end of all things physical, “What manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…”
    1 Peter 1:14-16 notes, as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
    We address problems and sin – ensuring the purity of the body. We practice discipline, and we strive, EACH OF US, to live pure and godly lives.
    Again, this is something that in time can be observed.   People notice whether or not your service to God is real.
  5. Are we engaged?
    Are we zealous for good works? (Titus 2:14)  Romans 12:11, Are we fervent in spirit?
    It is no secret that the life of a Christian is active.   And it is to be done enthusiastically – 1 Corinthians 15:58 – always abounding in the work of the Lord.
    1 Corinthians 14:12, Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel – are we doing our part to build up the body?
    Do we actively participate in the singing? Seriously consider the lesson as it is being presented? Give as we have prospered?
    Are we eager to apply what we have learned?
    Do we participate to the best of our abilities?
    Again, people can see if what you are doing is just enough to get by, or if this is something you GENUINELY care about.
  6. Are we welcoming to others? “Visitor friendly”
    When we have visitors, do we let them know we are glad they are here?
    It is somewhat obvious, that if someone is visiting and they do not feel welcome (or out of place), they are like to not come back.   Our job is to let others know they are welcome in our midst.
    Luke 9:11, we read of multitudes following Jesus; and “He received them and spoke to them…” The idea of receiving them was that He welcomed them.     The NASB, ESV AND ASV use the word welcome in this text
    When we, or our brothers and sisters, invite others, how welcome do we make them feel? Do we try to make them comfortable and see if there is anything they need? (Make sure they have a bulletin, lesson outline and visitor’s card).
    This is an area of commendation with this congregation.
    Will we get to know them a little better after services.
    Are we, and can we be hospitable with them?
    Do we do this without partiality?     Consider James 2:1-9

This is the third aspect of a church (congregation) as we strive to shine as lights in this dark world.   When our friends, family and neighbors visit us, do they see these qualities here? They ought to be prevalent in our lives AND when we come together.   May we strive to be all that God wants us to be in these things. Think about it.