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One Church: Many Pictures
09/05/2004
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22; 5:2...
Track 1 of 17 in the Living in the Light of His Coming series


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Sermon for Sunday, September 5, 2004
1st sermon in a 17 part series
"One Church: Many Pictures"
"Being in Him Means Being His Church"

Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett


I don't know about you but I think a $1,000 is quite a bit to pay for a parking spot. That's what a lady paid for a parking meter in South Africa. She reached into her purse and she took out an 1890 gold Kruger and she stuck it in the parking meter. She didn't get any extra time. She just lost a $1,000.

I read that article and I thought how in the world would you ever be in a position that you would have, in your pocket, among your other change, a $1,000 coin. Well, she had more than one of these and rather than put them in a safe place, she just tossed them in her coin drawer with all of her other coins and she reached in and grabbed a handful, stuck them in her purse, reached in her purse, stuck the gold coin into the parking meter and paid a $1,000 to park her car.

That's what happens when you treat the sacred as common. When you allow that which is really important to be placed over here in the category of, well, it's just like every other thing in my life. It's so easy to allow that which is really significant to become so common to us that we stop remembering just how significant it really is.

If you're a typical person who is a Christian and you have come to faith in Christ and given yourself to him and your living out your faith, chances are you sit in a church building like this some place, 50 60, 70 times a year. Sunday morning rolls around and you don't know any better than to get out of bed, get dressed and go to church, we would call it. You know, and, if you're not careful that kind of common routine becomes just that, a common routine rather than the recognition that the church is something special, sacred.

Of course I need to define terms because when I say the church, I'm certainly not talking about the building. It's just bricks and mortar. We're not even talking about the congregation, although that, in itself, is a way that the word church is used. We're really talking about us, because we are the church. When we assemble and gather together, we become, well, one of multiple images.

There are about a hundred different metaphors for the church in the New Testament. I'm not going to go through all hundred of them today. But this Fall we want to spend some time thinking and talking about what it means to be the church. We're going to spend a lot of time actually in 1Corinthians 12 over the next several weeks just looking at different pieces of that picture that Paul paint for what it means to be a part of this thing we call church.

This morning I just want to take a broad overview. I just want to paint a couple of pictures of how the New Testament describes who we are. For example, we are the body of Christ. Therefore we demonstrate his presence or we exhibit his presence, we express his presence in the world.

Look for example over here in 1Corinthians 12, the text that we'll come back to repeatedly over the course of the next several weeks. 1Corinthians 12:27 talking to this congregation that gathers in the city of Corinth. . . . . .he says in 1Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed of all. . . . . . and he lists a variety of ways in which we express what it means to be a part of that body. We, each one, are parts of this whole. We'll look at that carefully over the weeks.

Come over just a few pages to the book of Ephesians. . . . .just a dozen or so pages to the right in your Bible. Ephesians 1. Toward the end of his prayer in Ephesians 1 when he reminds them that he regularly prays for them down here in Ephesians 1:22 he says, And God placed all things under his feet (talking about Jesus) and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

If you come over to Ephesians 5 in this marvelous image about Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:23 he says, . . . . .Christ is the head of the church, his body. . . . .

We are his body. We express his presence in the world. God has always had a presence. He's never been left without one. In the Garden of Eden he literally walked and talked with Adam and Eve. If they wanted to see God, apparently they just voiced their desire to see Him and He showed up. Rare privilege, I guess.

After the fall of humanity God seemed to work primarily through the patriarchs and if you wanted some kind of contact with God you went to the head of the family line--to Abraham, or to Isaac, or to Jacob and they were able to contact God.

A few generations later, he said, what I want you to do is build me this really funny looking tent and you're gonna carry it around out there in the wilderness with ya, but I want you to know that when you set that tent up and there is this cloud over the top of it, or there is this shining light settled down into that back room, you'll know I'm there. When it's time to move, I'll move and you follow. Two generations later they solidified that into a magnificent temple in Jerusalem and he settled in and that was his presence. If you wanted God, you went to the temple.

Years passed, a thousand of them, about, and one day there was an announcement made. A child has been born. His name is Emanuel which means, God with us and Jesus came in human flesh. John says he set his tent up. It's the same word for that Old Testament tent that they carried around in the wilderness. He became incarnate with us. And if you wanted to know where God was you went to where Jesus is. After a few years, he left. And you know what he left behind? US!

He says, if you want to know what God is like, take a look at Christians . If you want to find my presence, find some Christians because that's where I am. If I go away, I will send someone who will come to you. His Spirit will dwell within you and we will literally be his presence in the world. We are his body, trying to do in the world, what he would do if he were here.

And so there's a whole industry that has probably now lost its, oh, real imagination. We haven't used it much in the last four or five years I suppose, with that WWJD thing. What would Jesus do?. . . .was an attempt to try to capture people's imagination about being Christ in the world because that's who we are. We are his representation. We live here so that God could come among us and we could see what God is like.

So you get these interesting texts. Like whatever you do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Whatever you do, do all to the glory of the Lord. We try to do things in a way that allow people to see the Spirit of Jesus being lived out in their presence. And so, we do really strange things. Once in awhile we'll have a dinner for those who have become members of our church in recent weeks and the people who serve the dinner are the elders. And they'll wait the tables and bring the drinks and set up the tables and tear down the tables and clean up afterwards because they want you to understand that those who are leading in the body are the ones who are primarily serving in the body because Jesus was a servant and we want you to have an image of that.

Most of you know that next Sunday we'll not be in this building. Oh, just in case you didn't know that, next Sunday, unless it's raining, we won't be in this building. We'll be over in MoorMan Park at nine o'clock having church, because the church will be there and a part of that is gonna be at 9:30ish, depending on how long the preacher talks. We're going to gather up a bunch of bags and gloves and we're gonna hit the streets of Quincy and we're gonna go out and perform an act of service in an attempt to say to the community, This is what we think Jesus might do. He would be alive and well among us doing "stuff," because we want people to understand that we are literally his hands, his feet in this world.

Well, that's not the only image. It's one of multiple images in the New Testament. One of the images for the church is that we are his body, expressing his presence in the world.

Another image of the church is that we are His bride. We're at least becoming his bride. We aren't literally married to Him yet because the wedding has yet to occur. We all are waiting for the bridegroom to arrive, is the language that the Scripture uses. But as his bride we demonstrate and exercise faithfulness in the world. We show people what it's like to be faithful to our groom.

Look over at 2Corinthians. There's this interesting comment that Paul makes in the first part of 2Corinthians 11:1-4. Paul says, 2Corinthians 11:1 I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. . . .

He says, I'm a little concerned about you because you seem to be easily distracted from your future mate. You have been engaged to Christ. In Jewish culture, that might as well have been marriage. You had to have a rit of divorce to get out of an engagement.

I confess to you, I was. . . . .I am fascinated by bachelor parties. Let me tell you why I'm fascinated by them. I think they're repulsive. When you take a man who has espoused himself to a woman and said, I will be faithful to you for the rest of my life and then you throw temptation in front of him just at the last minute and you ask him to divide his loyalties.

Any young lady who will allow her future husband to go to one of those parties ought to call off the wedding. Now, I just overstated the case. I'm a father of three daughters, you have to understand that.

There's something about the loyalty of marriage, the faithfulness of a relationship that is captured in the image of Christ in the church.

We had the privilege of celebrating a bit around here yesterday with the Weisenborn's 50 years. And somebody said. That's getting a little rare these days. It really is.

We just celebrated 34 years a couple three weeks ago and I'm thinking 50!, that's 16 more she's got to put up with me. I don't know if she's got it in her.

When we first got married, I was preaching in Oregon and a friend of mine, in fact, the fella that won me to the Lord in the first place, came and lived in our area so he could do some youth ministry for us, held down a job cause we couldn't afford to pay him. We learned that the local golf course would allow preachers to play for free. So I had a day off during the week and so on my particular day off Dan and I would head early to the golf course and we would spend our day playing golf.

My wife doesn't hide her feelings very well. It didn't take long before I discovered she wasn't particularly thrilled with me spending my day off with Dan instead of her. Since I'm still married, I guess you know who won!

You know I've thought about that a lot because when you become a Christian you engage yourself to Jesus and then people come along. . . . .oh, sometimes they're not people, sometimes there events, sometimes it's recreation, sometimes it's work, sometimes it's other things and it tries to crowd out your loyalty to Christ. And the next thing you know, instead of being really engaged to Jesus wholeheartedly, you begin to find your loyalties split with other things. Being the bride of Christ means being faithful to Him just like you would be your spouse or in our culture, more so. The bride means expressing this level of faithfulness that means that we will do whatever we have to do to protect our relationship with Him. Just like we would protect our relationship with our spouse, no matter what.

Well, there is the image of the body. There is the image of the bride. There is also the image of the temple or the building. We are, he says, the church, the building of God, the temple of God in which we express praise in the world.

Look over at 1Peter 2, toward the back of your Bibles. 1Peter 2:4-5 we have this interesting statement and then down a little further 1Peter 2:9-10. 1Peter 2:4 As you comd to him, the living Stone--rejected by men but chosen by God and previous to him--you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

You come down a bit further

1Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

We live in a world that doesn't want to offer God honor and praise and he calls upon us to be those who demonstrate genuine praise to God, to worship, oh, in a sense probably much larger than just the sense of what we do in here. But to turn our very life, our activity into worship so that when we cut the grass we do it as a worship act. When we fix the plumbing we do it as a worship act. When we type a letter we do it as a worship act. In fact, what you will hear next Sunday, if you didn't remember, we're gonna go to the park next Sunday and we're gonna leave the park and go into the city and we want you to understand that in cleaning up, that's an act of worship as we honor God in what we do. We declare his praises and some of that happens as we declare his praises right back to Him. That's worship. But in some ways we declare his praise as we say to our friends, Don't you want to know Jesus too? Let me tell you what he's done in our lives. Let me tell you the difference he's made as we declare his praises the way that he impacts us.

So we invite our friends to a thing like going to the park or to our Christmas cantata and we give them an opportunity to have the same relationship with Jesus that we have. We're his body. We express his presence. We are his bride. We demonstrate faithfulness. We are the building, his temple, where we express his praise.

Let me do just one more just briefly. And that is we are his family. That image in Scripture is so clear that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord and we express this relationship that we have to him in such a way that people begin to understand what it means to honor one another and respect one another and to see how Christians interact with each other.

If you go over to Galatians 6--it's an, almost strange remark. Paul is writing to these Galatians churches. He starts out in Galatians 6:10 in a way that I suppose would, we would understand.

Therefore, Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, {Now that sounds very Christian. That sounds like what I would expect the preacher to talk like but do you notice how he finishes the verse?} especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

There is a legitimate discrimination in Scripture whereby we treat people in the body of Christ differently than we treat the world. We treat them with more dignity, with more respect. Paul would say to the church that he writes to in 1Timothy when he says to this young preacher. Tell these Christians to treat each other well. Treat the older men with dignity. Don't be disrespectful to older people. Treat them as you would your father.

Well, some of you may have been like me growing up and you didn't treat your father very respectfully and so you have to relearn that but, treat the older men as fathers, the older women as your mother, the younger men as your brothers and the younger women as your sisters with all purity, he says. It creates a new kind of relationship whereby we call each other brother and sister and we treat each other with dignity and respect.

We demonstrate something to the world that they don't fully understand. Some of us didn't grow up treating people with respect, I don't know, maybe we just didn't figure it out. I don't know, my parents were always respectful to people. Ah, maybe it's just teenagers, you know. Well, I wasn't quite a teenager, probably still on the front edge of that, maybe 12. That would be about 5th grade, right? Walking down the hallway at the elementary school where I went being a smart-mouthed 5th grader, I said to my friend something about "Old Lady Post". That was our 5th grade teacher. The next thing I knew, I was standing with my back to the locker. There was a hand around my neck pinning me to the locker. I was looking up at a guy about 6'2" with white hair and a great big handlebar mustache and he said, "What did you say?" He was our baseball coach and our janitor and today he'd probably be fired. Back then I just said, I. . .I. . .I ah. . . .I ah. He said, "You won't say that again." I. . .I. . .I ah, No I won't and I didn't!

We're brothers and sisters. We treat each other with respect, something the world doesn't understand.

We've just looked at these four simple images. We're the church. We're a body. We're a bride. We're a family. We're a temple. You know we use that language differently all the time, don't we? Someone will say, I'll tell ya what, I'll meet ya at the church. Well, I know what they mean. They mean 4700 Broadway, it's a building. Used to be a store. But I know what they mean, or they'll say, Are you going to church on Sunday? Well, they don't really mean, the building, they mean are you going to come together and worship with the other folks to do the church "stuff"?

Sometimes they'll say things like; We, we're, we are going to church and they mean more than just we're gonna go together but we are something, we're a collection, a body. We belong to this church. Those are all legitimate uses. We probably need to be careful with the vocabulary because we don't want to confuse people, but what I really want us to understand is that we, WE are the church. It's not a place. It is a people but somehow we have to get to the place that we understand it's us. And the way I choose to live my life, not just on Sunday morning, but from the time I leave here till I come back, I live out the faith of a believer and I demonstrate to the world what it means to be the church, to show them Christ, alive and well, among us. We literally are his hands, his feet in the world. We choose to make a difference. To participate in his life. We look at our Scripture and we're reminded that we are the body of Christ. We come here week after week reminded that we have decisions to make about being the church.

I don't know what decision you need to make. Maybe you're a believer. You've already been baptized into Christ but you just don't have a place that you call your church. Maybe this is your place. If we can help you with that we'd love to do that. If you've got questions about who we are, please ask us and let us talk about how you might serve Christ as a part of this part of His body. Maybe you've never become a part of Him, because the very way that you get into. . . . . . . . get into the church because being a Christian and being part of the church are one and the same. If you don't know what to do with that, then we would invite you to ask. Let us talk with you about how that works.

Maybe you've been sitting here and you know,. . . .you know that the decision you need to make is simply to become a Christian. It's such a simple thing. He just says, believe in Me. Believe in my Son. Repent of your sins. Turn your back on that which is wrong. Confess my name before men and identify yourself with me in Christian baptism and we'll walk together forever. Maybe that's your decision, I'm not sure.

But we come to this part of our service every week with this invitation and if we can help you come to know Jesus better or if we can help you express your relationship with Jesus better, that's why we're here.

Would you stand with me while we sing. Let this express your thinking.