Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

As you know, it’s a couple of weeks ago that we wrapped up a series on heaven on earth, and I was talking about the church being heaven on earth in that series; and in response to that series, I wanted to take one particular Sunday—and that’s this one—to talk about the implications of that. We identified the church as heaven on earth, and I want to take it from understanding the theology of the church to understanding not just the orthodoxy, but the orthopraxy: what it is that we are to do and be in response to that. So the title today is “The Faithful Believer’s Relationship to the Church.” And while in my mind that is not a confusing subject and not a difficult one to understand, there appears to be some kind of a distinction, some kind of a line drawn between being a Christian having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and necessarily belonging to a church.

You hear people say, “Well, I love Jesus; I don’t like the church. I was wounded by the church, I had a bad experience in the church, and I’m content to have my relationship with Christ be very personal.” That’s pretty common. And also in the culture that we live, where people want their privacy and they want a certain degree of isolation, there is a real trend, even in the church growth area, where people are saying that if you want to grow your church you have to provide for people the opportunity to be anonymous.

As I was reading some of that this week, I came across this article in, of all things, a website that talks about church growth and church leadership, and here is a section out of this article. It says this: “After several failed attempts at finding the right church, my sister,” the writer says, “who is approaching her thirties, shared with me that she longs to become a part of a church that is friendly and hospitable to all people regardless of where they come from or what they’ve been through. But she wants her church also to foster a sense of anonymity, meaning she wants to be welcomed and made to feel at home, and then she wants to be able to hide, to be anonymous, or free to go at her own pace or sink into the rhythm and practices of the church. She longs for anonymity.”

He goes on: “In the same way that everyone must be welcomed, recognized, and made to feel at home, churches and their leaders must also cultivate a feeling of anonymity within the environment. A key to facilitating anonymity is preserving a sense of personal privacy within the worshiping congregation. People must be made to feel comfortable and worship by thinking that nobody is watching.”

And so he makes this suggestion: “One of the easiest ways congregations can seek to create this sense of anonymity is by taking measures to dim the sanctuary lights so that visibility within the congregation is reduced. In a low-lit sanctuary, worship participants can experience an environment where one might feel free to cry or laugh or sing or even fall asleep without the fear of everyone noticing, including the pastor.”

I notice. What kind of crazy approach to church is that? Come to the church so you can be anonymous? That defies the very purpose of the church. But that’s the world that we live in.

I just want to give you kind of a pastoral talk this morning about this issue of church membership. Many of you are members of our church; some of you are not. You’re all, if you’re Christians, members of the body of Christ universal, and you need to identify as a member of a local gathering of that body of Christ; and I’ll talk about that and maybe help you with that this morning. But to begin with, I just want to let you know I’m going to be taking you to several passages of Scripture that won’t be necessarily new to you, but hopefully we can frame up a better understanding of the point and the necessity of belonging to the church.

So let’s go the tenth chapter of Hebrews to begin with. Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 19. Obviously, this is very rich material comparing the New Covenant in Christ with the Old Covenant. We’re familiar with that. And as the writer talks about the Old Covenant, he talks about the fact that it never consummated anything; it was simply symbolic. The old sacrifices didn’t atone for sin. The old priesthood couldn’t really bring people to God. The same sacrifices repeated again and again could never take away sins, it says in verse 11. But a dramatic change occurred with the arrival of Christ, and we’ll pick it up in verse 19. And remember, this is written to Hebrews, to Jews, who have been raised in the Old Covenant, as it were.

And this is the good news that the writer brings to them, verse 19: “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh”—and we’ll stop there for a moment. What he is saying is nobody ever could go into the Holy of Holies. Nobody ever had access to that. There was a veil that kept everyone out, and that means everyone except the high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, which symbolized the fact that there wasn’t access to God. There wasn’t an open door to His presence. But when Christ came and sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, He opened the way to the holy place. In fact, symbolically, the Temple veil was ripped from top to bottom when Christ died, symbolizing the way having been opened. This is marvelous truth to Jewish people who have gone through their lives offering sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice, and still only one person, once a year, could go into that place which symbolized the throne room of the presence of God.

But because of Christ, we have a new way as opposed to the old, and it’s a living way. It’s not through death, but it’s through His resurrection, His life. He inaugurated for us “through the veil, that is, His flesh.” By the sacrifice of Himself, His flesh then became the means by which God opened access to Himself. And not only is that access opened, but “we have”—in verse 21—“a great high priest over the house of God.” He is there to bring us to the Father. He is there to take us in and give us the audience with the Father at any time and at all times, and that’s why we come boldly to that throne, because Christ has given us access.

So this is the wonderful reality of the New Covenant in Christ. What was never available to the people under the Old Covenant is now available under the New because of the sacrifice of Christ. All who believe in Him have access into the very presence of God.

As a result of that, verse 22 says this: “Let us draw near.” You have access to God, then draw near. Go into His presence “with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” You have access, you have entrance if you come with sincere faith and having acknowledged your sin in repentance and the cleansing that God has provided. That’s very personal. That is personal.

Since we have this access now to the very presence of God, let us go there, let us draw near to Him with sincerity of heart, with genuine faith; with our repentance having been declared and turning from sin, we come to His presence. Then, secondly, in verse 23, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” So we enter into the presence of God by faith and through repentance, and when we come into His throne room we express—what I love in verse 23—“the confession of our hope without wavering.” We are saved, but the fullness of our salvation we have not yet experienced, right? “It doesn’t yet appear what we shall be; but when we see Him we’ll be like Him, for we’ll see Him as He is.”

So we come to the throne of God in faith and repentance, and we come confessing an unwavering hope that God will complete His salvation on our behalf. That’s very personal. And you could say about that, that that describes a personal relationship to God, a personal relationship to Christ, which gives you access into God’s presence and all of God’s promises so that you can live in hope for their fulfillment.

But he doesn’t stop with the personal part. Look at verses 24 and 25. Foundational to this New Covenant; foundational to our life as believers is not only personal faith, personal repentance, living in personal hope, but there is the corporate responsibility that we have in verses 24 and 25: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

People love to talk about the personal relationship they have with Christ. And it is personal, and it is individual, and it is through faith and repentance that one comes to Christ. And it is that when we are in Christ we have a personal hope; we even have a personal heritage waiting for us in heaven, an inheritance. But it doesn’t stop there. If you have come into the throne room through Christ, if you have come to God with your sins forgiven, as back in verse 18 it mentions, then there is very, very important corporate responsibility that you have laid out in verses 24 and 25: You have to consider immediately “how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together,” and being an encouragement to each other; “and all the more as you see the day”—the final Day of Judgment—“coming.”

So it’s very important to understand that at the very outset, to be joined personally to Christ is also to be joined corporately to His people. There’s no such thing in the New Testament as someone joined to Christ but not to the church. If you have come to Christ, if you are then received by Christ, you have become one of those who is in Christ, and Christ is in you; I want you to know you are in the church, you’re a part of the church, all the redeemed.

The church, then, is the corporate assembly of those who are redeemed. Some people think of it differently. It’s common for people to say, “I go to such-and-such church,” or, “Such-and-such is my church.” Technically, that’s really not true. This is a building, but you are the church. The church comes here when you come here. This is not your church; you are the church. I don’t preach at the church, I preach to the church, all of you, because you belong to the Lord. This is critical to understand as a believer, particularly in this trend that we see in the modern world where everybody wants isolation and personalized definitions of all their relationships.

I want to show you a few passages that you’d be familiar with. Go back to Ephesians 4 for a moment; and here we have instruction to those who have just heard the gospel in the opening three chapters of Ephesians; and the idea here is since you have come to Christ, here is the basic instruction. Ephesians 4:1, “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you”—beg you—“to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” You have not only a personal relationship with Christ, but you have a personal responsibility to walk, to live consistent with that relationship.

The calling is a heavenly calling; it’s a holy calling, and it requires this kind of response, verse 2: “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” The assumption here is that if you have been called into Christ, you have been called into His church, and you are to walk in such a way that you manifest your calling and your salvation; and it will show up in your relationships with others, which require humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, and expressions of love, “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” So when you came to Christ, you came to the church. There’s no such thing as a believer who is in Christ but not in the church. You are His church.

And Paul makes that clear in verse 4 and following: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling.” You were called into that one body. You were granted that one Spirit, the Holy Spirit. There’s only “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” He’s talking about the common life that we possess, that we share. This is how you have to understand your relationship to the church. You are a part of the church if you are in Christ.

Go back to 1 Corinthians chapter 12, and I’ll show you another familiar passage I know. It speaks about the relationships that we have with one another. First Corinthians 12:12, it says this: “Even as the body is one”—that’s talking about the human body, which is the analogy—“and yet has many members”—the body has many components, the human body—“[so] all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” That’s how you define the people who are in Christ: They are one with everyone else, everyone else. “For by one Spirit,” verse 13, “we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free . . . all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many”—many. Down in verse 18, “God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.” Over in verse 27, “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

Again, this is how we have to understand the church. If you’re in Christ, you are in His body, the church. This is the church universal. This is the church universal. It is called a body because it demonstrates so beautifully the union that believers have in a common, shared life. But the church is also called a family with one Father, a kingdom with one ruler. It’s branches all connected to one vine. It’s a temple with all the stones being built together to build one edifice that is the dwelling place of God. The unity of the church is clearly laid out in the New Testament.

That’s the universal church, but I want to show you the role that the local church plays. Go to 1 Corinthians 1. At the outset of this letter, Paul does this here; he does it also in 2 Corinthians; he does it in some of the other epistles, namely 1 and 2 Thessalonians. He begins his letter calling himself “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” referring to “Sosthenes our brother.” Then he says this: “To the church of God which is at Corinth.” Now we have an identification of the church of God at the city of Corinth. This is the local gathering.

And who are gathered there? “Those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus.” That is to say those who have been cleansed and saved, those who have been called with an effectual calling. “All [of those] who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.” All believers, all believers are a part of the body of Christ; some of them constitute the church of God, which meets at Corinth. That is the local expression and the local assembly. You see the same thing in the first verse of 2 Corinthians: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, Timothy our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth with all the saints who are throughout Achaia.”

So if you’re joined to Christ, you’re joined to the church universal, and it is assumed and expected that you would also be attached to a local assembly of redeemed believers, with whom you gather; and you do not forsake that gathering, but you are a member of it. This is the church. This is the church.

Belonging is essential. We talk about church membership. I like the word belonging, belonging. It’s essential to being a Christian. If you are a Christian, you belong to Christ and you belong to His church; and if you belong to His universal church, then it is assumed that you belong to the expression of that universal church in some location.

If you go into the New Testament, you find that essentially the writings of the New Testament starting after the book of Acts, the epistles, are written primarily to churches. That is to say that the Lord speaks, when He speaks, not to individuals as such but to churches. Yes, there is 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, but those letters were written to church leaders about how they were to lead the church. The rest of the epistles are written to the church, because the Lord communicates to His gathered people in local assemblies.

You see that in the book of Revelation. Our Lord writes seven letters to seven churches in seven separate towns and cities of ancient Asia Minor. The Lord speaks collectively to His church in its local gathering. And in order to effectuate that, He has designed leaders for the very purpose of dispensing His Word to that local assembly.

Go back to Ephesians chapter 4. And again, this is an important, familiar portion of Scripture. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 11. It says: “He gave”—that is, to His church, of course—“apostles,” “prophets,” “evangelists,” and then “pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” The very role that apostles and prophets and evangelists and teaching pastors have is to equip the saints for the work of ministry and service, to build up the body of Christ “until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

In other words, that does not happen apart from the ministry of the church, by God’s design, through those who teach and preach His Word. They perfect the saints using the Word of God; and that is how the saints, having been perfected or equipped, can do the work of ministry and see the body built up. And when this happens, verse 14 says, you are “no longer . . . children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.”

In other words, in order to be protected, in order to be adequately taught, you need to recognize that God has ordained leaders in local churches to be those teachers and those protectors and those shepherds and those guardians of your soul. They, in instructing you in the Word of God and in setting an example, cause you to grow up, “grow up . . . into [Christ]”—I love that. “To a mature man . . . the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”

So the goal of ministry in a local assembly of believers is that the leaders would then be the instruments by which the Lord Himself, through His Spirit, communicates to His local church; and they are therefore perfected, matured. They are able to do the ministry; and doing the ministry as well, they are sanctified and building up the body of Christ, and together, collectively, they begin to demonstrate the character of Christ together.

Verse 15, “Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” Now notice, this gets down to us. The body of Christ has been prepared by God according to His proper design so that each individual part functions in causing the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. You not only need the church, the church needs you.

So you see there the simple reality that, yes, you have a personal relationship with Christ. But if you have a personal relationship with Christ, you also have a relationship with His church. You are His church universal; and it is assumed that you are gathered together in some local assembly where you are under the leadership of those whom the Lord has sent as pastors and teachers, and where you are exercising your spiritual gifts, so that the body of Christ, with the combination of the leadership and faithful members can grow into Christlikeness.

All of that just to say there’s really nothing in the New Testament that would identify a believer as some isolated person who somehow uses the Internet to craft his own particular brand of Christianity. That is completely alien. When the Lord wanted to communicate to His people, He wrote letters to churches. Even in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3, our Lord wrote seven letters to seven churches in seven different cities in Asia Minor. The Word from heaven came to the churches.

Now having said that, we understand that if you don’t belong to a local assembly, you have chosen an alien form of Christianity the New Testament knows nothing about. Let me say it again. All the epistles of the New Testament were written to churches.

There’s a lot of emphasis today on people listening for the voice of God, as if He’s going to give them some private revelation. That’s bogus, may I say without any hesitation. When He speaks, He speaks through His Word, and He speaks through His Word by speaking through those who are best equipped to proclaim His Word, those who are the shepherds and teachers and pastors of His church. That’s how He speaks to His church. If you’re not a part of a church in a regular sense, then you have not placed yourself in the position that the New Testament assumes you should be in, for your own sake and the sake of benefitting others.

So let me kind of break apart this idea of making an open confession of your commitment to Christ. Obviously, we don’t believe in anonymity. If you want to hide, the church is not the place for you. But when you don’t want to hide, it is. And you have to understand that to become a part of the church, there are certain things that you are saying, and none of them are designed to hide you, they are all designed to make exactly manifest what is in your heart and placed there by the Spirit of God Himself.

In Matthew 10:32 and 33, Jesus said this: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” There’s nothing personal about that. Let me help you understand. Your confession of Christ needs to be public. And in fact, it needs to be the most public thing about you, more than your family heritage. It’s more important than any other part of your history. It’s more important than any of your achievements or accomplishments. It’s far more important than your political party or some club or association that you belong to that is designed to enrich you in your particular hobbies.

The one thing that should dominate you is that you confess Jesus as Lord. If you’re joined to His church, that is the confession that you have made. You “confess . . . Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved,” Romans 10 says. So the better way to think of your Christian life is this: “I have a public relationship with Jesus Christ. I have a public relationship with Jesus Christ; I confess Him as Lord.”

And baptism was even given to the church as the appropriate demonstration, illustration, and means for a transformed sinner who had become converted to Christ to make that public confession. The Day of Pentecost, three thousand people believed, three thousand people were baptized. They were saying in the symbolism, “I died with Christ, and I have risen with Christ to walk in newness of life, and I confess Jesus as Lord.” That has to be the most dominating expression of who you are.

And that leads to some other things. If it is true that you openly and publicly confess Jesus as Lord, and you have declared that even in baptism and beyond, then there’s something else that you have to confess: “I openly confess that I submit to His Word and everything it teaches. I submit to His Word and everything it teaches.” Salvation comes by His Word, sanctification comes by His Word, edification comes by His Word—everything comes through His Word in the power of the Spirit. So you make a second declaration: “You want to know who I am? I am one who confesses Jesus as Lord, and I also confess that I am willingly and gladly submissive to His Word, everything in it.”

That, then, leads to a third aspect of this confession. You would say then, “I want to confess that I am willing to submit myself to those pastors and shepherds the Lord has placed over me. As they consistently teach and preach and explain the Word of God, as they exposit Scripture, as they instruct me with a clear understanding of sound doctrine, I am an eager and willing student. I want to be under their teaching and influence. I want all my thoughts captive to a clear understanding of what Scripture means by what it says.” So if you’re a Christian, you should publicly say, “Jesus is my Lord, I am submitting completely to the Scriptures, and I do that by submitting to those whom God has chosen to place over me in my life to impart the Scriptures and the truths they affirm to me.”

And if you’re a Christian, you would make another public confession: “I openly confess that I am dependent. I am dependent on others. I need the love and fellowship of others. I need the encouragement of others. I need the investment of others in my life. I am not alone. I cannot be alone and become part of the image of Christ. I don’t have the resources in myself to be all that I need to be. I need the body of Christ coming at me every possible way through the gifted people and the one anothers that are expressed in the life of the church.

“I am dependent on others for ministry. I’m dependent on others for prayer, instruction, wisdom, example. I’m dependent on others for protection, for correction.” And in saying that, you’re saying another very, very important confession. You are saying, “I desire to be holy. I desire to be righteous. The reason that I confess Jesus as Lord is because I was turning from my sin to Him who is my righteousness. I want righteousness; it comes through His Word when it’s explained by those whom God has placed over me. I want the righteousness that is exemplified by the people who are part of my life in the church. I have a desire to be sanctified. I don’t want anonymity. I don’t want to hide. I don’t want to be in a dark place. I want my life in the light, and I want all the help I can get, to be what I need to be.”

And then there’s another confession. You confess that you need corporate worship. You’re not of those who would say, “I’d like to worship if no one knows I’m doing it.” That is so bizarre. You actually want to “speak to yourselves in psalms, hymns, spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” And you want to say also, “I openly confess that I want to serve Christ with my whole heart, and I want to serve His church.” That’s a wholehearted commitment to the church. Anything less than that is less than what God expects.

And again, back to what we said at the outset: When you are joined to Christ, you are necessarily joined to His living body, the church universal. But some people don’t make the necessary and demanded step of identifying wholeheartedly, covenantally with a local assembly of believer, where all those confessions can be lived out.

So being part of a church is an obedience issue. It’s an obedience issue. If you’re a true believer, you are part of the church universal. You must become a part of a local assembly, and you must come under the leadership of godly shepherds and pastors so that you can grow into the stature and fullness of Christ.

In Hebrews 13:7, “Remember those who led you.” Do you have that? Can you say, “I know who led me, I know”? I look back over my life. I mean, I was born to a pastor’s family, I’ve been in the church my whole life. I have memories of—lifelong memories of the people who led me, the people who nurtured my faith, the people who taught me the Word of God all the way through to even the present time, as I am submitting to those who continue to teach me through books.

“Remember those who led you.” Who are they? The ones “who spoke the Word of God to you, and [consider] the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.” You need to know them well, because you need to hear them speak the Word of God, and you need to see the result of their conduct. You need leaders that you can look at in real life and say, “They are a living example of what they are teaching”; and you’re to imitate their faith. That’s why you need shepherds. That’s why you need those who set an example.

Over in verse 17, Hebrews 13, “Obey your leaders.” It’s not just “follow them,” it’s not just “look at their example,” it’s, “Obey your leaders and submit to them”—why?—“for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account.” That’s a pretty serious responsibility falling to us. We will be accountable. That’s why James said, “Stop being so many teachers, theirs is a greater judgment.” If you’re going to step into the role of spiritual leadership, you have to understand that you’re going to be held accountable. The assumption is that you have faithful leaders, so you obey those leaders, and you submit to them, as they watch over your souls in light of an account that will come.

That’s why Paul was so committed to preach the Word. In 2 Timothy 4:1, he says to Timothy, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.” This is a charge given to Timothy, and therefore to any preacher. “You need to do this because God and Christ are watching, and they will render judgment in the future.” This is a heavy responsibility for those who lead. Peter in 1 Peter 5 says, “Shepherd the flock of God.” That’s our side of it.

So understanding your relationship to the church means that you understand you are to be an integral party of the local gathering of the saints in a certain place, like this place. This is an obedience issue. Secondly, it’s a fellowship issue. You desperately need the common partnership with other believers, which ministers to you their spiritual gifts; and they become the agents of the one anothers in your life.

It’s also an authority issue. It’s an authority issue. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, just quickly, 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” This is the mutual ministry of the saints to each other.

But then verse 12, “But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” Give honor to those the Lord has placed over you. And then he says, “Live in peace with one another. And we urge you, brethren”—here come the one anothers—“admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” This is life in the church. And the New Testament knows of nothing but life in the church. And again, the epistles, particularly the Pauline epistles, but just as well that which Peter wrote, and John, calls the church to certain conduct in response to the fact that they belong to Christ and have an obligation to the redeemed.

It’s an obedience issue. It’s a fellowship issue. It’s an authority issue, submitting to those over you in the Lord. It’s an identity issue; your identity is in Christ. Hebrews 2:11 says, “He’s not ashamed to call you brother.” Are you ashamed to call Him brother, is the question. It’s a loyalty issue. It’s a loyalty issue. If you’re going to be a loyal believer, you can’t be consumed only with yourself.

Listen to Ephesians 2:19, “You are no longer strangers and aliens”—you’re not out there isolated anymore—“but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” This is identifying all of us as those who should express love and loyalty to the others in the body of Christ that the Lord puts us in touch with.

It’s a ministry issue—your spiritual gifts, your one anothers. It’s even an evangelism issue. Listen to 1 Peter chapter 2, verse 9, “You are a chosen race”—these collective descriptions—“a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light . . . you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers, abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Again, Peter identifies believers as a race, a priesthood, a nation, a people for God’s own possession. We are collectively described there, and we are to shine the gospel in its marvelous light through not only our individual testimony, but our collective testimony as well.

Well, that’s just a bit of an overview, but it speaks to the issue of being a part of the church of Jesus Christ for all those reasons that we saw. And I know that that is the case with many of you. Perhaps most of you are members of Grace Church, and we thank the Lord for that; and you are living in understanding and obedience to these principles. But I also know there are many of you who have not become members of Grace Church; and that is a way you can say, “OK, I covenant with this church to serve and be shepherded,” summing up all the things we’ve seen in the Scripture this morning.

To help you with that, some of you may be saying, “Well, how does that happen?” Well, we’re going to accelerate the process for you. Next Sunday’s going to be a one-day membership Sunday. At 1:00, after the second service is over, you can go to the Tower Building, third floor, all of you who are interested in membership, and the entire process can be completed in one day. The classes for membership will be held there, led by our Chairman of Elders, Chris Hamilton. Lunch will be provided for you. Questions and answers with elders, interviews with elders; and if you need to be baptized, we’re going to put that in as well, because that’s essential.

But if the Lord is moving on your heart, then we don’t want to drag it out. I know for some of you, you’ve been in kind of a pipeline and maybe haven’t finished all the classes. This is a one-day expedited process. So if it’s in your heart, and you want to be a part of this wonderful church that God has blessed, next Sunday is your opportunity to do that. And I’m going to be praying that God will add to the church those that He desires. Now after this service you can also go to the Members Center and I think get information there where you can sign up, and you can also check the church’s website.

This is not a commercial, I just want to make that clear. I’m just bringing you up to speed on what the Lord expects, right? Yeah. This is not optional. So let’s bow in prayer.

Our Father, we thank You so much for Grace Community Church and all the faithful churches around the world. We thank You for Your Word and Your Spirit. We thank You for godly teachers who have influenced us. We thank You for the impact that believers have on one another. We thank You that You, through Your Word and the fellowship of the saints and in the service of the saints, conform us to the image of Christ.

We confess that You are our Lord, that we submit to Your Word and to those you place over us to be our teachers and leaders; and we want to follow their teaching and their example. We affirm that we depend on other believers and the gifts that are in the body distributed to mold us into the image of Christ. We desire corporate worship and service together. We want to be a shining testimony of salvation power in the world around us as we live in love with each other.

So help us to love each other. Help us to pursue unity in the bond of peace; and that happens when we love each other. Give us a greater love for one another and for You, we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

This sermon series includes the following messages:

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Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time
Since 1969


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Since 1969
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Since 1969