It seems as though every eight or nine, ten years I am struck again by how confused people are about the church and what the church is, and it almost needs to be redefined again. I think we’re at that kind of time now. It’s been a number of years since we have explicitly looked at what the Word of God says about the church. We are the church; we live as the church. We are the living, breathing church of Jesus Christ, so we understand our own life, and we understand it clearly as we have endeavored to pattern it after the Word of God. But there are so many who don’t understand.
Over the last few years about 2,000 of you have become members of Grace Church, and you have added your life to the lives of all those who previously have become members of our church. And by becoming a member, you have said, “I’m going to make a full commitment of my life to this congregation.” You have, by the power of God, been added to the church. The Lord adds to His church. He adds to His church. But even those whom He adds to the church sometimes, in fact, more frequently than ever, don’t openly, publicly declare themselves as a part of His church. Popular thing to say, you have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but there’s a real disconnect when you say, “I have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus, but no personal relationship with His church.”
I really want to address that, because I think that’s a fabrication and a deception that has found a place in the thinking of many professing Christians today. Many of you are members of Grace Community Church, and you have poured your life and soul into this church, as believers must. Others of you come regularly or irregularly, sporadically. Some of you are maybe just visiting us for the first time, or in recent times you’ve started attending. But you’re really on the outside looking in. You haven’t identified. You haven’t made a commitment. You don’t see your relationship to a local congregation as an absolute necessity. You haven’t committed to faithful involvement. And it probably is due to some natural forces that are working against the spiritual forces that the Spirit of God is operating in your life, and you need to understand what is right, what you need to do.
For the sake of those who are not members and looking in from the outside, and for the sake of those of you who are new members and maybe don’t understand all that’s involved in that, I want to make sure that I’ve discharged my responsibility as your shepherd to help you understand the church. And this morning I’m just going to give a personal overview of the church; and then over the weeks that unfold after this, we’ll dig down into some of the glorious details of the church. I need to speak to you as the shepherd that the Lord has given you for my sake, and to discharge my responsibility before the Lord, and for yours as well, so that you can be fully blessed by being fully responsive. And it’s been a number of years since I have done this. Now let’s kind of begin at the beginning.
We all understand that God is sovereign, that He rules. We even know the terminology: God is the great King over His kingdom. But there are two ways to understand the kingdom of God: one is universal and one is particular. God is the King over His universal kingdom in the sense that He rules the universe throughout time and eternity, and He rules, therefore, all that is in His universe. He rules singularly as the triune God. No one can thwart His rule. No one can inform His rule. No one can alter His rule. No one can withstand the power of the execution of His will. He is the King over everything.
This is repeatedly displayed in the Old Testament in verses like Psalm 103:19, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” That sums it up: He rules over all, all that exists in His universe. That is His universal kingdom. He rules in the sense that He ordains all that is going on in the entire created realm: angels, the natural universe, the spiritual universe – angels, demons, all persons – He rules over all of them.
But there is another understanding of the kingdom of God that is more important for us at this moment, and that is the kingdom of God that is particular. By that we mean God’s rule over His redeemed people. He rules over His redeemed people in a separate way. He orders all of the universe. He controls all of the universe.
But there are, in the universe, inanimate nonpersons. There are, in the universe, demons who experience no blessing from God. There are, in the universe, people, human beings, who experience the judgment of God, even the judgment of God everlastingly in hell. We’re talking about a different kingdom, the particular kingdom where God rules over His redeemed people: those that have been forgiven of their sin; those that have been delivered from transgression, and therefore from guilt, and therefore from judgment, and therefore from punishment, and therefore from eternal hell and have the promise of everlasting heaven. His kingdom in its present form over His redeemed people on earth is the church. When you read in the Bible about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God in terms of this world it is the church; the church is that kingdom. Yes, there will be a future reign of Christ on the earth in the millennial kingdom for a thousand years that the Bible talks about. There is the eternal reign of God and of Christ over the redeemed in the new heaven and the new earth everlastingly. That too is the eternal kingdom in which God rules over all of His redeemed, then perfected and brought into His presence forever.
But for now, we live in the kingdom of God in its earthly form, which is His redeemed church. The Lord is our Master, the Lord Jesus. We have confessed Him as Lord and Master. He is our King. He is the King over the church. He is the head of the church, the true church: those who are regenerated, justified, being sanctified, and will one day be glorified. You, if you have confessed Jesus as Lord, have acknowledged Him as your sovereign King, and you have therefore declared yourself to be a part of His kingdom, and it’s not just your declaration, it is the very declaration of heaven itself. If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you are in His kingdom; He is your sovereign King. That’s the church. You live in that sphere. You are no longer a citizen of this world, you are an alien in this world and you are a citizen of the kingdom by being a part of the church.
I just want you to understand the church is where you live and move and have your being. It’s where you live, it’s where you love, it’s where you learn, it’s where you worship, it’s where you serve. The church is your life. It is your breath; it is your blood. The church has your soul, it has your heart, it has your mind, and it has your body as well.
The church is your nation. The church is your country. The church is your state. The church is your city. The church is your tribe. The church is your ethnicity. The church is your family. The church is the realm of your most essential and all-satisfying relationships. That was made clear when you were delivered from this present world, when you were transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. The church is your life. You don’t love the world, you love the church; that’s who you are as a Christian. The church is not something you do on Sunday, the church is where you live your entire life, and where all your essential needs, and purest desires, and holy aspirations and longings are met.
On a personal note, I love the church. I love the church everywhere; and everywhere I have gone over the years around the world and met with the people of God, those who are part of the redeemed church, everywhere I have gone to fellowship with those in the eternal heavenly kingdom, I have expressed and received that love. Didn’t matter whether it was in the jungle of South America or whether it’s with the Maori in New Zealand, or whether it’s in Asia, whether it’s with believers in China, whether it’s in Europe, wherever it might have been across this planet, Africa, I love the church. And no matter where I go, even with people I’ve never met, there is a bond of love. Those are my people, that’s my nation, that’s my tribe, that’s my family.
I have loved the church really all my life, since a little child. It is where my parents first took me right after I was born. It’s where I first heard the Word of God preached by my grandfather and my father. It’s where I was first taught the stories of the Bible, which even to this day are vivid in my mind. It’s where I sat in a very little chair and had a very, very big teacher telling me stories out of the Word of God and call me to trust in Jesus Christ. It’s where I came to believe the Bible, and then to believe the gospel. It’s where I learned to worship. It’s where I learned to sing the songs of the redeemed, beginning in their most simple forms as a child. It’s where I learned to serve the Lord. It’s where I learned to love and be loved by the saints. Church is the place my whole life where I’ve made all my friends. Church is the place where I met Patricia, God’s best gift to me. Church is the place I raised my children. Church is the place where my grandchildren are. It is to the church that I have given my whole life without a split second of regret; what a priviledge. The church is my life, has been my life, will be my life forever, because we’re all going to be together in glory.
Along the way, the Lord called me to be a pastor, and then He called me here, and I have tried to teach you to love not only Christ, but to love the church. And I’ve also tried to raise up other men and women in leadership who could teach others to love the church. I’ve tried to raise up young men through the seminary in The Master’s University and young women wherever to love the church. I’ve had a lifelong love for the church that I want to share. We have a Shepherds’ Conference to try to help men love the church more, and train God’s people to love the church more.
My Christian experience has never been about law, it’s always been about love. It’s never been about rules, it’s always been about affections. It’s always been that I love the Lord and I love who the Lord loves; I love the church. And I’ve tried to teach you over these many decades to love the Lord and to love His church, and you are good students. You have come to love the church. I see it in your faithfulness. I see it in your sacrifice. I see it in your giving. I see it in your serving. I see it in your joy. And all I have ever desired in service to the Lord was that the church would love Him and love whom He loves. I want you to understand the church. I don’t want you to have any vague ideas about the church or your necessary relation to the church. I want you to be able to fully love the Lord and the church. And so, again, after many years, I want to go back and talk about the church.
I believe that our Lord deserves the love that He demands for Himself, and I believe that He deserves the love that He demands for His church.
And in all honesty, I am greatly disturbed with the popular idea that you can have a personal relationship with Christ and be detached from the church. That is just a very odd and unacceptable disconnect. It’s like saying, “I’m connected to the head but not to the body.” Makes no sense. But it is becoming increasingly popular to say, “I have a personal relationship with Christ, but no real relationship to the church.” Then I would say immediately, “Your relationship with Jesus Christ is far from what it ought to be, because loving Him and not loving His church is not acceptable to Him.”
Rarely do I hear people talk about commitment to the church, love for the church, devotion to the church, even covenanting to be faithful to the church, joining the church, being a member of the church. We have some trends that the culture is imposing upon us that drive people away from this commitment, trends – I guess you could put them under a couple of titles. One would be Ecclesiastical consumerism, where I have a personal relationship with Christ and I sort of live my Christian life based upon whatever appeals to me. I’m over here, I’m over there; I’m here, I’m there, bouncing around and shopping my Christianity: no long-term relationships, no deep devotion, no lasting spiritual dynamics among the people of God with whom I live. I’m a shopper, I’m a consumer, and that’s the world we live in; and I consume my Christianity in the doses and the forms that appeal to me. It’s about me.
You can go so far as to create your own media religion. You have the music that you want to listen to on your iPhone or whatever other device you use. You have the preaching that you want to listen to available to you, you download that. You can download bits and pieces of your own basic smorgasbord choice and create your own religion. That’s becoming increasingly popular; sort of personalized media church.
Another thing that I think is very threatening to the reality of life in the church is cyber church, auditing the church from a distance, auditing the church from a distance. “I don’t go to church, but I tune in livestream, or I listen on the radio, or my church is on TV.” That’s not even close to fulfilling what the Lord expects out of a believer. What happens with Ecclesiastical consumers and cyber church people and self-styled media religionists is that they neglect all that a church really is, and that starts with they neglect the ordinances: baptism, the regular time at the Lord’s Table, corporate worship, mutual ministry service. They also avoid accountability. They’re living in the world of their own, and it’s a world that essentially makes them anonymous.
Let me tell you something about sin if you’re a believer: sin wants you alone. Oh, we have some replacement events for the church. You can go to places with big crowds on a Sunday, and lots of folks will flow in there. They’ll turn the lights off and then they’ll turn on the strobe lights and there’ll be a bunch of wild music. That’s the pseudo church. That’s an event. That’s a repeated event that is intended to replace the church. And generally speaking, it mocks the church as out of touch with the culture, out of touch with what people want. And very often that pseudo church has a pseudo pastor. It’s really very little more than a sort of personality cult or personality club. It’s all about style, all about entertainment.
Here’s a thought. Wouldn’t it be just wonderful if somebody came to you – and it could happen to any or all of us – and said, “I have just come to faith in Christ. I’m looking for a church.” And you could say, “Really, there’s one over there, there’s one on that corner. Just find someplace that says church; go there, you’ll be fine. Just look for a place marked church and you’ll be safe, and you’ll be blessed.”
Now you know you can’t say that; you’d be afraid to say that. You’d think you’d be guilty before God for saying that, because you could send somebody to a church that would destroy them.
Now you might be able to say that if you were in a country where Christians had long been seriously persecuted. True Christians were being persecuted so that false Christianity gets driven out; and the only churches might be hard to find, but they would be real churches, and you could say, “Go there.” But that’s not true in our culture.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if – and I can remember as a child growing up and being in a lot of different churches. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say like we used to be able to say, “Find a church, because all churches follow the Lord, and all churches honor the Bible, and all churches are where you can worship Christ. Just find a church; find a gathering of Christians. You’ll be okay, because wherever Christians gather you’ll find sound doctrine, true worship, discernment, true love, true holiness, humility, joy, godly shepherds, and gospel witness.” Really?
You can’t say that. In fact, immediately when somebody asks you that question you get defensive and you feel like you’ve got to protect this person, right, “You can’t go there. Don’t go there. Look, between here and the freeway don’t go anywhere but here. I can just tell ya.” You can’t say that. You can’t say that. Why is it so hard? Why do we get mail constantly, “I can’t find a faithful church? After all, it shouldn’t be difficult.”
What does Scripture say a church is? Well, here’s what it says. The church is heaven on earth. It’s going to be a heavenly experience brought down to earth. It’s not going to be anything like the world. The church is going to be the place where you hear the truth proclaimed, because the church is the pillar and foundation of divine truth. It’s the gathering of true worshipers worshiping in spirit and truth. It’s a collection of God glorifying Christ-honoring saints, fellowshipping in love and service to their King and to each other. It’s people literally burning with a passion for holiness and Christ-likeness. A church is a fellowship where the superficial is replaced by the supernatural, and where carnal desires are replaced by spiritual desires. That’s a church.
A church, I think, is defined by its desires. The best definition of boredom that I ever read is this: boredom is the desire for desire. When you’ve reached the point where you don’t want anything, that’s boredom. That can’t be true of a Christian. I don’t need to be entertained; that’s not what I desire. I have desires, very strong desires. They’re holy aspirations and holy affections. And the place where my deepest and most lasting and penetrating desires are all fulfilled is in the life of the church. Nothing outside the church satisfies my desires, because those desires are cultivated in the new creation and by the work of the Holy Spirit. I could never be bored. I could never be bored, because my desires are strong toward God and strong toward Christ and strong toward the Holy Spirit and strong toward the Word of God, and therefore inseparable from life in the church.
If you don’t have a particular strong interest in the church you’d better do a little inventory on what you desire. The world can suck you up and you can desire a whole lot of things that will intrude on and curtail what you really ought to desire, things that can only be satisfied with a full commitment to the church. I can’t get here enough. I can’t get here fast enough; I can’t stay long enough, because it’s in the communion of the saints in the life of the church that all my highest and best desires are satisfied.
Now when we hear about contemporary churches today we hear words like this: radical. “We are a radical church, or we are a transformational church, or we are an extreme church, or we are an awesome church, or we are an emergent church, or we are an alternative church, or we are an innovative church, or we are” – I’ve even seen – “an explosive church.” Really?
I don’t need high energy. I don’t need high emotion. I don’t need creativity. I don’t need cultural savvy. I do not need to be entertained; those are not my desires. If you’re chasing high energy and entertainment, you’re running from the church. I don’t need a radical, contemporary, transformational, extreme, awesome, emergent, alternative, innovative, explosive church. I don’t need that, I just need an ordinary church.
There is an ordinary church. There is an ordinary church. I just wish churches were ordinary so that we could say to people, “Just pick one.” Used to be a lot more ordinary when I was young. And now churches can be the most dangerous place in the community.
So what is an ordinary church? What do you mean an ordinary church? I mean a normal, customary, regular, common, ordinary church. Well, what would that be like? Well, here we go.
You’d have a saved congregation, a saved congregation; that’s a church. They would be subject to the authority of Scripture gladly. They would be led by mature godly pastors and teachers. They would be devoted to sound doctrine and serious theology. Their worship would be elevated, beautiful, and have a tone of seriousness.
They would be constantly in prayer. They would hold strong convictions based on sound doctrine. They would be spiritually discerning. They would be protective of God’s flock, protecting them from all sin and error. They would be pursuing holiness and humility, loving each other sacrificially, discipling one another, and proclaiming Christ by corporate testimony and individual witness. That’s a church. That’s an ordinary church, just ordinary. That’s what Scripture says a church should be. Try to find one; not easy.
By the sweet providence of the Lord, here’s one that ascribes to God the glory and seeks to be this kind of church. We’ve always wanted to be just an ordinary church. We have an extraordinary Lord, but we want to be an ordinary church. The Lord is extraordinary, because there’s one of Him. We’re ordinary, because there should be thousands of us. We don’t want to be known for uniqueness. We don’t want to be known for cleverness. We don’t want to be known for innovation. We don’t want to be known for our ability to adapt to the culture. We just want to be the ordinary church, doing what our extraordinary Lord desires, so that all the glory goes to Him.
Now, so what is your responsibility or commitment to the ordinary church? You have one here. So what’s your relationship to this church? Is it marginal? Is it sporadic? Is it indifferent? Or is it full commitment? This is your family; these are your people; this is the kingdom in which you live.
Even in the book of Acts, they knew the church. Three thousand people are converted on the Day of Pentecost. How do they know? They counted them. They knew who they were. Later on in a few chapters in the book of Acts, five thousand more added to the church. You come into chapter 6 and they’re already trying to figure out how to minister to the needs of certain widows, and they’ve got men who teach and men who can oversee those ministries that are called deacons.
The church begins to have to care for its people. And all through the pattern of the New Testament the church is expressing its love for the Lord by demonstrating its love for each other, and the apostles write letters to the church to inform the church and to inform church leaders of those things that are critical for the life of the church. Members were tracked in the book of Acts. If you went from one city to another, there were letters of commendation which you took with you, so that that new group of believers would know you were a Christian, and you would come with a commendation of a church in another place.
Paul talks about those letters of commendation. New Testament letters were written to churches. Paul’s letters were written to churches or to pastors of churches – case of Timothy and Titus. The general epistles of Peter and James were written to believers collectively. You didn’t have a personal relationship with Christ without a personal relationship with a church if you were living then, because the only way you heard from God was when a letter came that was inspired by the Holy Spirit and read to the church. All the epistles basically either to the leaders of a church, responsible leaders in the church, or to the church. I just don’t understand how it is that evangelical professing Christians have come to treat the church with indifference. It’s just an evidence of the cheapness of their claim to follow Christ.
Now let me just wrap up for this morning by giving you a few ways to see this. You may be ignorant of the church – and I’m helping to fill in some of the gaps in your understanding. You may have been indifferent toward the church, disconnected from the church, looking in but being outside, because you’re ignorant, you didn’t know what your responsibility was. I hope I’ve helped a little bit with that. You may be fighting against a desire to hide your life, which doesn’t help you.
Sin loves to have you alone. You may dread responsibility that might be given to you because you’re very satisfied to be doing the things that you want to do. Whether it’s ignorance or whether it’s a fear of letting your life be manifest, or whether it’s not wanting to be given responsibility, whatever the reason: none of them are pleasing to the Lord.
You are, if you’re a true believer, you’re the church. This isn’t a church. This facility isn’t a church, these buildings aren’t a church, the people are the church, and your response to what the Lord expects of you in His kingdom can be laid, I think, hard on you with just some perspectives.
First of all, it’s an obedience issue, it’s an obedience issue. The New Testament doesn’t know anything about a person connected to Christ and not connected to the church, not fully connected to Christ and fully connected to the church. We are Christ’s. We live in Christ, Christ lives in us. We live in the church, we are the church; there is no separation.
It’s an obedience issue. Will you be obedient? Will you submit to those that are over you in the Lord who are responsible to shepherd you and have to give an account to God? Will you be obedient to what the Lord wants? He wants you involved in His church fully.
Secondly, it’s not only an obedience issue, it’s a fellowship issue. In Hebrews 10 it says, “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is.” There are some people who forsake the assembling. “Why do we want to assemble? What’s the point?” He says that you might stimulate one another to love and good works, and that you might encourage one another.
So here’s how fellowship works. It’s not about what you get, it’s about what you give. “Don’t forsake the assembling of yourselves together, so that you can stimulate others to love and good works, so that you can encourage others.” You’re not coming here to receive, you’re coming here to give. This is where you give your life. It’s a fellowship issue. We need your spiritual gifts. We need you to be ministering to one another – several dozen of them in the New Testament. We need the mutual burden-bearing care, love, friendship, fellowship, communion, which is so purifying, encouraging, upbuilding, uplifting, strengthening. It’s a fellowship issue.
Thirdly, it’s an authority issue. I’ve already hinted at that, but it’s an authority issue. You need to be trained; you need to be discipled. You need to be led. You need to be admonished. You need to be warned. You need to be reproved, rebuked, exhorted, instructed, edified. And there are men and women in the life of the church who have been given the abilities and the gifts to pour all of that into your life, to conform you to the image of Christ.
You need to grow up into Christ, Ephesians 4. So that comes by being under the authority of the Word of God. Paul says to Titus, “Speak with all authority and don’t let anybody circumvent that authority,” because the Bible is absolutely authoritative. It’s an authority issue.
Whose authority are you under? If you’re in the cyber church world or if you’re in the design your own religion on your computer world, you’re under no one’s authority, you’re the authority. You’re playing God with your own spiritual life. You need to be shepherded; you need to be nurtured; you need to be cared for. You need to come under the authority of faithful, loving shepherds and folks who care for your soul.
Fourthly, it’s an identity issue. It’s an identity issue. Eleven times in Ephesians 1 we read “in Christ” – eleven times. But overall in Paul’s epistles, he uses that phrase “in Christ” one-hundred-and-sixty times. I could say it this way: there is no other phrase that so describes the character and nature of a Christian as that one. You are in Christ. You are inseparable from Christ. If you are inseparable from Christ, he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit, then you are inseparable from all others who are one in Christ. You are in Christ, and therefore you are in His body along with all other believers.
It’s an identity. You bear His name. You literally are one with Christ. This is the mystery of all mysteries, how that the Lord could take us who are so unworthy and make us one with Himself. The church is where you live out that life in Christ. The Lord has brought you into the place where you literally share His life. He’s in you, you’re in Him, like Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I’m crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.”
You are Christ’s. It’s not as if you’re some kind of distant relation to Christ, you are in Christ, you are one with Christ that is inseparable from Him. That is why the Bible, New Testament, uses the metaphor of the body. He is the head, you are the body. You’re in union with Christ. How can you not be in constant communion with His living body, the church?
And, fifthly, it’s a loyalty issue. You’re called and gifted to show love and ministry to others. It’s about loyalty. Are you so consumed with yourself that you have no thought of what gifts the Spirit of God has given you, and what responsibilities the Spirit of God has laid for all of us so that you want to discharge that on behalf of others? The church is where you come to serve others, and in so doing, you’re served. You have no loyalty to your family, no loyalty to your people? Come out of isolation. Love is, of all things, loyal, loyal.
And then, as I said, it’s a ministry issue, it’s a ministry issue. What’s your ministry? What are you doing collectively with other believers to advance the name of Christ in the kingdom of God? What are you doing? When I talk about ministry, I’m talking about what the New Testament calls the fellowship of serving. It’s endless here at Grace, it’s absolutely endless. And the ministries that go on here, the collections of people that are engaged in ministry is 24/7 nonstop.
How are you engaged? How are you engaged in the fellowship of serving? So I’m talking to you about an obedience issue, a fellowship issue, an authority issue, an identity issue: “One with Christ,” a loyalty issue: “Do you love the family?” and a ministry issue: “What are you doing along with other believers in a ministry advancing the kingdom?”
And then it’s a truth issue, Number Seven, it’s a truth issue. People who jump around get a kind of an eclectic understanding of truth. People who are part of a church that is faithful to teach the Word of God get a systematic understanding of the Word of God. That’s why we talk about so often the necessary expository ministry of the pulpit, so that we’re teaching you the Word of God in the same way that the Lord inspired the Bible. It’s a book that goes from beginning to end, and it reasons and goes through the logical process of unfolding truth. You can’t hit and miss, pick and choose and get a cohesive doctrine. It’s a truth issue.
In your church where you’re committed and faithful, there should be continuity of teaching integrity of doctrine, because obviously the truth saves us, the truth sanctifies us, the truth comforts us. It’s the most important thing in the world. We don’t want to be children tossed to and fro and carried about by every wind of doctrine because we’re ignorant. It’s a truth issue.
And then, finally, in my little list, it’s an evangelism issue, it’s an evangelism issue. You say, “Well, I talk to people about the Lord all the time.” Well, I’m glad you do that; you should do that. But let me tell you what our Lord said about evangelism.
Listen to these words, John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Now that’s a high standard, right? “Love one another as I have love you.”
Ask yourself, “How had He loved us?” “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his” – what? – “his life for his friends.” So how did He love us? Supremely. How did He love them that very night when He was headed to the cross? He loved them by doing the lowliest possible duty; He washed their filthy feet. He loved them humbly. He loved them sweetly, graciously, generously, sacrificially.
So the Lord says, “This is the new commandment now. I want you to love one another as I have loved you.” And then He says this, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
So do the people around you that are non-Christians know you love Christ because of how obviously you love His church? Is that defining in your life? Do you have to say to someone, “I’m a Christian you know,” because they otherwise wouldn’t know it, because you don’t have any visible manifest life in the church?
How do you know someone’s a Christian? It’s not because they say, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” It’s because they say, “I have a corporate relationship with Jesus Christ. I love His church. That’s my life, His church.”
You need to be a public, open, faithful member of His church, for His glory, in response to all that He’s done for you. We’re not perfect. We’re not everything we want to be, certainly not everything He wants us to be. But we are committed to being an ordinary church, following the pattern of Scripture. And you need to be an ordinary Christian, a part of the ordinary church.
Father, we are grateful again this morning for a wonderful time of fellowship and worship. We thank You for the clarity with which Your Word speaks. Thank You for what You’ve done here in this congregation through the years, for Your blessing which has been showered on us. We don’t want a personal relationship with You in any limited sense, that’s not enough. We want to be one with You and one with every other person who is one with You. We want to show the world the truth of the gospel and our salvation by our love for the church, which is the evidence of our love for the Savior. How can we say we love You, Lord Jesus, if it isn’t obvious how much we love Your church, the church You love and for whom You gave Your life. Help us, Lord, to be all that You want us to be. Amen.