I must admit that watching MBM online has been very convenient, for the first time in 35 years I have got my Saturday nights back. On Sunday I move from my bedroom, shower, kitchen and go to my TV to go on MBM online, youtube. Sandy and I pray and share. I catch up with some of you on zoom. There are no more arguments about getting up, getting ready, getting out, getting in the car and no more car park miracles.
With forced smiles, and awkward conversations at church, are we sure we want to come back?
So, it’s a good time to stop and to see the church of God through Jesus’ eyes again. And in the words of the great Robert Abboud, to let personal preferences surrender to Gods purposes, to retrain ourselves back into the habit of meeting with one another. I so want everyone at MBM to see how precious the church is in Jesus’ eyes.
The word church in the New Testament is almost always the gathering of believers around God’s word, whether that gathering was at Old Testament Mt Sinai, or Mt Druitt or the heavenly Mt Zion. For too long the church has had a target on its back and let’s face it, there is a lot to criticize. But when we declare Jesus to be Lord, we choose to see the church through Jesus’ eyes.
The Bible is clear, God’s great plan is that He is saving a people for his Son. Every person at MBM was in God’s heart from before the creation of the world. We were chosen not just to be forgiven but to be adopted into God’s family – the church.
I want to look at 2 images to understand the church.
Point 1. The Church is Christ’s Bride
When Adam and Eve were placed in the garden, they were not just our first parents and the first couple, they were the first church. When these two were gathered, God was with them in the cool of the day. And each marriage points to the ultimate marriage between Christ and his church. Not surprising when Paul starts talking about marriage he ends up talking about the
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. ~Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)
From that passage we see Jesus posture toward the church. We are told 5 things about Jesus attitude to his church
- Christ really loved his church. Have you ever said I love the church?
- Christ loved the church knowing every stain, wrinkle and blemish. The failures of the church don’t stop Jesus loving his bride and they should not stop us.
- Christ gave himself up for his church. Jesus loves his bride all the way to the cross. Very few verses speak of Christ dying for me. Only 1, Christ died for his sheep, his church, his people, elect.
- Christ cleanses his bride by his word. When we accepted the good news we are washed whiter than snow.
- Christ wants a beautiful church not just a forgiven church. Jesus is committed to making the church radiant, we are the apple of his eye. And He rejoices over us in song.
Christ wants us to be with him and one day he will come to live with us. We are his forever people.
Now think about your attitude to the church. Do you have a love for the church like Jesus does? Or do you use the sins of the church as an excuse to ignore his bride? Do you use the sins of the church to judge his people?
Jesus is not naïve. Every letter in the New Testament is a rebuke to the churches then and now. We can see why people say ‘I love Jesus -it’s the church I can’t stand.’
I was talking to a guy, who owns a café, 2 months ago when we were on hard lockdown, he had 5 women not keeping social distance buying take away, he gently warned them that police were around. They stayed for 2 hours in groups of 5 when only 2 were allowed. They complained about the food and demanded a part refund. He said ‘I am going to refund all your meals’ They said, ‘You must be a Christian, so are we’. He said ‘its people like you that give Christianity such a bad name.’
Whatever sins you see in the church, Jesus not only knows them, he died for each one. As the bride of Christ, you can’t love Jesus and not love his church. You can’t love Jesus and not his people at MBM, too many Christian just don’t get this, they think they can love Jesus and not love his people. They are the very people Jesus personally chooses.
As a young Christian, I knew I did not naturally fit in at church, they were not my kind of people, I loved going to hear rock bands play at pubs, the music at church sounded like bad country and western. I didn’t realize that by saying yes to Jesus, I was saying yes to a new family who I didn’t choose.
They were not my kind of people but then it dawned on me as a young Christian, they were Jesus’ people, He loves them, he chose them and died for them, so I needed to love them and serve them. Those who I get on with and those I don’t, those who drain me and those who energize me, those who love me and those who hurt me. I needed to see them through Jesus’ eyes.
That is why when people withdraw from the church of God, they end up hanging with people just like themselves. Jesus said even the pagans love those who love them. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family and you can’t pick Gods family, that is God choice. The church is Christ’s bride.
Point 2 The church is Christ’s body
With Christ as the head and we are his body. Each of us makes up different members of his one body, the moment you believe you belong.
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body— whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. ~1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV)
The moment you are born you belong in a family, the moment you are born again you are reborn into the body of Christ. This beautiful body of Christ crosses cultures, and class, where everyone belongs, flies first class. Just as a human body has different parts, head, fingers, legs, eyes and ears, so the body of Christ has many different people with different gifts all joined by the same Spirit. You belong, whether you feel like you belong or not. You belong even if you have not found a best friend at church that you click with.
There are 2 attitudes that can undermine that unity.
Warning #1 Don’t despise your place in the body.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. ~1Corinthians 12:15 (NIV)
Telling yourself you don’t belong does not stop you from belonging.
An insecure big toe with low self-esteem does not stop the big toe from being part of the body. Imagine for a moment if the whole body were one big eyeball or imagine a 6-foot nose, no eyes, no legs just a nose. At best you would look like Mr Potato head and worse you would look like a Picasso Painting.
If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? ~1 Corinthians 12:17 (NIV)
Try talking to a person who has lost a hand or lost an eye and they will tell you, every part matters. Sometimes we despise our place when we say to ourselves, if only they knew what I did this last week they would not be so nice. Or Everyone is so together at church and my life is such a mess. Relax: all of our lives are a mess. The church is not a gym for the spiritual fit and healthy, it’s a hospital for sick sinners crying out for mercy.
Christ did not pay the price of his life to buy you the most expensive ticket to be part of God’s forever people so that you can’t tell yourself you don’t belong.
Warning #2 Don’t despise the place of others.
As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” ~1Corinthians 12:20-21 (NIV)
This passage forbids that ugly rugged individualism that says I don’t need you. Now, of course, no one is not likely to say it, we just act like it.
So, when you only come to church when you feel like it you are saying ‘I don’t need others or they don’t need me.’ What is worse is when we justify our neglect of His church by saying “God is enough.” The church is God’s body language.
[we] should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. ~1 Corinthians 12:26 (NIV)
Jesus feels the joys and sorrows of his people, He shares our joys and weeps with our tears. The way he shows that is through us, we are his body language. He wants you to express his joy and sorrow over the joy and sorrows of others. You are his hands his feet, his tears and his smile.
Last week we lost our sister Rapunzel. This 27 year old woman who went to be with the Lord and left her loving husband Sam. Sam’s grief must be our grief as it reflects Christ grief.
There is not a person in this church you don’t need and there is not a person in this church who doesn’t need you.
“Satan loves detached believers, unplugged from the life of the Body, isolated from Gods family and unaccountable to spiritual leaders because he knows they are defenceless and powerless.” Rick Warren (p136)
So what helps people feel like they belong? The repeated feedback from people is this. Join a small group and find out how you can serve.
One woman said, ‘I was coming to the church for over a year before I knew anyone, when I made the move to join the morning tea team I began to know the people in my team so, that was a bit better but still mostly I would wander on my own. Then, I finally joined a bible study group, THAT made lots more difference’
MBM online has been the right thing to do during COVID but it’s not church. It’s been an important ministry of the word, but it’s not church. It’s what we do for a season, but it’s not church.
Jesus said ‘I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.’ And neither will COVID. Not all of us can gather straight away as we move from 1 to 2 to 3 services. It may be because of limited numbers and services or it may be because you are vulnerable and we fully understand. Just don’t make inconvenience the reason you don’t gather. Personal preferences need to surrender to God’s purposes. I want you to grasp how Jesus sees his church.
Point 3 Judgement day shows the importance of the church
Jesus is seated on his glorious throne with angels. He separates the Sheep from the Goats.
To one group Jesus says
Depart from me ~Matthew 25:41 (NIV)
To the other he says
Come, you who are blessed by my Father ~Matthew 25:34 (NIV)
But what marks out the sheep from the goats?
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ ~Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)
It all turns on your treatment of Jesus.
But they are thinking: “How did we feed, clothe, visit, and care for you Jesus, you were in heaven?”
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. ~Matthew 25:40 (NIV)
Do you see? What you did for my people my bride and my body you did to me. Those “Brothers and Sister of mine…” When you neglected them you neglected me, when you ignored them you ignored me and when you loved them you loved me.
If a finger represents you and a hand represents your small circle of church friends you will not love Jesus until you love his whole body. That is why the place the church has in your heart is one of the great indicators of the place Jesus has in my heart.
Friends, it may be time to trade in those slippers for the privilege of serving the saints.
My Lord Jesus,
We know you saved us not just from hell but to be part of your family, your bride and your body. Help us to grasp that to ignore your people is to ignore you. And to love your people is how we love you. May we rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep in the body of Christ
In Jesus name.