Monday, July 30, 2012

The Church - Christ's Body

The Church – Christ's Body

Intro.: What comes to mind when you think of the church.

T.S. During the next few minutes, I want to spend time thinking about this thing we call church. Let me make three observations.

  1. The Church begins with Jesus Christ.
    1. There are three of Paul's letters that I have learned to really appreciate.
      1. The first is Paul's letter to the Philippian church. You see, of all the church's to whom Paul wrote, it appears to be the healthiest – the most committed to being obedient to Christ. When Paul wrote to the Philippian church, he was showing us what the church could look like if we were obedient.
      2. At the other extreme are Paul's letters to the Corinthian church. Here is a church that had problems from the day it was begun – and each of the two letter disclose more sin that the church had to address. And yet, Paul did write them. They were a part of the church. These letters show us the extent of God's Grace even toward believers that had strayed from the truth.
    2. And so, when Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the church, I feel that I, at the very least, must listen. Look at what he says: For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
    3. In a few minutes we will conclude our service by singing How Firm A Foundation:
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
    1. The church's foundation is Jesus Christ –
  1. The church is the body of Christ
      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!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts 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. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  (I Cor. 12:20-27)

      (Ill.) As members of the body of Christ, we can be compared to pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece has protrusions and indentations. The protrusions represent our strengths (gifts, talents, abilities), and the indentations represent our weaknesses (faults, limitations, shortcomings, undeveloped areas). The beautiful thing is that the pieces complement one another and produce a beautiful whole.

      Just as each piece of a puzzle is important, so each member of the body of Christ is important and can minister to the other members of the body.

      Just as, when one piece is missing from the puzzle, its absence is very obvious and damages the picture, so also is the whole weakened when we are absent from the body of Christ.

      Just as, when each piece of a puzzle is in place, any one piece is not conspicuous but blends in to form the whole picture, so it should be in the body of Christ.i

      1. The Church is both visible and invisible
        1. The visible church is the body of Christ that we see in church each week.
        2. The invisible church are those who have put their faith in Christ – whether they are in church or not. Why invisible – health, persecution, travel, etc. There is no official list. Just knowing that the church is larger than what we see on Sunday AM is encouraging.
        3. Don't get me wrong, most of those who have put their faith in Christ will be in church each week – but being in church does not make one a part of the invisible church.
        4. That only happens when we put our faith in Christ.
      (Appl.) I cannot tell the difference between the visible and invisible church. Only God can do that – only God knows who has placed their faith in Christ. Whether I am a lay person or a pastor, I have no way of knowing the heart of a man or woman. That belongs to God alone.

      (Ill.) One of favorite writers is a man by the name of A. W. Tozer. Tozer was one of the founders of the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination. I like what he wrote on this very topic:

      Faith in Jesus is not commitment to your church or denomination. I believe in the local church; I am not a tabernacle man. I believe in the divine assembly. We ought to realize that we are, as a group of Christians, a divine assembly, a cell in the body of Christ, alive with His life. But not for one second would I try to create in you a faith that would lead you to commit yourself irrevocably to a local church or to your church leaders.

      You are not asked to follow your church leaders. You are not asked like a little robin on the nest to open your innocent little mouth and just take anything I put in. If what I put in is not biblical food, regurgitate and do not be afraid to do it. Call me or come see me or write me an anonymous letter. But do something about it. Do not, by any means, swallow what your leaders give you. Here is the book, the Bible: go to it.

      Faith is faith in Jesus Christ, God’s Son. It is total faith in Christ and not in a denomination or church, though you may love the church and respect and love your leaders and your denomination. But your commitment is to Christ.ii



      iIllustrations for Biblical Preaching: Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively. 1989 (M. P. Green, Ed.) (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
      iiTozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (1998). Vol. 1: The Tozer Topical Reader (191–192). Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread.

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