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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Matt's Messages - Real Christians Really ARE the Church

“Real Christians Really ARE the Church”
Real Christians
December 9, 2007
1 Corinthians 1:1-3

Last week, in our series on Real Christians, we learned that Real Christians are IN the world, but we are NOT OF the world.

We live here among the world (sent here by God!), but we are not OF the world (we are no longer part of it). We have been saved (spiritually) OUT of the world, and someday we’ll be saved totally out of the world.

For right now, we are IN but NOT OF the world.

But that raises the question, doesn’t it, so what are we OF?

And the answer is: we are OF the heavenly colony here on Earth known as the church.

We are OF the church. And that is the subject of our message today.

“Real Christians Really ARE the Church.”

I would like to shock you now, if I can. Can I try to shock you?

Listen to this:

There is no verse in the entire Bible that says that Christians should go to church.

If you find a verse that says, “Go to church.” I want to see it!

And here’s why.

Because, in the Bible, the church is not something that you go to. It’s something that you ARE.

The church is not something you go to. It’s something that you are. (Or aren’t if you aren’t.)

The church is not something you go to. It’s something that you are a part of.

Real Christians Really ARE the Church.

There are a lot places that we could go to see that in the Bible, but the specific place I’ve picked for today is 1 Corinthians chapter 1 and the first 3 verses.

This is the “Hello” section of Paul’s letter where he pretty much just says who’s writing, whom the letter’s to, and greetings with grace and peace.

We’re really only going to focus on verse 2 this morning, but I’m going to read all 3.

1 Corinthians chapter 1, verses 1-3 in God’s Holy Word.
Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ-- their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’d like to point our 4 things from verse 2 about the church.

Here’s #1.

#1. THE CHURCH IS PEOPLE.

Let’s read verse 2 again. And see what he says about the church.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours...”

Now, this may be obvious, but remember, we’ve been studying the basics this Fall.

Paul is writing to people. The church is people.

He isn’t writing to a building.

He isn’t writing to a community center with a Cross on it.

He isn’t writing to a religious business.

He isn’t even writing to an institution.

He is writing to a people called the church.

The verse doesn’t make sense unless that’s true. Try putting the word “building” in verse 2 where it says “church,” and it doesn’t make any sense. That’s true of every place in the Bible that talks about the church!

Sometimes we talk like this building is the church. But it isn’t. Tear this thing down, and the church remains.

That’s why I like to talk about this as our campus or as our facility or our ministry center. It’s not the church.

We are the church. The church is people.

Even this meeting that we are in right now is not the church!

When we talk about going to church, we often mean going to a Christian meeting. A service or a celebration.

But this is not the church. It’s a meeting of the church.

Meeting is something the church does. Public worship is something the church does.

But it is not the church. The church is people.

Real Christians Really ARE the Church.

The church is people.

I know a lot of people who think that the essence of Christianity is attending a worship service somewhere regularly.

“I know that I need to go to church.”
Or, “I’m glad that I go to church.”
Or, I know that she is a Christian because she goes to church.

But attending church meetings is not the essence of Real Christianity.

I’ve said this before: just because I live in a garage, doesn’t make me a car.
Just because I go to church, doesn’t make me a Real Christian.

Because Real Christians REALLY ARE the church. Not just go to meetings.

Does that make sense?

It’s not how we always talk about it or how we use the words. But it’s how God uses the words in His holy Word!

The church is people.

Look around you. Look at the people sitting in front of you. Look at the people sitting behind you. Look at the people on either side of you down the aisle.

There. You’re looking at the church. The church is people.

Now see this, #2. THE CHURCH IS BOTH LOCAL AND GLOBAL. Look at verse 2 again.

“To the church of God [WHERE?] in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours...”

The Church is both local and global.

You’ve heard that phrase, “Think globally, act locally?” That’s true of the Church.

The church is all of the Real Christians throughout history and throughout the world, and it has specific expression in local churches that are manifestations of that global church.

The church is local. Corinth. Galatia. Ephesus. Rome. Lanse. Philipsburg.

A specific group of Real Christians banded together in spiritual community in local communities. In the world but not of the world. In their communities (sent into their communities) but not OF their communities. OF the church. A heavenly colony here on Earth.

The church is local.

But it’s also global. Look at the end of verse 2 again.

“Together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ– their Lord and ours...”

“All those everywhere.”

All Real Christians Really Are The Church.

The church is global.

That means that we are the church with our brothers and sisters in Christ in Cap Hatien Haiti. And our brothers and sisters in Christ in China. And in Africa. And in Denmark. And everywhere else. “All those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

The church is global.

When I was a kid growing up in Sunday School, we used to sing a little song. I’ve sung it to you before:

The Church Is Not a Building
The Church Is Not a Steeple
The Church Is Not a Resting Place
The Church Is a People.

I Am the Church.
You Are the Church.
We Are the Church Together.
All of God’s People, All Around the World,
Yes, We’re the Church Together.

And that’s one of the most powerful things I learned growing up.

The church is people, and it’s people both local and global.

Both are important.

I see some people who neglect the global aspect of the church.

They think of the church as just being them and a few of their friends, and they forget that they are spiritually tied to Real Christians everywhere. “All those everywhere who call on the name...”

Or they think that their little denomination (and our denomination is little–just 1300 churches) is all that there is.

But that’s not true. The Church is much bigger than we often think. And we need to strive for unity in the church at large. I wanted to have a sermon about Real Christians strive for unity in the church. Because the church is global.

But I also see many who neglect the localness of the church.

They think of themselves as part of the global church, but they don’t do much if anything to bring expression to that in the local church.

They don’t join.
They don’t participate.
They don’t fall in love with the local body of believers.
They don’t submit to church leadership.
They try to go it their own or at least semi-independently with a take-it-or-leave-it attitude to the local church.

Remember, think global, act local.

I can see how this could be misunderstood.

I mean, someone could think that because the Bible nowhere says to go to church that therefore the church is not important!

But that would miss most of the New Testament and its teaching on the church.

The church should be an essential part of the life of every Real Christian.

The church (not this building!) should be an essential part of the life of every Real Christian.

Because Real Christians Really ARE the Church both locally and globally.

Here’s a third thing I’d like you to see.

#3. THE CHURCH IS HOLY AND CALLED TO BE HOLY.

See how Paul describes the body of believers at Corinth. V.2 again.

“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified [set apart] in Christ Jesus and called to be holy...”

Sanctified is a big word that means to be set apart or to be made holy.

Jesus did that for the church when He saved her from her sins on the Cross.

We are positionally holy in Christ.

We are counted righteous with the righteousness of Christ if we have believed the Real Gospel.

At the same time, we are simul justus et peccator, right? We are saints but we are still sinners. We are righteous in Him, but we’re not totally righteous in practice yet.

Positionally but not practically.

So, God calls us to holiness.

We are called holy and called to holiness. “Sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy.”

That’s one of the major emphases in the New Testament on the church.

The church is supposed to be a holy people.

We are not OF the world.

We are OF the church. We are OF the colony of heaven here on Earth.

We are OF the Spirit.

We are OF Christ.

We are called to be holy.

Now hear me! We are not saved by striving to be holy!

No, we are “sanctified in Christ Jesus” and what He did for us on the Cross. We are saved by calling “on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But we are called to progressively become what we are. We are called to grow in holiness.

How are you doing at that?

Are you growing in holiness?

One of the purpose of the church is to help each other to do just that.

We are holy and called to be holy.

And #4. THE CHURCH IS JESUS CHRIST’S.

Let’s read verse 2 once more.

“To the church [who’s church?] of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”

The church belongs to Jesus Christ.

He bought it with His blood.

Sometimes, people ask me how my church is doing.

And I know what they mean. They mean the church that I serve as a pastor.

Or they mean the church that I love as a member, of which I am a part.

But it sometimes we can get to thinking that this church is mine in another way.

As if I own it. As if it exists for me. As if I have control over it or possession of it.

I can get into that mindset. Even thinking of our church as a business. How can I grow the church? As if we were a business. And if we were, it wouldn’t be my business, anyway. It would be Jesus’.

He said, “I will build MY church.” It’s His.

And I belong to Him. And we belong to Him together.

The church that meets in Lanse...“Together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”

The church is Jesus Christ’s.

So, how do we apply this message to our lives. Let me give you four quick points of application:

#1. Think of Yourself As Part of the Church.

If you are a Real Christian, who believes the Real Gospel, think of yourself as a part of the Church. Because the Church is a people, both local and global, made holy and called to be holy, belonging to Christ.

Don’t think of church as something to go to.

Think of it as something to be a part of.

And #2. Be a Part of the Church.

Don’t just think it globally and then not act locally!

Fully participate in the life of the local church.

Join the membership. We have a meeting in just a few minutes when 4 of you are going to welcomed into church membership. That’s a great application for this message.

I believe that every Real Christian should be a real member of their local church. And as your pastor, I’m striving to see that be true of everyone here.

Be a part of the church.

And I mean the whole thing. Don’t just attend the meetings. Be a part of what God is doing in the world through the church.

Take full advantage of what your church is offering and teaching.

I had 5 more messages that I wanted to bring this Fall, but I ran out of Fall!

They relate to our purpose statement, and I preached about them before.

They are the 5 main ways that our church (as a worshiping community) glorifies God by bringing people into a love relationship with Jesus Christ.

Worship, Instruction, Fellowship, Evangelism, and Service.

Real Christians Really Love Jesus in Corporate Worship
Real Christians Really Learn of Jesus in Instruction.
Real Christians Really Link to Others in Jesus in Fellowship.
Real Christians Really Lure Others to Jesus in Evangelism.
And Real Christians Really Live for Jesus in Service.

These are also real marks of Real Chrsitians.

And they are what our church is all about.

Are you involved in all 5?

I’m very concerned about people who say they love the Lord but won’t really commit to worship, instruction, fellowship, evangelism, and service, won’t really commit to functions of the local church.

Be a part.

#3. Do Your Part in the Local Church.

One of you, on your blue survey sheet, asked me to preach on Real Christians Serve God.

And that’s right. We are all called to find our places of service and use our gifts in ministry in the local church.

In a few minutes, we’re going to affirm our leadership for 2008.

Some of our leaders have been leaders here for many many years.

And some of the rest of us need to step up to leadership and finding our own place in ministry.

We each need to do our part.

And that includes giving. I wanted to preach a message this Fall on “Real Christians Give Generously.”

That’s part of each of us doing our part.

In a minute, we’re also going to approve our operating budget for 2008.

It’s not an ambitious budget. It’s scaled back by $17,000 dollars from what we set out to do last year.

But we’re still going to need to give generously to meet it.

And I want to go on record as thanking you for your generous giving this last year.

We started the year in financial difficulty and we’ve ended it on a position of strength, with our remaining debt almost paid off.

I praise the Lord for how you have sacrificially done your part.

And #4. Never Part from the Church.

You can’t, really, if you are a Real Christian. Christianity is a team sport.

If you claim to be a Christian, but you have no real connection with a real church, your salvation is suspect. I can give you no assurances that you are Real.

1 John says that those who depart from the church show that they were never really a part of it (2:19).

We need you and you need us!

Love the church. And stay committed.

The Bible says that Jesus Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.

Can we do no less?

Real Christians Really Are the Church.

The Church is People.
The Church is Both Local and Global.
The Church is Holy and Called to be Holy.
The Church is Jesus Christ’s.

So, Think of Yourself as Part of the Church.
Be a Part of the Church, for Real.
Do Your Part in the Church.
And Never Part from the Church.

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