The Church, The Body of Christ

September 30, 2012

The Church. The Church. 
When I say church, what do
you think of? A little white clapboard building with a steeple and a bell, or
perhaps the Crystal Cathedral in California.  
Maybe you don’t think of a building instead you think of people, perhaps your friends and fellow believers at Cornerstone   come
to mind, if so that is good. Church
means many different things to many different people.  Some people feel warm and fuzzy inside when
you mention church, other’s get
angry.  But the reality is that if you
are a believer, a Christ Follower
then you have no doubt had some experience with a church.

For some people Cornerstone Church became a church when we
moved into this building.  But does a
building make a church?  When people ask
me what I do I tell them “I pastor the church across from Kingswood”  and for many that means that I work in this
building.  The reality is that I pastor,
or shepherd, the people who meet in this building. 
So let’s start by defining what Church means.  In the New Testament,
the word that was used was a Greek word,
which makes a lot of sense considering the New Testament was written in Greek.
And the word was ekklesia, From ek
‘out of’ and kaleo ‘call’ thus they were the called out ones.  And although that word wasn’t used
exclusively to mean Church it was the word used to describe the Church.  The English word Church has its roots in a
different word that literally meant “Of the Lord.”

A.W. Tozer said “One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by
careful organizations do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men
make a football team. The first requisite is life, always.” 

Over the past three weeks we have been looking at the
church.  We started with what it would
cost for our church to grow, that it would mean that we would be in a constant
state of change, because every new family, every new person in the church would
change what the church looked like.  And
then we spoke about how we would have to give up our smallness, as perceived as
that may or may not be, and that it would require sacrifice, of time, talent,
money and preferences. 
Then two weeks ago we spoke about what it meant for the
church to be the bride of Christ and the things that we could do to be the most
attractive bride possible.  Last week the
message was based on the Church being the Family of God and what that meant
2000 years ago and what it means for us today. 

There is another metaphor that
the New Testament used for the church and it is found in the scripture that was
read for us earlier Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He
makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special
work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love.
We are told here that the
Church is the Body of Christ.  But it
does tell us that we shouldn’t be content to just be any body that we are to be
a healthy body.  So what does that
mean? 

How do we become and remain a healthy church?    A
church that had an impact on its entire community and the lives of the people
in that community? A church that makes a difference not just for the here and
now but for the there and then?  A church
that has an eternal impact and makes an eternal difference?
Let’s go back to the scripture we started with:  Ephesians 4:15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.
1) A Healthy Church
Will Have Christ at the Head.
That seems almost self-evident
but I’m not sure that it is.  Notice that
I didn’t say a Healthy Church will be a Christian Church.  The reason is that I don’t think that every
church that calls itself a Christian church is a Christ following church or for
that matter a Christian Church.  What
makes a church a Christian Church?  Historically
they were churches that fell in line with the Apostle’s Creed.  What is the Apostle’s Creed, glad you asked. 
Let’s read it together.

The
Apostle’s Creed
I believe in God,
the Father Almighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
The third day He arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence He shall come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Church Universal
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.
Amen.
So there are some essentials in there that make a church a
Christian Church.  Belief in God and the
divinity of Jesus Christ, in the Trinity, in the virgin birth of Christ, of his
death and resurrection and the reality of heaven and hell.  And if a church doesn’t believe in those
things then historically and in my view they are not Christ Following
Churches. 
But it has to go beyond that,
it needs to go to following the directions that Christ set down for His church.  If we are going to be a Christ following
Church then we need to take this book to heart as the word of God.  If we aren’t willing to take our direction
from the word of God then where will we get it?

Ephesians
4:16
He makes the whole body fit together
perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts
grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
2) A Healthy Church
Will be A Growing Church. 
First of all this has nothing to do with numbers.  A healthy church will be a church that is
growing spiritually.  If we could figure
out a way to test people who attended church on a regular basis than those who
attend a healthy church would know more about the Bible today than they did a
year ago and they should know more about the bible in a year then they know
today.
Throughout the New Testament we
see this concept taught time and time again, believers are told to leave the
elementary things behind, to stop being content with spiritual milk and begin
eating spiritual meat, to stop laying the foundation and start constructing the
actual building of their faith.  We are
told in Hebrews 6:1 So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ
again and again. .  .   Sometimes we get so comfortable with
the beginning that we don’t want to move on, but we have to, when we stop
learning we stop growing, that’s true in your academic life, that is true in
your work life and that is true in your spiritual life. 
So how do we grow spritually?  Well to a certain degree, it happens on Sunday morning,
but if that is the only time you are being fed spiritually then you will starve
to death.  You will not grow spiritually
if this is all the spiritual food you take in. 
And don’t try to dump it on me and do the “we’re not being fed
spiritually” line.  My job is to provide
you with good solid biblical teaching on Sunday.  But think about it,
if I provided you with a wonderful gourmet meal each Sunday for lunch. The very
best food that you could possibly want,
soup, salad,
appetizer, entrée, dessert the works,
would you be content to only eat on Sundays? 
And then only on the Sundays that you actually made it to Church.  No, you would make it your responsibility to
eat on Monday, Tuesday and all the way through the week. 
If you are going to grow
spiritually then you need to eat spiritually. 
Listen to what the Bible says about some believers,
nobody here I’m sure. Hebrews 5:12-14 You have been believers so long now that you ought to be
teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things
about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food.
For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do
what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training
have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.
How do you learn more about the Bible?  A good place to start is by reading the Bible, find a translation that works for you, I love the New Living Translation, if you don’t have a bible and can’t afford one let
me know and I’ll buy you one.  Borrow the
Bible on CD from the library out by the fireplace, listen to them in your car,
read Christian books, again we have several shelves of them, fiction and
non-fiction, when you’re through with those let me know and you can come peruse
my library, when you’re done there I’ll introduce you to Miracles Christian
Book Store or Noah’s ark. 
Another way of feeding yourself spiritually is through small
groups, not just for the knowledge that you gain but for the relationships that
you build.  (Skit guys video).
Tonight we are doing some brainstorming to see what our
small group ministry should look like for the upcoming year and we would love
for you to join us here at 6:00 p.m., did I mention there will be Ice Cream?
Acts
2:41
Those who believed what Peter said were
baptized and added to the church that day . . .
3) A Healthy Church
Will be A Growing Church. 
This has
everything to do with numbers.  I truly
believe that if we are going to be a healthy church then we need to be growing
numerically as well as spiritually.  We
need to be seeing new faces in our church family. 
I know that when you talk numerical growth people
automatically figure that you are only in it for the numbers.  And you know what they are right.  I tell people; I count numbers because
numbers count.  Every number is a person
and every person has a soul that needs God.  In the first chapters of the book of Acts Luke
records that the church grew by 3000 and 5000and finally he gave up trying to
keep track and just said “The Lord added to their numbers daily those who were
being saved.”
If we are going to reach people with the Gospel and if we
are going to see them grow spiritually then we will grow numerically.  There are thousands and thousands of people
in our community who need to know the truth of the Gospel,
and we have a moral obligation to share that truth with them.
Matthew
16:18
Now I say to you that you are Peter
(which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the
powers of hell will not conquer it.
4) A Healthy Church
Will be An Offensive Church. 
Now
this doesn’t mean offensive in the sense that the church is supposed to offend
people. 
For too long the church has been on the defensive, we hunker down in our little trenches cover our
heads and hope that we can ward off the Devil until he gets tired and goes
away.  In other versions the scripture
that I had read said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it.” And we have this vision of hell attacking the church and
the church is putting up a great defence and we are able to withstand the
attack of the Devil and his legions.
But that isn’t what the scripture says; it says the gates of
hell will not prevail.  Now I’m not a
military strategist or military historian but I don’t think that gates are
normally used as offensive weapons. You don’t attack someone brandishing a gate
over your head. Even in Canada
with all of the budget cuts the military has had to put up with I don’t think
they are issuing gates to our soldiers to use as weapons.
We are to take the offensive,
the church is supposed to take a stand and say this is wrong and this is
right.  We are supposed to be serious
about depopulating hell and decrying immorality and that means that we need to
take the offensive, not hide from
the devil but attack. 
Matthew
15:12
Then the disciples came to him and
asked, “Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?”
5) A Healthy Church
Will be An Offensive Church. 
Now
this means that the church will sometimes have to offend people.  As a matter of fact every time the word “offend”
is used in the New Living Translation it is in reference to something Jesus
either said or did.  You cannot be obedient
to the word of God without offending people. 
And if you are committed to taking a stand for what the scriptures teach
then you will be offensive to some people. 
If you take a stand for traditional marriage then you will offend those
who living together and same sex couples. 
  If you say you must be born
again then you will offend those who believe their own goodness will get them
into heaven.  If you say that Jesus is
the only way to heaven then you will offend the Muslims,
the Hindu’s, the Buddhists etc. etc.
The only way that we will never offend anyone with our
Christian faith is if we never say anything and never do anything.  And then we will be offending God with our
disobedience.  As James Thomson said “I think a
bishop who doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good bishop.” And
a church that doesn’t give offence to anyone is probably not a good church.
1
John 3:16
We know what real love is because
Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers
and sisters.
6) A Healthy Church
Will be a Sacrificing Church. 
Now
this doesn’t have anything to do with money. 
You understand don’t you that as a Christian there will be sacrifices
that you have to make.  Decisions that
you make as a believer that you might not have made were you not a follower of
Jesus Christ. Life-style choices that you make because of your commitment to
God’s word.  In other times and places
those choices have resulted in people surrendering their lives.  In our culture you might be put into a
position where you lose a promotion or popularity because of a stand that you
take. That is a sacrifice.  As a church
there will be stands that we take that make us less than popular with those
around us.
Paul told the believers in the church in Corinth that there would be times that they
would have to abstain from actions not because they were wrong but because they
could cause fellow believers to stumble. That’s a sacrifice.  There may be times that you won’t agree a
hundred percent with the direction the church is taking but unless it’s a direct
violation of scripture you might say “at this point I’m willing to agree to
disagree for the greater good.” 
Sometimes the sacrifice that we need to make for the church is our own
preferences.  
We aren’t talking about uniformity, we are not asking you to
check your brain at the door.  We don’t
all have to agree on everything we do as a church.  If we insisted on complete uniformity at
Cornerstone then we wouldn’t be a church we would be a cult.  However if we are going to move ahead we will
need unity.
You won’t be the first to make a sacrifice, Ghandi speaking of Jesus said  “A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of
others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a
perfect act.”
Acts
2:44
And all the believers met together in
one place and shared everything they had.
7) A Healthy Church Will be a Sacrificing Church Now this has
everything to do with money.  I know, I’m
only supposed to talk about money in April, but I will keep it short. 
I am convinced that nothing
great is every achieved without sacrifices being made.  Every one of us has made sacrifices to
achieve something. We have all given up something for something better or
something we want more.  That is
sacrifice.  Throughout the history of the
church financial sacrifices were made.  Acts 4:32 All the
believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was
not their own, so they shared everything they had.
And if we skip ahead twenty years we read this description
about the church in Macedonia, 
2
Corinthians 8:2-3
They are being tested by
many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant
joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave
not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free
will.
This church exists because people made sacrifices to make it
happen, when we started we had people all over the Maritimes giving
sacrificially to see this dream become a reality.  And today this church and every other church
around exists because people give sacrificially.   You
understand that every dollar that someone gives to Cornerstone   could
have been spent somewhere else, they have sacrificed something in order to give
to God’s work. 
                                                                                       
This building didn’t happen because people gave their spare
time and spare change; it happened because people made sacrifices.  And that is kind of abstract now because it’s
like the building has always been here, but a committed group of people gave up
vacations, and buying new cars and building bigger homes so we could have this building
to worship in.   Philosopher George Santayana commented “Nothing so much enhances a good as
to make sacrifices for it.”
And who will decide what that sacrifice should be?  You are the only one who can do that. 
If Cornerstone is going to be
the church that God wants it to be that will only happen as the people who make
up Cornerstone are the people that God wants them to be.  Our individual responsibility as Christ followers
is to follow Christ, to be spiritually healthy and spiritually mature.  Let’s go back to where we started this
morning Ephesians 4:15-16 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every
way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He
makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special
work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and
growing and full of love.   The
church can’t be all that it’s supposed to be unless the individual parts of the
body are being all they are supposed to be as well.
Are you committed to helping Cornerstone Wesleyan Church be
the church God desires it to be?