Our 2019 third quarter’s series of lessons is on first principals, a back to basic’s series. Last week we talked about sin and sacrifice, where we saw how sin brought the curse of death and bloodshed upon the earth, and how God’s ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s death and bloodshed, brings us eternal life and peace. But… that sacrifice is beneficial, only for those who accept it in obedient faith. God does not force you to love and obey Him. God gives you that choice. Cain was not forced to offer an acceptable sacrifice, nor was Cain forced to take his brother, Abel, out into the field and murder him. God even gently counseled Cain to do what is right and he would be accepted, and to be master of sin’s temptation. But what did Cain do? Cain chose to disobey and even kill Abel. Then came the consequences for his choices, and Cain acted as if it were all unfair. So goes the person who turns away from the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They will blame the very God who sacrificed His Son for them. They will stand condemned by their own choices.
Meanwhile, God’s offer of life is openly available to all who are willing. Jesus calls us to come to Him. Matt. 11:28-30. Mark 8:34-37 tells us how to come, and that whoever is willing to follow Him, may come. But only if we obey His way. We don’t get to follow Jesus according to our preferences. Then, Rev. 22:17 reminds us that this call of God is still crying out to all. Jesus said, “If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” So, the call is also to us in the church. The Church of Christ is built by Jesus Christ upon the foundation of Christ who died for our sins and who’s blood was shed to pay for our sins and to bring us God’s gift of eternal life and the blessing of peace and joy forever in His presence. And this calling is to the obedience of faith in Him who calls us. Rom. 1:5, 16:25-26. Jesus is the Way. He is the door. We can’t have it our way. In fact, when we go our way, we go astray! Same for churches, when they go their own way, they go astray.
God sets before us life and death, blessing and cursing, heaven and hell, and He calls us: Choose LIFE! This life is in Christ Jesus, God’s son. That is God’s ultimate destiny for the Church, that is, for those who are faithful to His call. That we would share eternal life in glory with Him. That brings us to our lesson today: Just what is this church? How do we enter it? What’s it like?
These questions are answered in only one book, the Bible. We live in a world filled with various churches with a wide range of beliefs and practices. Let me make this simple. Jesus Christ built one church. He is taking one bride. Jesus is the head of one body, the church, of which He is the Savior. There is one body and one Spirit, and one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all, and in all.
You and I are called to come, follow Jesus Christ. It’s so easy, like Peter (in John 21) to look around and see John and say, “What about him?” God tells me to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, and that He works in me to will and do according to His will. God also calls me to work together with my brothers and sisters in Christ and strive to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. So, again, what is this church like that I’m called to share life with?
In our New Testaments, the gospels show us who Jesus Christ, our head is. Then, Acts and the letters that follow, reveal to us the church that is Christ’s body and bride. We discover who we are as disciples of Christ and what we are to be and do as the church of Christ in the pages of the New Testament. And the church Jesus builds was born in Acts 2. So let’s look in the mirror of God word and see how we measure up?
How does Acts 2 depict the church? Is it an event you attend on a weekly basis? Or is it something else, something much more. How does the Bible describe the church that Christ built?
One of the basic first principles of the Christian faith lies right here. One of the distinctive identifying marks of the church that Jesus Christ built and is still building, is this: Church is not simply an event you attend. Church is much more. The church Christ is building began with Holy Spirit power just like God said it would and God adds those who are saved by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ to it.
Spiritually speaking, you don’t come to church and leave it. You either are, or you are not, a part of the church, having been added to it by God Himself. On the other hand, Christ’s church is something you gather with for mutual edification and shared worship, but you are no less a part of, when you walk out those doors than when you came in. Everywhere in this world where there are fellow Christians, we are, each and every one of us, a part of one another’s lives. We will share eternity together. We have been called out from darkness into His marvelous light. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.
Physically speaking, you live in this area and assemble with the Signal Mountain Church of Christ. We have our own elders and deacons, preacher and teachers. There is a local aspect to the church. The New Testament describes the church in two dimensions: 1. the whole family of God, everywhere, who are fellow members of the body of Christ, and 2. the local gatherings of disciples in congregations like ours here. The letters of the New Testament were written to various local churches, or areas of churches, or leaders of churches. Rev. 1-3 tells us how Jesus sent messages to seven churches of Asia. Each location received an evaluation and message from Christ. Most were rebuked and corrected and called to repentance and better obedience. Some were warned of coming trials, and even punishments. All were depicted as lampstands in the right hand of Jesus. Rev. 1:20.
The New Testament speaks of false teachers, false apostles, false Christs, and false followers of Christ, who work hardship and havoc in the churches at times. Some of these false ones are even found within the local churches as elders, preachers and teachers.
Toward the end of his life, Paul wrote letters to Timothy warning him against these challenges. 1 Tim. 4:1-2, 2 Tim. 3:1-9. Are there any words in that passage that sound troubling?
Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that the church has always struggled with issues and divisions. So there is nothing we see today that is really new.
So if the situation is like this, what should we do? Let’s listen to 2 Tim. 3:10-4:8.
The church is not an event you attend, the church is a saved family of which you are a part.