Our Father in heaven, we praise you and come before you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. O Lord, draw us closer to you and closer together as by your Spirit, through your word, in and with your blood bought people, you build your church, which is the body of Christ, the church of Christ. Through your power and according to your will, please work in us to carry out your mission of seeking, saving and serving as through us, you bring light and truth into this fallen world of darkness and deception, all to the praise of your glory and grace, in Jesus name, Amen.
The Church of Christ: we are under construction and the work is being done by Christ.
This week let’s begin a brief series on the vision and mission of God for His people, His church.
What’s in a name? We are not Baptists, but we believe in baptism (more than most Baptists do that I’ve talked to about it). We are not Presbyterian, but we believe in the presbytery of elders that manage and lead the church. We are not Methodists, but we believe in the methods and practices of the early church as our model and pattern. We are not Catholics, but we believe in the world wide church as the household of faith and all its members as the body and bride of Christ. We are not Congregationalists, but we believe in the autonomous nature of each local congregation of the church under the care of its elders and deacons. We are not Lutherans, but we believe in the ongoing reformation of the church and the inspired authority of the Holy Scriptures. We are not Pentecostal, but we believe in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that gave birth to the Church as recorded in Acts chapter two and the gift of the Holy Spirit that is promised to all who repent and are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. We are not a Bible Church, but we believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God with full authority to teach, correct, rebuke, guide and direct our lives in God’s will and way. We are not a Community Church, but we are a church that meets in this community and we share in communion with one another in Christ. We have as our name: the Church of Christ. This name is not our choosing but God’s. The Church of Christ is a biblical name that identifies us and it also defines us.
Did you know that God has placed the name of Jesus Christ above all names and above every title that can be given in heaven or on earth? Did you know that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? Just think of what an honor we have to bear that name as His Church!
The name: church of Christ identifies us as belonging to Him. We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. We enter His gates with thankful singing and His courts with praise. We give thanks to Him and bless His name. Just as each of us has a family name, we who are His Church are called to wear the name of Christ. This identifies who we are far better than any partial reference to some aspect of what we do or believe. I am not Greg preacher, but Greg Nance. As a church we don’t wear the name of what we do, or some aspect of ourselves, but instead we wear the name of the One who died for us. To say that we are the church of Christ is to make a claim for an identity that is higher, holier, purer, greater, stronger, and fuller than we can even fathom. This name can only be attained by the work of God in us and through us. We are His workmanship created for good works that God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. The Church of Christ! This name identifies us in a way that is more honorable and noble than any other name could. Who is worthy of such a name? Only those made worthy by Christ Himself.
I believe that Satan would love to make us ashamed to bear this name! He works to deceive us with lies using those who believe his lies to mock and discredit the name we bear. Don’t give in to it! The name of Christ has been given to His church to wear with courage and boldness. Not one of us deserves it. Not one of us can claim to be good enough in or of ourselves to live up to its glory. But we wear it because our crucified and risen King has bestowed it upon us.
The church of Christ! We did not earn this name. We have not somehow managed to deserve such an honor by our own righteousness or godliness. No! We are called the Church of Christ because God has earned us! He has redeemed us! Jesus has paid the price for us! We are given the awesome privilege as a free gift of God’s grace to carry the title and bear the name of Christ. We who have begun to understand this can echo with Paul, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain!” And, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Yet we are called to walk worthy of the name we bear, are we not? (Eph. 4:1-3) When the Church of Christ walks in the way of Christ and obeys the will of Christ we discover that not only does the name Church of Christ identify us, but it also defines us.
What is the defining character of the Church of Christ? It is Christ Himself. He is our Savior, our Lord, our model, our protector, our life. Christ is our all in all. All of the New Testament resonates with this truth. He is the way, the truth and the life. Christ is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep and we are the sheep who hear our master’s voice and follow Him as He leads us and gives us abundant life.
God’s vision for us is in that name. Our mission is also in that name.
For our study on this I have chosen the epistle of Ephesians as our focus. Ephesians, though packed full, is brief enough to read in 18 minutes (I timed it as I listened to it on my phone). It is a general letter giving us a beautifully balanced, Holy Spirit inspired church manual. In it we read what God has done, is doing and will do for, in and with His church. We also read instructions on what we are to do as God works in us.
Chapters 1-3 give us God’s vision for the church and chapters 4-6 give us God’s mission for the church: vision being what we are in Christ, and mission being what we do in Christ.
Blessed is God who blesses us with all spiritual blessings in Christ
He chose us in Christ
He predestined us to adoption through Christ
We have redemption through Christ’s blood
We have forgiveness of sin by Christ’s grace
We have knowledge of the mystery of Christ that all things in heaven and earth will ultimately be brought under the authority of Christ.
We have an eternal inheritance in Christ
We are sealed with the Holy Spirit in Christ making us God’s own possession
All these things in Christ are to the praise of His glory
God has put all things under Christ and made Christ head over all things to or for the church, His body, His fullness, who fills all in all.
Brothers and sisters, we are His. This church is His church. We are the church of Christ.
God’s vision for His church is glorious. May our eyes be opened to see this and to claim it with courage and boldness that honors the name of Christ.