How many of you have played sports? Did you wear a uniform with a number on it? We see around town the signs in yards saying: Home of Signal Mountain Eagles number “so and so”.
One thing that I recall about coaching was how strongly some team members felt about the number on their jersey. Some took their particular number with either pride or angst. This could be an emotional matter, where even tears shed by some over not getting, or having to take a certain number.
Numbers are important in other ways. Your birthday, credit cards, social security, zip code, phone, and security codes have numbers associated with them. In fact, your identity can be stollen if someone knows your numbers.
Did you know that God cares about numbers too? Jesus said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” The fourth book of the Bible is entitled, guess what? Numbers. In Genesis 1 God numbers off the days of creation and when it gets to day seven, that day and it’s number takes on special significance. God rested on the seventh day and He made the seventh day holy. Three and one are Christian numbers, based on the unity and trinity of divinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one God. The Bible also gives significance to many other numbers such as 10, 12, 40 and 70.
We, here at the Signal Mountain Church of Christ have been extremely blessed with these numbers: we have five elders, 18 deacons, 68 Bible class teachers, and 3 staff members. Our church family here is made up of 178 baptized members and 48 unbaptized children of those members. That’s 226 individuals from 97 different households. This number does not include our college students who are away and are being numbered among local church families where they now share Christian fellowship and service.
Surveying Acts 1-9 reveals that Luke takes a special interest in the number of disciples. He also shows interest in those that are not of that number. Acts agrees with the song that says: “how I long to be in that number, when the saints go marching in.”
What is “that number?” Who are these numbered among the saints? That number represents the church, the saved. All others outside “that number” are lost. In a way, the number all boils down to this, doesn’t it? It’s a binary system. It’s a 1 or a 0.. You are either in or out, one of the number or not. God knows your number and He knows whether you count as His or not. God’s people are all in His church, His called out. Church membership is more serious than some people take it. What does the Bible say about this number, the saved, the church?
Biblically, the church is both universal and local in nature. It is both big and small at the same time.
- On the big, universal level, God adds all new saved people to the number of His chosen people, His royal priesthood, His holy nation, the people belonging to Him. Jesus blood cleanses each one of us who are saved from sin, He sends His Holy Spirit to dwell in you, to empower and guide you, God gives you a new name and a new life. You are numbered as an heir of God and coheir with Jesus Christ. You are also numbered with the Apostles and fellow members of the universal body of Jesus Christ! You enjoy the hope of eternal life in Christ. You are also commissioned to the seeking, saving, and serving mission and ministry of Jesus Christ in this world. God’s vision for you is that you be like Jesus Christ, and that He be your life. This means that you can go anywhere in the world where God’s people meet and join with them as part of the number of the saints. Your membership in Christ is your spiritual passport number. We all have the same passport number and the numbers are all ones, One body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. (Ephesians 4:4-6) In Christ you wear the spiritual jersey with your spiritual number on it. You are part of the big team the One body of Christ. On the other hand each member has a position and each one has certain responsibilities. In order to carry out this position and perform your responsibilities there is a small level within which each one of us must work.
2. On the small or local level, following Jesus is becomes a “one another” life. The local church family, like us here at the Signal Mountain Church of Christ: this is where the real work of discipleship and maturity takes place. We are called together where we join together seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness together, sharing the saving mission of the grace of God in Christ and evangelizing the lost together, and serving others and especially the household of God together. This all requires that we are numbered in and with a local church body. Those numbers of offering and attendance that we place on the wall mean something. We worship, have fellowship, grow in discipleship, do ministry and evangelize together. Everyone counts! This is where the saved share life together in local gatherings or congregations. Nor just in worship assemblies like this, but in classes and small groups and day to day gatherings where we share life in Christ.
There is a popular, but dangerous way of thinking about Christianity among some today that says, I don’t need to be a member of any particular church family. I’m just a Christian in the global sense and don’t want to be tied down anywhere. That’s an abandonment of Christian responsibility and duty. It’s a convenient way to avoid the Christian one another commandments. Remember that song by the Monkee’s where Davy Jones sang: “I want to be free like the blue birds flying by me, like the waves out on the blue sea, if your love has to tie me, don’t try me, say good bye.” God did NOT write that song.
Christianity which is both world wide and local must be lived out in fellowship with other Christians. By the way, these Christians we gather with are not perfect. There is no perfect congregation of God’s people on this earth. There are some good ones. There are some bad ones. But there are no perfect one. Just read your New Testament and you will see that this has always been true.
Someone once said, “Living above with saints we love, O, that will be glory. But living below with those we know, well, that is a different story.”
To grow up in Christ requires commitment to a local church family under the oversight and shepherding of spiritual leaders. God puts elders and mature Christians in this role. As new members come into this local church family, some of you are mature spiritual leaders who have moved your local membership here. Others may be at various levels of growth in Christ, and some are newly baptized and very young in their faith. This mix gives us the family characteristic that we have. It is in community together as members of a local church family that we practice and grow in our faith. Look at Eph. 4:14-16.
When you were added to God’s church it is like you got a jersey with a number on it! You are on the team! Now, we expect you to come to practice and join us on the field. Those with the most experience and skill will need to work to build up those who are just beginning. Our Elders and ministry staff and teachers are here to serve you. Next week, Lord willing, I hope to share with you more specific areas in which we as church members work and serve together in Christ.