Be the Church - What does it mean to “be the church?”
I imagine sometime in your life you have played some kind of Word Association Game?[i] Am I correct? If not, let’s play now! I will give you a word and you shout out the first word that pops into your mind. Be at ease, there are no wrong answers! Here’s your first word: (Dog – Cat) // (Love – Hate) // (Dark – Light) // (Hot – Cold) (Happy – Sad) // (Sweet – Sour) // (Cereal – Milk) (Bacon – Eggs) // (Car – Truck) // (Church…
Eating lunch after church one Sunday, a little boy asked his Dad what was the highest number he had ever counted to. His Dad said that he didn’t know. But Dad then turned the question around. How high have you counted to? His son answered, "5, 372!" "Why did you stop?" And his son said, "The sermon was over." For many people the first word that pops into their head when they hear church is BORING! Is church boring to you?
Hmmm, what exactly is the church? The Bible tells us. Both Peter and Paul tell us! Let’s look at Peter first! Turn in your Bible today to 2nd Peter 3. Do you need a Bible today? Led by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Peter writes two letters – 1st & 2nd Peter. Why does he write? He tells us why! Find verse 1 in 2nd Peter 3. That word wholesome means “judged by sunlight[ii].” Did you know in Peter’s day that “some pottery salesmen would use wax to cover cracks and weak places in pottery? But the cover-up could be detected by holding the pot or jug up to the sun making the cracks visible. That vase was then considered “sun-judged[iii]” OR pure. Have you ever succumbed to “stinkin thinking?” Have your circumstances ever put cracks in your once positive attitude? The purpose of 1st Peter was to remind Christ followers that despite Nero’s persecution – stay faithful to God! Peter says, don’t forget who you are! Don’t forget whose you are. You belong to God! Find 1st Peter 2:4. Do you see the heading? Jesus is the Living Stone and we, the church, are God’s chosen people. Drop down to verse 9. But you (God’s elect) are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…
Peter paints a picture of what the Bible calls the church. In the Old Testament, the church is the community or congregation of Israel. We see that in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers. Peter tells us that the church is a holy nation. Peter is taking his listeners (Jewish Christians) and readers (Gentile folk from Ohio) back to Egypt when God entered into a covenant relationship with his people. “I will be your God. You be my people.” But not just any people, a holy people. Holy means “separate or set apart.” I know the Bangles encourage us to walk like the Egyptians but God says don’t! Don’t live like the Egyptians lived.
But there’s more. Read vs. 9-10. The church is rightly called the people of God. We are God’s people. We belong to him. A few months ago my wife Tricia bought me a package of Hanes black socks. Normal, ordinary socks. There were six pairs of socks. I pulled them out of the plastic wrap and placed them in my dresser. Something seemed odd though. One sock didn’t belong. 11 socks looked like this. One sock looked like this. Apparently the Hanes sock inspector missed one. It’s clear to me, this one didn’t belong. The world tells us all the time, “YOU don’t belong.” We don’t like your kind around here. You don’t belong in this office. You don’t fit on this team. This cafeteria table is reserved for only good lookin people, smart people – jocks! YOU DON’T BELONG HERE! GO SIT SOMEWHERE ELSE. The church, however, is different. If you trust God and love his son – you belong to God and you are part of the church! “I belong to God?” Sounds like a distant relationship. It’s not. Jesus told us to pray, “Our Father in heaven – not our owner or Creator in heaven…” God is our father; we are his adopted children and because we belong to God, we are his family. The church is a holy nation / the people of God. People who are not perfect, just called to serve a perfect God. We are to be holy. To have Holy ambitions! Holy priorities! A holy focus! We are now a people who think and do and as God commands. Peter helps us see what the church is. So does Paul. I don’t think the Apostle Paul would mind if we let this video clip speak on his behalf! (Be the church[iv] clip) Col. 1:18: And he is the head of the body, the church… We are the Body of Christ! I am compelled to spend all of 2012 digging into what it means to “be the church!” It’s one thing to “go to church.” It’s all together different to actually “be the church!” Dr. Jack Cottrell helped me see the church exists for two purposes[v]: we display God’s glory on earth. Apparently everyone has an opinion concerning Tim Tebow’s football skills. But this you cannot deny – he lives his life to bring glory to God. The church also exists to share God’s goodness with the world. How do we really do that? By being the church which is the body of Christ! Turn to the back of your newsletter!
The video we watched said we are the hands and feet of Jesus, BUT not just his hands and feet. We are also to have the mind of Christ! We are to love the Lord of God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength! READ THE WORD! READ THE BIBLE! It’s all Mark Stier’s fault. He came up with this 90 day thing! Not true! Here’s my challenge for you! Don’t let Sunday be the only day you are in the word of God. Bad idea! Head mounted drum. My intent is not to knock you over the head or shame you into reading the Bible. Next Friday is the day I will finish reading the Bible in 90 days. Actually, this time it took me about 101 days. This is my second consecutive time to read through the entire Bible in roughly 90 days. My wife Tricia has done it six times. When she told me she was going to do it. I thought she was crazy, which is exactly what you’re thinking about me! Preacher dude, you are out of your mind. I have way too much to do! I’m a minister and I used to think that! So I created a new habit in my life. I get up early. I don’t get up to meet with people or to check emails. I get up early to meet with God. This habit has changed my life and my mind! Maybe you can’t get up early, but you’re going to have to create a new habit. We all make time for what we want to do! Next week I start a new series. We will answer the question WHY! Why should I read the Bible! Do you want to make the world a better place? It starts with having the mind of Christ!
But we are also to be the hands of Jesus. Jesus said he did not come into this world to be served but to serve. The Bible commands us to serve our neighbor! To use our hands to build, to pull up, to bake, to hug…
Pastor Jud Wilhite shares the story of a church member named Cody Huff. Before Cody became a member at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas, he was sleeping in an open field next to the church. But at one time Cody was making loads of money as a famous bass pro fisherman who had even been featured on ESPN. Yet he couldn't overcome his problem with drugs. He began a crack addiction that led him to smoke up $600,000 – everything. He had bottomed out and was now homeless.
Some people from the church's homeless ministry were handing out sandwiches in the park where Cody slept, and they told him he could get a shower at Central Christian Church. He hadn't bathed in so long that even other homeless men couldn't stand his smell anymore. Cody explained what happened next:
I walked into the church, and this lady named Michelle, who knew me from the homeless ministry, said, "Good morning, Cody. How are you?" Then she looked at me, and she said, "Cody, you need a hug." And I said, "Honey, you don't want to touch me because I haven't had a shower in 3 months." If Michelle heard me, she didn't seem to care. She walked up, and she looked in my eyes, and she gave me a big hug and told me that Jesus loved me. In that split second, I was somebody. She even remembered my name. That was the point where I knew that God was alive in this world.
Over the next several weeks, Cody's life began to be restored. He gave his life to Christ. He started leading a Bible study in the park for other homeless people. "That was over 3 years ago," Jud says. "Now he's married, and he and his wife serve faithfully in our homeless ministry every weekend.[vi]
With our hands we can also pray! Lifeline Christian Mission is asking the church to pray for the people of Haiti. The earthquake struck on January 12, 2010. The results were catastrophic. This Thursday, January 12, Lifeline is asking each of us to spend 12 minutes for the people of Haiti. They’ve provided the requests. Those requests are on this sheet right here on this stage. In a moment come get one!
To be the church means we become the feet of Jesus. Feet go. Christ commands us to make disciples. You can’t make a disciple without first going. Going can be across the room, across the street, across the hallway, or across the ocean. And that thought leads us to this… To be the church means we have the heart of Jesus! Jesus wants us to live generously. To give of our resources because Jesus said it’s more blessed to give than to receive! Giving makes the world a better place. There is a gold flyer on your chair. This is from WARM. WARM has come to thank us today. (Note flyer) This church has given tons of food, and time and money! Thank you for living generously. There are people in this service and soon to be in the lobby who want to shake your hand. Speaking of generosity, I have some really exciting news to share! I told you a few weeks ago, I’m heading back to Zimbabwe. Bob & Gretchen DeVoe were in the service that day and heard that as well. Bob & Gretchen founded Lifeline Christian Mission. Bob emailed me and said, Lifeline would like to donate a container of food. A container of food. That’s like 285,000 meals. That’s $71,000. That will feed the entire village everyday for 2 to 4 years! Lifeline is being generous. They are asking us to be generous. We have to ship this container. The cost is $15,000. That’s nothing to the people of God. That’s nothing to the body of Christ! That’s nothing to people who have a heart like Jesus! Do you remember those word associations? I have a few more. (Lemon – Lime) // (Black - White) // (Salt - Pepper) // (Mr. – Mrs.) // (Husband – Wife) and once again CHURCH! Could it be as simple as Jesus or you and me? We are the body of Christ. Let’s be the church!
Today is Decision Weekend. Have you been baptized? Do you belong to a local church? Because you can’t survive without the church! I’m asking to you become part of this body – because we get what it means to Love God and Love people.
[ii] E-sword, 2 Peter 3:1, wholesome
[iii] Logos Bible Software, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 2 Peter 3:1
[v] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, 410