Our House Week 1: Engage
When building a house, you start off with a strong foundation. This foundation, this framework, ultimately defines the way the house grows. What about this house? What defines us? Who are we in the body of Christ and to the community? Let’s start off this new year building a framework because this is what God has called us to. This is who we are. This is our house.
Well, good morning to everybody, and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We’re starting a brand new series this weekend called “Our House.” It was several years ago, I just sort of felt that at the beginning of every year, especially at that time that it happened, I needed to start off the year, once again, talking about who we are and what we’re doing; what the DNA of the church is. I’ve just felt that way, as a pastor, every year. “Hey, we just need to sort of talk about this.”
I think it’s a great thing because, number one, for us who call Grace our home church, it’s just good to, once again, sort of focus in on what we do and to make sure that we understand where we’re going so that we can accomplish all the things that God has for us in 2019. It’s also great for those of you all who have joined us maybe in the middle of last year or towards the last part of last year. Maybe you were at Christmas on Main and you decided to try out church, or maybe you weren’t, but you just decided to try out church for the new year. It’s a great time to learn about what we’re about so that you can make a well-informed decision as to whether or not this should be your home church.
I don’t know. There’s something about starting off the new year, isn’t there? It’s like the only time in the calendar year where it’s like, all of a sudden, everything changes. Possibilities. Even if you had a bad 2018 or you had a glorious 2018, there’s just something about starting off a new year where you start going, “Man, I’m going to make some changes.”
Many of us decide we’re going to change our diet. That usually lasts a day when we taste kale. Can I just take a moment? I’m not a nutritionist. My wife would tell you that you shouldn’t listen to anything I say about diets. But can I just speak to you for a minute? If you’re used to eating a big lunch and you decide at the beginning of the year that you’re going to eat a salad during lunch, you’re going to eat five pizzas for dinner. I’m just telling you that up front. It’s not going to work. But, that being said, we’ve got all these things that we try to do. Exercise. We’re going to try this out. New relationships and all this stuff. It’s really cool. So, I just think it’s really appropriate to talk about what we’re doing here as a church and all that. It just sort of seems like everybody’s on that bandwagon.
Well, this year, though, I’m going to do something a little bit differently because what happened was is a couple months ago, we started getting together as a staff, off-site, and having some times together and being challenged by some other people that came in. We had staff meetings, together as a staff. And there was a word that just kept coming up to all of us. That word was “engaged.” What was interesting is that if you could climb into my heart and understanding, you might ask, “What is Pastor Chip really about? Is his number one thing for the numbers of the church?”
“Is his number one thing how many baptisms?”
It’s not. Don’t get me wrong. I want to have baptisms and I want to have growth.
“Is his number one thing more small groups?”
Yeah. I want more small groups. But the number one thing for me, and I’ve said it for many years to the staff, is what I want to know is, in your ministry, whatever your ministry is, how many people that you have that you’re over that are actively engaged in doing something for the Kingdom of God. I’m a real passionate believer that the more we’re engaged in stuff, the more God works. Not that we have to do those things to get God’s love or His blessing, but it’s just the outworking of our faith.
So, this word “engaged” kept circling around. We started thinking about it. I was like, “Man, that’s true. For 2019, we really want to see people move from just being attenders to being really engaged in doing things for the Kingdom of God and engaged in the local church.”
I can explain an analogy when I talk about being engaged. If you’ve ever purchased a house — and if you haven’t, you’ll still know that this is true. But if you have purchased a house, you know how it sort of works. You start going, “Okay. We’re going to move in here.” You start going down, driving around and looking at houses. Maybe you go on Zillow. Maybe you go on the MLS. Maybe you have a realtor friend or whatever. You find some houses that you’re potentially interested in. So, as you decide the house you’re going to look at, you’re on the exterior of the house. You start looking. If it’s got a hole in the roof, cracks and weeds everywhere, you’re like, “Down to the next one. Move on.”
But if it’s something where you go, “Hey, this is not bad,” well, you have to go inside. So, you walk through the doors and what you do is you start exploring. You’re looking around the house. If you’ve walked into this house and you’re expecting a 2019 kitchen and it’s a 1920 kitchen, then you’re back on the exterior and down the street again. But if you get in the house, you’re exploring and you’re going, “Hey, this is pretty cool,” something happens in that moment when you’re exploring around and thinking about if this could be the house, you start going, “Whoa. We could put our bed here. The kids could go here. Hey, that furniture that we have could go here.”
All of a sudden, you start getting a little enthused. It’s like, “This could really be the place. This could be our house. This could really be something awesome for us.”
And then, all of a sudden, there’s that moment where you have to ask the question, “Am I going to get engaged? If I get engaged here, I’ve got to make an offer. I’ve got to spend some money. I’ve got to move. I’ve got to get a moving truck.”
Can I just say, for 2019, that Christians don’t ask Christian friends to help move. Can I get an amen on that one? Okay. Just making sure. Yeah. I’m trying to help you out here a little bit, friends.
But I’ve got to do that, I’ve got to put stuff together and I might have to buy new furniture. I mean, it’s a real big deal when you decide this is going to be our house. You’ve got to take care of it when the roof leaks. You don’t just sit around. Now, I can give you an example of what non-engagement looks like in a house: My kids. We can have something on the floor here, something on the floor here and it’s amazing how they’ll just walk right around all that stuff. They don’t care about any of that stuff. We do because we’re engaged, but when the Wi-Fi goes down, all six of those kids come out of the room. “Hey, anybody paying the bills around here?”
They’re engaged in that Wi-Fi. A bunch of scoundrels. All of them going to hell. But you know what engaged looks like because you’re engaged. Well, let me back this up because this is a lot like church. You know? You’re on the exterior. You’re not going to church at all. Maybe a friend comes to you and says, “Hey, come to church.” Maybe you see something on Facebook. Maybe you’re out in the community and you see something a church does and you decide to go. Well, when you show up to the church and walk in, the first thing you’re doing is you’re exploring. You’ve got your antennas up.
“Are people nice? Is the coffee good? I hope this sermon doesn’t go that long.” All that good stuff. “The pastor, he needs to learn to wear skinny jeans.”
Ain’t going to happen. Or whatever you think. You’re exploring around. Then what happens is you may come in and you may go, “Not for me,” and you’re back on the exterior again. Or you may start exploring, looking around and maybe your kids had a good time at the kids church. Maybe a song spoke to you. Maybe something happened where you went, “Hey, you know, this is pretty cool.”
Next thing you know, you find yourself enthused. You’re like, “Hey, this is sort of cool. I’m going to start attending. I’m going to be there on a regular basis. Maybe we’ll give a little bit. I might show up to a small group and do whatever. This is pretty good. This is my place.”
But there is a big difference between being enthused and being engaged. Because when you’re engaged in the local church, you are engaged. When something’s going on, you are there and it’s important to you. You may be saying, “Chip, why are you so big on being engaged in the local church?”
I’m going to tell you why. Here’s the beauty of Grace. You don’t have to agree with everything I say. I’m just going to share with you the things I feel and the things that I think. You’re going to have to make a decision. I know some of you are here today and you’re like, “I don’t even know what I think about Jesus. I’m just here. I’m on the exploring thing.”
Listen, sit back. You can belong here before you believe. Just hang out with us for a while. But I want to share with you what I believe as your pastor. And I believe this passionately. I’m going to read you a statement, and then I need to explain it because there’s a lot of stuff here. I believe that the most abundant life that can be experienced on earth is found in a relationship with God that is engaged in the local church and shares Jesus outside the local church. I believe that with all of my heart. I believe everybody, every single person, is looking for purpose. I believe every single person is looking for meaning. Very rarely do I meet somebody that’s not that way. Usually, when I meet somebody who doesn’t care about those things, there’s usually something that needs to be dealt with in their life. But people want to have meaning and significance.
So, here’s the deal: The most abundant life — and everybody wants it. There’s no question in my mind people want abundant life. The most abundant life that you can have, in my opinion — and I feel strongly about this — starts with a relationship with God. I’m not talking about that you’ve got a church membership at a church in Oklahoma or California, or you think you know a couple things about Jesus or you went to Sunday school. I’m talking about a relationship with God where you really have connected with God, you know Him, He knows you and you have a relationship. It’s intimate. It’s personal. It starts there. If that’s not you and you’re not really there to make that decision right now or you’re not quite sure, that’s fine. But it starts there, as far as I’m concerned. I believe that every person who does not know God as Lord and Savior is going to continue to look for the next thing, the next thing, the next thing.
“If I could just have that, I’ll be good.”
They get that.
“If I could just have this, I’ll be good.”
It’s like there’s something always missing in our heart. I believe what’s missing is a relationship with God. It starts there. But then, after the relationship with God, there’s this engaging in the local church. I’m going to explain more of this as we go through this sermon today. But to be engaged in the local church where you know — if I asked you, “What is your ministry? What is your place in the local church?”
You’d say, “This is what I do.”
If you don’t know what that answer is, you’re probably not engaged. You might attend. You might love. You might be enthused. But you might not be fully engaged. And, on top of that, someone who shares Jesus outside of the local church. That’s three things. I have found so many people in life who have a really good relationship with God, but they’re not engaged in the local church, they don’t really share Jesus too much on the outside and they’re constantly going, “Man, something doesn’t feel right. I want some purpose. I want some meaning.”
Okay. I’m telling you, with all of my heart, that I believe unless these three things are actively involved in your life, you’re going to have a hard time having that abundant life. So, what I want to do is this: I want to talk, this weekend, about the local church. I want to talk about God’s Church because I am convinced that we have no idea what this is. I think most of us, if you said, “What’s the church?” we’d go, “Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the door and look at all the people.”
That’s our theology of church. We’re like, “Okay. I think we go there. It’s at 10:15. The pastor preaches.”
If I were to ask you, “Tell me about the church,” I don’t know that we would be able to really answer. On top of that, we have this whole movement, it seems like, especially in American culture: “I don’t need church. I do my church out on my boat in the gulf. I do my church in the woods.”
Here’s what I want you to do. I want you to do this. If you don’t have this to go home and do, you’re going to still understand what I’m saying. I want you to go home to your wife or your husband this weekend and I want you to say to them, “We’re going to have a family outing on Friday.”
Your wife’s going to go, “Wow. That’s great.”
“But honey, I’m not actually going to go with you all. I’m going to go off to the woods and I’m going to look on my phone at pictures of you all. I’m going to think about you all for the family outing.”
She’s going to go, “That’s not a family outing.”
Neither is going out in the woods and having church. Okay? That’s not what church is. There is a difference. And I’m convinced that because we don’t understand what this is very well, we don’t know what we’re doing very well, so we need to talk about that. I also am keenly aware that a lot of people have been hurt by what we do here. Some of you all still have that. You’re like, “Yeah. I mean, I had some hurt.”
Let me go ahead and just share it here as honest as I can. You’re going to get hurt at times in church. Church is imperfect. People are imperfect. You can tell the imperfect nature of a church — and it’s funny — if you read church bulletin bloopers. You can just know that people have problems. Okay?
Here are some really good church bulletin bloopers:
“The fasting and prayer conference includes meals.”
“The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walk on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’”
This one is unbelievable:
“A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.”
Who’s reading these things? You know?
“This evening at 7:00 p.m. there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.”
They forgot the “g.” Sing. The “g” was absent; gone. So, there you go. Alright. Join that church. Blanket and sin. There we go. This is a beauty here:
“Low self-esteem support group will meet Thursday at 7:00 p.m. Please use the back door.”
This one here is a beauty:
“At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘what is hell?’ Come early and listen to our choir practice.”
Man, these are beauties. How about this one?
“Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.”
So, listen, I understand that the church has done people wrong. We make mistakes and all of that stuff. But I want to try my best to just communicate to you what the Church actually is; what Scripture says about what we do here. Because here’s what I find. As a professor, I teach systematic theology. I teach what’s called Ecclesiology, which is the study of the Church. Always, when I get done with that part of a systematic theology class, people are like, “Whoa, man. I had no idea that Scripture said any of these things about the Church.”
I think that some of the reason that we don’t understand this and the importance of this is because we just don’t understand exactly what this is.
So, what I want to do is I want to spend a little time talking to you about the Church and what Scripture has to say about the Church. I’m hoping that it inspires you to go, “Wow. This is a lot more powerful and meaningful than what I thought,” so then, in the following weeks, as I talk about what we do here, you’ll be like, “Hey, this is a place I can really get engaged in and really get involved in.”
So, let’s talk about the local church. Jesus is the head of the Church, so if we follow Him, we do Church. This is a self-explanatory deal. You know? If I were to come to you and say, “Hey. Listen, man. I love God. I’m passionate about God. Man, I just read the Bible all the time. I pray all the time. I just love God. But I’m not going to get baptized.”
You all would be like, “Whoa. Come on, now. We understand that baptism doesn’t make you a Christian, but man, if you’re a Christian, that’s what Christians do. They get baptized.”
You would start wondering, “What’s up?” Or if somebody said, “Man, I love God. I love Jesus. I’m in. I’m one of His. But I’m not going to do communion.”
You’d be like, “Whoa. Why would you not do communion? That doesn’t make you a Christian, but that’s what Christians do. That’s sort of what we do.”
Well, same principle here. Jesus is the head of the Church. In Colossians 1 and Ephesians 1, He is the head of the Church and we are His body. If we’re part of His body and we follow Jesus, we can’t help but do Church. We may not know what Church is, but we can’t help from doing Church. It’s just what we do. It doesn’t make us a Christian. Coming to Church doesn’t make you a Christian. But you go to Church. You see the need. If you understand what Church is all about, you’ll see the need. Some people, I don’t think, realize what Scripture has to say about the things that we should be doing when we are here. The Scripture talks about that. It says that we should sing.
You wonder, “Why do we sing in church? I don’t like to sing.”
I understand that, but as Christians, we were given a mouth and a voice and we’re to sing. Paul doesn’t say to the Ephesians church, “I want you to sing to one another in songs and hymns and spiritual songs, except for those of you all that can’t carry a tune.”
He doesn’t say that. He says, “Sing.” It’s part of it. People are blessed. I’m blessed by the person who can’t sing who’s singing as loud as they can because they love God. It does something for me to see them worshiping God.
Pray. When we meet together, we’re supposed to pray. The Bible even talks about lifting up holy hands. You may go, “Whoa. Is that why people raise their hands?”
Yeah. People have been raising their hands. Jesus raised His hands when He would pray. People raise their hands. Some people come in church and people raise their hands and they’re like, “Man, the people down there are weird. Look at them raising their hands. They’ve got a shirt that’s too short because I can see their belly button.”
You’re not supposed to be looking at belly buttons in church. You’re supposed to be singing and praying. Okay? But it says that these are some things.
Communion. There are people going, “I do communion by myself.” You can’t do communion by yourself. Communion is done in the Church. We’ve got this whole warped idea. People have got some really janky church theology running around. Okay? You’re supposed to be led. People go, “Oh, man. Wherever there’s eight people in a room, you have a church.”
Not according to the Bible. You have a church when you have a competent leader that can teach you the things of Scripture and can also explain things to those who are outside of the Church and who has a life that is at least somewhat in the middle of the road. Now, you may decide today, “I don’t like you, you’re not a good leader and you don’t know nothing about the Bible.” That’s fine, but you need to go find a place where you can at least go, “Hey. We’ve got somebody who’s helping teach us.”
It’s not just throw everybody in a room and you call that a church. We outdo one another in showing honor. That would be awesome. Can you imagine if we just decided that right here is what we’re going to do for 2019? Every time we walk in here, we’re going to outdo everybody that we see in showing them honor. Wouldn’t that be awesome? That would be awesome.
How about this one? Equipped. When we come here, right here, we come here for a reason. We don’t come here to get what we want. We don’t come here to be consumers. We come here to be equipped. Paul says it this way in Ephesians 4: “There are apostles, there are prophets, there are evangelists, and there are pastors and teachers.” The word is “kai” in the Greek, which is “and” or “but.” It depends. But pastor and teacher are lumped together. I think there’s four offices there. A lot of people think there are five, but I think there’s four because pastor and teacher is lumped together with the “kai.” However that works is good for you, but I believe that God puts those people in the Church for a reason. Why?
Paul says, “To equip the saints.” That’s everybody in this room. As a child of God, you may go, “I don’t feel like a saint. I didn’t look like a saint over New Year’s Day or whatever else.”
Let me tell you something: If you are a Christian that has believed in Jesus, He died for your sins, He rose again on the third day, you couldn’t get more holy, you couldn’t get more righteous, you are a saint, your sins have been cast as far as the east is to the west. You are a new creation in Christ Jesus. Stop living in the past. Start living for Jesus in the future.
And you’re saints. People like me that have a role in the Church are to equip saints. Why? So you can do ministry. You go, “Ministry? I thought ministry was what you do.”
No. What I do is a role to equip. I’m an equipped. When I stop equipping, then I become just like everybody else. I’m a saint, just like everybody else, that has a ministry to go do. Every single one of you has something that you’re called to do in the local church. And let me tell you something, when you’re not doing it, you and us suffer by you not doing the things that God’s called you to do.
Spiritual gifts. Those don’t happen in isolation. You’ve got to have people. You’ve got to have Church together. Serve one another. When we do Church, it’s because we follow Jesus and He’s the head of the Church and we’re His body. We can’t help but do Church. In doing Church, some of these things there are many more things the Scripture has to say about it, but that’s important. But listen, these are huge things about the Church. Listen to this.
The Church is not “a,” it is “the” ordained entity through which God promised keys to the Kingdom.
Like, “Whoa, really?”
What do keys open? They open whatever they are for. A key to my car opens my car. Keys to the Kingdom open the Kingdom. Listen to how this goes down. They’re in Caesarea Philippi. If you’ve been to Israel with me, you’ve been there. If you want to go sometime, we’re going to go in 2020 again. It’s an awesome place to see. You can stand right there and know, man, this is exactly where this all went down. Jesus asked the most important question. He says, “Who do you say that I am?”
That’s really the most important question we can ever answer in our life. He says, “Who do you say that I am?”
Peter’s response is, “You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
That’s the answer. You’re the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Peter says, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
In other words, Jesus is like, “You didn’t come to that conclusion all by yourself. God’s got to be working in your heart because God is the initiator of salvation. He’s working in your heart. He’s revealed that to you and you have responded to that revelation. He said, “Blessed are you. Flesh and blood didn’t show you that. My Father who is in heaven.” And He says, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
We’ve got to stop here for a second because we read English. If you understood Greek, “Peter” and “rock” basically sound like the same thing in Greek, so it’s a play on words. He says, “You’re Peter and on, not you...” — we’re not building anything on him. He says “on this rock.” This rock is Peter’s confession that he’s just made that Christ is the Son of the Living God. He says, “On that confession, on that statement, on that revelation, I’m going to build my Church. My Church that I’m going to build is going to be built on people that understand the revelation that the Heavenly Father has given to them that I am the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
We don’t really understand what that means, by not understanding first century and before that. If you go to Israel, if you’ve been there, they’ll take you to towns where the gates are at. At the gates, you see this place where the king or the ruler or the city would sit. It was right at the gates. All the major, official decisions were made at the gates. That was where the wisdom of the town met, at the gates.
So, what Jesus is saying is that all the wisdom, all the smarts and all the intelligence of Hell are not going to be able to prevail against those who understand that He is Christ, the Son of the Living God. And then He says this. He’s building His Church. Here’s what He says: “I’m going to give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. You’re going to have the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. When you offer those keys to people and they reject them, they’re still bound in their sin. You’re bound in your sin. Whatever you lose, when they say, ‘I’m in,’ you say, ‘You’re loose from your sin.’ The Church has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
It’s powerful when you think about that, that the Church — God invested this, and all the other places that meet around the world, with the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Third: The Church, although universal, has local representation. We often think of the Church like, “Well, that’s everybody who believes in Jesus.”
That’s true, but Paul says something in 1 Corinthians 1:2 that is huge theologically.
He says, “To the church of God that is in Corinth,”
Now, he doesn’t say that the whole Church of God is in Corinth. What he says is that God’s Church is represented in that local entity in Corinth, which means God’s Church that Jesus is the head of has local representation. There are people all around here, churches all around here, that are the local representation of Jesus. If you’re going to be involved in a local church, you want to make sure that your church is at least somewhat looking like Jesus because that’s what it’s supposed to be. And because we don’t really have a good, robust theology of the Church, we think the Church is for us, things that we like, things that we get out of it or how much activities. It’s like a cruise ship. We wake up with our cruise planner, cruise compass, going, “Alright. I like this. I like this. I like this. Do you know what? I need to go talk to the activities director and get this thing right because we need more bingo and we need more stuff.”
“Hey, Pastor Chip. This just isn’t cutting it, man. We need more stuff.”
That’s not what church is about. Church is about coming together and being equipped so that we can be the physical representation of God’s Church with Jesus as the head in the local community that we live in. It’s a pretty big deal when you understand what’s going on here.
Fourth: The local church is the place where people are set forth into ministry. We don’t even think about this. People today, they go to Taco Bell, put a little hot sauce on their burrito and go, “Hey, I think God called me to ministry.” It’s like, “No. That was a bad burrito. That wasn’t God at all.”
Here’s the way it works: People who do ministry — this is important. People who really go out, people that are called of God to do something great, the local church is the place where they’re set forth. Look at how this works in Acts.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart...’” — that’s the Church’s part — “‘...for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’”
God called them and the Church set them forth.
It says, “So after they had fasted and prayed, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
You see the same thing in Acts 15.
“So being sent on their way by the church...”
The local church. I mean, people go, “I feel called. I’m going to go do whatever.”
No. If a local church does not set you forth, your ministry, really, is in vain. This is a really important thing that we do here. This is not just some game. This is not just some entertainment. This is really, really, really important. See, God does the calling, but it’s the Church that sets forth. I’ll give you a great example of how that works. A wonderful couple, Becky and Juno. She’s a pediatrician. She could’ve made a tremendous living here in Sarasota. Juno was a great drummer. They came and said, “We just really feel like God has called us to the Philippines.”
Well, do you know what we did as a church? We set them forth. We’ve supported them and we’ve loved on them. That’s the way it should work. We should be setting people forth in ministry. You don’t just do your thing. See, that’s the problem with the radical, individualistic world that we live in and in the country that we live in. We’re so individualistic that we don’t understand that God works through us. The Lord’s Prayer is not “my” Father. It’s “our” Father. Communion is us together. It’s all about this corporate stuff. It goes back to God. He is a trinitarian God. He lives in communion within Himself, which means if we’re going to look like the God that we serve, we’re going to be a communal people. We’re going to do things together. When one suffers, we suffer with them. When one rejoices, we rejoice with them. There’s a power in what goes on here if we understand.
Fifth: The local church corporately, that’s us, and people individually, that’s you and me, are the portable presence of God. This is really an important subject. This is so important. In the Old Testament, there was the tabernacle and the tent of meeting. It would travel from place to place and then God’s presence would come down and He’d go somewhere else. Then God’s presence would come down. God’s presence meets with us here. When we move to the new building, hopefully sooner rather than later, God’s presence will go with us to there because God’s presence is here. But God’s presence is also in you and me.
That’s why, like in 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Corinthians 6, Paul says, “Do you not know that you are the temple of the Holy Spirit?”
Well, in 1 Corinthians 3, the “you” is plural. “Do you not know you, the church in Corinth, are the temple of God?” In 1 Corinthians 6, he says, “Do you not know you, singular, are the temple of God?”
See? You see this imagery in in the Bible of this temple thing.
He says, “You’re no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ being the cornerstone. In him the whole structure being joined together grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”
We’ve got this whacked out eschatology thing, people looking for another temple to be built. The temple that God is building is His Church. That’s what He’s building. His Church. We just don’t understand a lot of things and we make all kinds of errors biblically, theologically and practically because we’re thinking things that really just aren’t there.
The temple of God is the Church. Peter says it the same way. Peter says, “You yourselves...” — the individual part — “...are a living stone being built up as a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
Why is God going to build another temple and have animal sacrifices going again when He has the Church that can be the holy priesthood that offers spiritual sacrifices to God through Christ Jesus?
I’m going to amen myself. Chip, that’s good preaching. Amen.
Number six: Our heavenly relationship with God is realized and demonstrated in the local church. This is huge too. We don’t think about this. Part of it is because we’ve got, I think, 40,000 denominations just in the United States. So, there are churches everywhere. When there was one church and one city, this was a lot easier to accomplish. When you’ve got churches everywhere, it does make it a little bit more difficult to accomplish. But it’s still true, nonetheless. Whether we can always see it in practice doesn’t make it theologically untrue.
My vertical relationship, your vertical relationship with God, is shown in the local church. Let me show you how this works. Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.”
Let me stop here for just a second. This is not part of the sermon, but it’s something that needs to be said. If a brother or sister sins against you, that does not mean that you go tell 19 people and put it on Facebook. This is what it says to do. See, I’m convinced of one thing: We don’t need another Bible study. We don’t need another teaching. We just need to do the things that we already know. We’re spiritually overweight. Just do the things that we know. We’ll be good.
“So, this is what you do. You go to him. If he listens to you, you’ve gained your brother.”
You go one on one. What happens is when we don’t do this, we mar people’s characters and we hurt people. There’s a way to do this. But see, listen, I’m telling you your relationship here is going to be shown here.
He says, “If he listens, that’s great. No big deal. But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two others along with you that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” That’s a quote from Deuteronomy 18. It’s talking about using a couple people to make sure that what’s been done has been done. You can go to them. It doesn’t say eight or nine. It doesn’t say Facebook. It says two or three. Okay? And hopefully, if they listen, then it’s all good.
“But if they don’t listen, then tell it to the church.”
If we tried to do that today, people would get all upset.
“I’m bringing you up here in front of the church because you’re not forgiving. You’re not owning what you did to your brother, so we’re going to deal with it, right now, in front of the church.”
They’d be gone to the next church down the street and everybody would be happy that they showed up.
“Our church is growing now.”
“Tell it to the church. But if he refuses to listen to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and tax collector.”
It doesn’t say that he is, but he says you treat him as one. In other words, he’s on the outside of the church because your vertical relationship with God is shown. That’s why, like in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says, “There’s a young man sleeping with his step mom. Kick him out of the church.”
We’d be like, “Whoa. Kick him out of the church?”
Go read 1 Corinthians 5. That’s what he says. I mean, it’s more complicated today because you can’t really kick somebody out because they’ll just go to another place. But he says, “Kick him out so that he can get beat up by the devil.”
That’s what he says. He says, “Hopefully, he’ll come to his senses, realize what he’s doing and come back in because his vertical relationship with God is shown here in the horizontal nature.”
To show you how messed up the church is, Paul says, “This is what you do: Kick him out.”
Well, he repents and guess what they say? “Yeah. You can’t come back in.”
Paul has to write 2 Corinthians and say, “Whoa, guys. He repented. Let him back in.”
They finally let him back in. You know? I mean, church isn’t perfect. Okay?
What are we doing again? Whatever you bind on earth, that’s sin. And that unforgiveness. Whatever you bind. [Unsure] bind the devil. These Scriptures have nothing to do with that, at all, in any way, shape or form. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. It’s a matter of sin and unforgiveness. That’s what it is. It’s all sin and unforgiveness. Your vertical relationship with God is going to show here. That’s so important because we need to really think. This is a powerful, powerful thing.
So, here’s what I want you to do. I want you to take a couple of diagnostic questions home for this coming week. Just to think about, to talk about, to pray about and all of those things. And here’s what they are.
The first one: “Well, I asked the Lord to help me get past whatever baggage I have about His Church.”
Listen, a lot of people come to Grace and they say, “Well, I had a bad church experience somewhere. I’m here. I’m just trying to get my bearings.”
That’s great. I appreciate that. But can I just speak into your life? I’m not trying to be snarky. Listen to me: You may be settling for a lot less than God has for your life because you’re holding onto some past hurts. Call them up and say, “I forgive you in Jesus’ name,” and move on.
You know, Corrie ten Boom tells a great story about how, when she was in the concentration camps, there was a guard that was terrible. Her sister, Betsy, died. She preached at Munich, Germany many, many years after that. She preached a message on the Gospel. People were coming up and shaking her hand.
She looks up and there’s the guard. He walks up and he says, “Is it true what you said, that I could be forgiven, because I was in one of those camps? Could God really forgive me?”
She wanted to kill him. She knew it was wrong. She put her arm out and she said, “Yes,” and shook his hand. She said, “The person that needed to be delivered wasn’t him. It was me. I need to be delivered.”
Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go. The Church is going to hurt you. And can I tell you something? God’s ordained the Church to where people are going to get hurt because it gives you the opportunity to learn forgiveness, it gives you the opportunity to learn submission, it gives you the opportunity to learn kindness, it gives you the opportunity to learn patience. So, if you get upset and you just leave, you have totally kept God from doing all the things that God can do in your life. Go home and pray about that.
Secondly, “Will I ask the Lord to help me discover a new love and appreciation of His Church?”
To really love the local church. I had a person text me on Friday who said, “I have a pastor friend in town. I know you’re a professor. Is there a library that he could go to? He needs to get some books to think about his sermon for the following week.”
I’m like, “Dude, come here. I come in on Saturday morning. He can use my office, use every one of my books and whatever I could do.”
Why? Because I love the local church. I know, being the pastor of a smaller church and trying to dig this thing out, it’s like, man, I want to do everything I can to help this person because I know. I’ve been there. I know that deal. I’m like, “Here’s my name. Here’s my number. Whatever I can do to help. Show me what I can do. If you need to take those books with you, take those books with you.”
Why? Because God loves His Church. Do you know who He died for? Read Ephesians 5. It says, “Jesus died for the Church.”
Let that just take a moment. He loves His Church and so should we. Pray for a new love and appreciation for His Church.
Thirdly, “Will I ask the Lord to help me get engaged this year in a local church?”
You may say, “Chip, why didn’t you say Grace?”
Because here’s the deal: As a person, yeah, I want everybody to come to Grace. I want you to be involved here because I think what we do here is great. But let me just be upfront and tell you the way it is: This is not my church and you are not my people. This is God’s Church and this is God’s people. This may not be the place for you. This may not be your house. I just want you to get involved in a house that you can thrive in, that you can really see God do everything. I hope it’s here, but if it’s not, will you go home and pray, “God, get me involved somewhere in a local church?”
Because I’m sure there are far better men in this town that love God more and probably teach the Bible better than I do and all that stuff. You’ll be happy there too. I just want you involved in God’s Church because it’s important that we are.
Lastly, “Will I dare to believe that God really does want to use me?”
This is the number one thing you hear all the time. “Oh, Chip. I don’t know. Can God use me?”
Hold on. I’m trying to make a New Year’s resolution. Keep those things up. People are always like, “All you do is go so fast through everything.” I’m trying. I do. I listen. I do listen. I’m trying. I am teachable. I really am. I mean, I want you to know that this has been a spiritual struggle up here because you all know I love Kentucky basketball. Dave Berry wears an Alabama hat on the front row because Alabama beat Kentucky yesterday in basketball. I am really showing my spirituality and my Christianity here by just loving everybody and all of that stuff. But I rebuke that hat in Jesus’ name. Just kidding. I’m just kidding, man. Just kidding. Roll tide.
Anyway, what I’m saying is people say, “I couldn’t be involved. I couldn’t.” Let me tell you something. Jesus has forgiven you. He can use you. You have something that we need. I promise you. That your neighbor needs. Everybody in here’s got a place. Nehemiah talks about the wall. Everybody had a place on the wall. Everybody had something to do on the wall. You have a place on the wall. You’ve just got to find out what it is. Help us. Let us help You.
Will you pray that? Will you believe that with me? Let’s bow our heads and let’s pray for the church and Dave.
Dear Heavenly Father, we love You so much and we’re so grateful for Your love and mercy towards us. We just want to take a moment here and say, God, we realize our relationship with You and our engagement in the church and our ability to share Jesus are really big components in our life. Lord, we want to get all those things right.
So, if today you find yourself and you’ve been living life for yourself and you’re like, “Do you know what? I feel like a relationship with God is something that I need,” then just right there at your seat say, “God, I’ve been doing life my way. I am just wrong. Forgive me. I believe You are Jesus. I believe You’re Christ, the Son of the Living God. I believe You rose again on the third day. Come in and change my life.”
If you prayed that prayer today, please find somebody on staff or somebody with a lanyard so we can help you out, move you in and tell you what the next steps are.
For many of us, it’s that moving from attending to engagement; to really getting engaged and finding our place in the local church. I just pray that you would be open to that this week. Be open to that over the next several weeks as we talk about what we do here at Grace.
And Lord, as the year goes on, we’ll continue to help people learn to share their faith and learn to share Jesus so that we can all have an abundant life for 2019.
So, Lord, I thank You for what You’re doing here. I thank You for Your Word. I thank You for Your goodness and Your mercy. And I thank You, Lord, that You watch over us and protect us. I pray, Lord, that You would just continue to lead, guide and direct all of us as we leave. I pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would help us to stay focused to what You’ve called us to be here at Grace, which is a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love you, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.” Give the Lord a big hand clap, tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. See you soon.