Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Myths and Mysteries - Isolation

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This is the third message in a series of sermons that address common misconceptions people may believe that are not consistent with what the Bible teaches. This sermon speaks about the "myth" that Christian believers do not need to be involved in a church fellowship in order to survive and thrive in their life of faith.

Written Excerpts:

1 Cor. 12:27 (NKJV) Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

If you have been here for the past few weeks, you know that I have been speaking on some of the misconceptions people have acquired about the Christian faith. We have already addressed a couple of the “myths” that people seem to accept as being true about the Christian life, but they have no basis in biblical truth.
The first one was the myth: God’s primary purpose and goal for my life is for me to be happy. Therefore, whatever makes me happy is His will for me. The second myth we addressed was: If I live a good life and serve God, then He will bless me with material and financial prosperity.

Today I want to consider a third “myth” that many people have accepted about the Christian life of faith. We call it a myth because it is not supported by the Bible.
The myth is this: Christian faith is strictly / primarily an individual matter between Christ and the believer. This myth promotes the practice of not being involved in church or making any attempt to be connected to other Christians on a consistent/regular basis.

I’ve been amazed at the number of people over the years of my ministry who have told me that they love the Lord, are Christian believers, and ready to meet the Lord, but they never attend church on a regular basis nor have any active part in a church. The Bible does not teach or promote this type of isolated Christianity.
As the Holy Spirit provides help, I want to explore this false idea of Christian faith by describing the biblical definition of the church and the role of the church in the life of a believer.

I.     Definition of Church
Shortly after I arrived here at wayside, I preached a short series of messages on the church as portrayed in Scripture. In fact, it was 9 years ago this month. Many of you were not attending here at that time, and I don’t really expect the rest of you to remember what I said, so let me review some of the information regarding the biblical definition of the church.

A. In some NT passages the church is identified as “Church.”
“church” - a compound word that lit. means “to call” (kaleo) and “out of” (ek). Therefore, as a noun, the word means “called out ones.”

The word church appears 76 times in the KJV English N.T. Some examples are:
Matt. 16:18 “… upon this rock I will build my church….”

1 Cor. 1:2 “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth.”
1 Cor. 12:28 “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers….”

1 Peter 2:9 (Here the word “church” isn’t used, but the concept is used descriptively.) “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, and holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
We could literally say that God has “churched” us from darkness to light. If you have been called from sin to salvation and have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a part of the church. Even those who don’t want to be involved in “a” church, are in “the” church if they have truly been saved.

B. In some NT passages the church is identified as Congregation / Assembly.
This includes the concept both as a nounthose who are congregating; and a verb – an event or happening. (When we gather together we are literally “churching”.)

Hebrews 10:25 “Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
The writer of this letter (many think it is Paul), is literally saying, “Do not stop ‘churching’ like some have done. But rather do it more often as you get closer and closer to the end of time.

C. In other NT Scriptures the church is identified as Fellowship (community).
It is more than just a gathering event, but a fellowship of faith involving the ministry of spiritual gifts and exercise of the priesthood of believers. It is a caring, bonding community.

Let me briefly break that down.
Fellowship of faith – made up of those who have trusted in Christ.

Involving ministry of spiritual gifts – God has given every believer one or more gifts to be used in the church for the benefit of the whole body.
Exercising the priesthood of believers – The Protestant Reformation emphasized the biblical doctrine of the “Priesthood of Believers.” This principle taught in the NT Epistles stresses the fact that every child of God can “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16) rather than only having access through a priest. On the other hand, the doctrine “Priesthood of Believers” is meant to emphasize the duty of every Christian to act as a “priest” to one another, by which we carry each other to the Lord and we minister to one another the words of Christ and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:42 “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
1 Cor. 1:9 “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.”

We who have been called out of darkness and sin are now part of a community that shares many things in common. We who are joined together spiritually with Christ are also joined together with one another. It is both a privilege and a responsibility.
II.    Role of the Church

(Draper's Book of Quotations) Charles Colson – Biblically the church is an organism not an organization—a movement, not a monument. It is not a part of the community; it is a whole new community. It is not an orderly gathering; it is a new order with new values, often in sharp conflict with the values of the surrounding society.
To think about the role of the church in the lives of believers, it might be best to look at the different metaphors (pictures or comparisons) that the Bible uses to describe the church.

A.  The Church is a Body
Ephesians 1:22-23 (NKJV) And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Colossians 1:24 (NKJV) I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,
1 Corinthians 12:12, 27 (NKJV) 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.

(Draper's Book of Quotation) Edward Everett – We ask the leaf, "Are you complete in yourself?" and the leaf answers, "No, my life is in the branches." We ask the branch, and the branch answers, "No, my life is in the trunk." We ask the trunk, and it answers, "No, my life is in the root." We ask the root, and it answers, "No, my life is in the trunk and the branches and the leaves. Keep the branches stripped of leaves and I shall die." So it is with the great tree of being. Nothing is completely and merely individual.
Not only is this a great illustration of the life of a tree, but it is a great illustration of the life of the church. Every part of the church needs the other parts to survive and thrive. God meant for you to be intimately connected and involved, not only for your own spiritual health, but for the godly benefit of everyone else.

B.  The Church is a Marriage
Revelation 19:7-9 (NKJV) Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' " And he said to me, "These are the true sayings of God."

Ephesians 5:31-32 (NKJV) "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
C.  The Church is a Building (Not literal)

The church is not this building that we are meeting in. It is the people who meet here. But, the people that make up the church are referred to as a building in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:19-22 (NKJV) 19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

 (Draper's Book of Quotation) C. S. Lewis – The New Testament does not envisage solitary religion; some kind of regular assembly for worship and instruction is everywhere taken for granted in the Epistles. So we must be regular practicing members of the church. Of course we differ in temperament. Some (like you—and me) find it more natural to approach God in solitude; but we must go to church as well. For the church is not a human society of people united by their natural affinities, but the body of Christ, in which all members, however different (and he rejoices in their differences and by no means wishes to iron them out) must share the common life, complementing and helping one another precisely by their differences.
What C.S. Lewis seems to be saying is this: some of us by personality prefer a more solitary life of faith. But, God designed the church to be a mixture of personalities, preferences, talents and gifts precisely so that we can learn and grow from one another.

The American church has developed a sense and spirit of independence that is not promoted in Scripture. We are never meant to be independent, but “inter-dependent.”

We’ve been talking about the myths and mysteries of being a part of the body of Christ, the church. The Myth is: I can survive and thrive as a Christian believer without being an active part of the church. The Mystery is: My spiritual health requires more than church involvement.
Yes, I need the rest of the body (the church) as much as it needs me, but I also need to attain and maintain individual connection with the Lord through prayer and study of the Scriptures.

(Draper's Book of Quotation) What would my church be like if every member were just like me?
As we close the service today, let us examine our own lives to see if we are truly connected and involved in the body-life of the church as God intends us to be.

Our closing song today is They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love

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