Jesusí Vision for the Church
I. Introduction Ė Two Disclaimers
First I would like to thank the leadership for inviting me to preach during this challenging yet exciting time in the history of Christ the King Church. It truly is an honor to preach Godís word to His people. It is also an awesome responsibility. In the next several weeks, we are going to be looking at Jesusí vision of the church as its revealed in Godís word. As the weeks go on and as His vision sinks deep in our hearts, I think we will better understand why this is such an awesome responsibility.
Letís take a minute and invite God to fill this time.
Lord, open our eyes to see You and our ears to hear You today. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart not just be acceptable in your sight Ė but be Your words and your thoughts.
This week we are going to look at the only two instances recorded in the New Testament where Jesus refers to the church. In the next two weeks we will look at both of these scriptures in detail.
Before we begin looking at Jesusí Vision for the Church, I have two disclaimers that you need to know before we start.
The first thing you need to know involves a little bit of my history with the church.
I wasnít raised in the church. When I was a kid, I occasionally went to my grandmotherís church with my Mom. One day, I read in the bulletin that last week one of the members of the church joined the Church Eternal and Triumphant. The bulletin went on to express the condolences to the family and encouraged the members of the church to care for those family members who were left behind. I remember whispering to my Mom:
"Is it really that bad to join another church?"
When I became a Christian, there were so many aspects of the Christian faith that captured my imagination.
For me, becoming a Christian introduced me to a great adventure involving
I can honestly say, that as excited as I was about these in the beginning of my walk, they excite me even more now. Each one has proven to be even more than I expected Ė Except One Ė the Church
Nothing in all of my experience in my walk with Christ has disappointed me as much as the church. So often the Church doesnít live up to its high calling.
Disillusionment with the church is common Ė manifested in many different ways:
Church hopping is so prevalent, that you may have heard about the guy
Ö who was stranded on the proverbial deserted Pacific island for years. Finally one day a boat comes sailing into view, and the man frantically waves and draws the skipper's attention. The boat comes near the island, and the sailor gets out and greets the stranded man.
After awhile the sailor asks, "What are those three huts you have here?"
"Well, that's my house there."
"What's that next hut?" asks the sailor.
"I built that hut to be my church."
"What about the other hut?"
"Oh, that's where I used to go to church."
So the first disclaimer is that I need Jesusí Vision for the Church. Even though I am committed to the local church (Barbara and I have been members at the Barn for over thirty years), I need to see the Church as Jesus sees it.
The second disclaimer is that you need to be wary of anyone who presents to you something as Jesusí method of evangelism or Jesusí way of living. Often it is just an excuse to divide the church. "We do it Jesusí way." "Our understanding if Jesusí understanding." We need to carefully examine any such claim. Become like the Bareans in the book of Acts who upon hearing Paulís preaching and went home to search the scriptures to see if it was true.
So letís look at Jesusí vision of the Church.
II. The Local Church as a Spirit Inspired Creative Expression of Godís Heart
Old Testament Scripture:Exodus 25:8-9 "Let them construct a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell among them. According to all that I am going to show you, as the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furniture, just so shall you construct it."
The first part of Jesusí Vision is presented as an argument from silence. An argument from silence is when we draw conclusions from what is not said rather than what is said.
In the Old Testament, God provided specific directions about virtually everything concerning the life and worship of His people. Look at our Old Testament scripture.
"Iím going to show you" how to build the tabernacle. I want you to build it "just so."
In the scriptures that follow He shows Moses hundreds of details concerning structure, materials, fabrics, and colors of the tabernacle. Later he details exactly who was to lead and how they were to perform their duties. The amount of detail is staggering.
But here comes the argument from silence.
What does Jesus tell his disciples concerning building His church? Precious little.
Perhaps Jesus wanted the church to be just like the Old Testament temple in terms of leadership and structure.
Or perhaps he had the details but just didnít have time to tell us.
What do some of you think? Why did Jesus, in contrast to the Old Testament provide so little detail about how the church would function? What was it going to look like?
Well hereís my take. Do you remember when the New Covenant was promised in Jeremiah (31:33), that the law, written down with all of its detail, was going to be replaced with a law written on the hearts and minds of the New Covenant people. And I believe that Jesus didnít explicitly lay out the hundreds of details about the church, because he wanted each church to be a dynamic expression of the Incarnate God living in their midst. Each church was going to creatively express the presence of God in their midst as they reflect what God has put on the hearts and minds.
The catch in this Ė is that we cannot rely on cookie cutter church building. "Well it worked at Willow Creek." or "But thatís the way Rick Warren does it." I believe that part of Jesusí Vision of the church is that each local church would be built based on his detailed and specific direction that he reveals to the local body.
You know, it would be a lot easier to just build it Rick Warrenís way.
III. Jesus Builds His Church into a Death Defying Powerhouse
New Testament Scriptures:Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church: and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."
Our second scripture is from Matthew 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church: and the gates of Hades will not overpower it."
There are two parts of Jesusí Vision for the Church that I want you to take way from this passage.
1. The first is that Jesus is going to build His church.
There are only 4 ways to build a church.
How does Jesus want the church to be built?
This may sound simplistic Ė but I want to tell you that it is a constant struggle in churches Ė Whose church is it any way? Isnít this my church. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say something like:
I donít want this to happen in my church?
My church always has done this, this way.
Once we have given up and realized that itís Jesusí church we need to recognize that it is His responsibility to build it. Now heís like a subcontractor. He needs workers to work for Him Ė but weíve got to remember that he calls the shots. We can do the work but only under his specific direction. He is building His Church
On this rock I will remodel My church
On this rock, I will re-arrange My church
On this rock, I will keep My church the same comfortable place.
No Ė On this rock, Jesus is building / adding on / creating new instances of the church.
Jesusí Vision of the Church is an ever growing and outwardly expanding death defying living organism that is continually taking back territory that was given over to Satan. This Vision gives the Church itís outward focus.
IV. The Church as a Community Built on Love
Matthew 18:17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."
Finally, our last scripture contains the second and final reference to the church made by Jesus. The context of this reference has Jesus providing some detailed instructions about dealing with relationships. In particular, with relationships that have broken down because of sin.
Again, there are two things that I want you to see here.
But more importantly (and again we will develop this more in two weeks)
Have you ever heard any say "He wouldnít do that if he was a Christian." Well I have news for you. Jesusí Vision for the Church includes Christians that are going to do all kinds of wrong things. But he also sees a church that loves each other enough to confront one another and to win back our brothers and sisters when they have deeply wounded us. Thatís what happening in Matthew 18.
I find it fascinating that in the only two references to the church, Jesus expresses his vision as encompassing a church with both an outward focus and an inward focus. There is always a tendency to concentrate on just one or the other. In my experience, I have rarely found a church that has balanced both the outward focus and the inward attention.
It is my prayer for Christ the King Church, that you would become a church that allows Jesus to build His church here. One that dynamically and creatively expresses the Incarnate Word in this place. And one that maintains both an outward focus with inward attention to building up the Body.