The Church ~ 20220109 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/09 – Who are we? What in the world are we doing? the church); Audio available at: http://www.ephraimbible.org/Sermons/20220109_the-church.mp3
What in the world are we doing here? Just who do we think we are?
It’s good on occasion to pause and ask ourselves questions like this to gain clarity on our identity and to refocus on our purpose.
– pray –
Church – a Gathering or Assembly of Dissimilar People
Who do we think we are? We are a church; the word ‘church’ simply means an assembly or gathering, people called out, called together. There are lots of different kinds of gatherings. Our city council meets together regularly. There’s the Parent Teacher Association, 4-H, Lion’s club, the archery club, Friends of the Library, the humanitarian council. There’s a lot of different organizations that meet together with their own unique goals and purposes and missions.
We are an assembly of different people from different ethnic and geographic backgrounds, different upbringings, different ages, different family dynamics, different occupations, different incomes, different walks of life, different personalities and preferences, different styles, different struggles, different opinions, different hobbies. We are a diverse people; what brings us together? Just who do we think we are?
What We Do; Sing, Pray, Listen to the Word, Ordinances
And what in the world are we doing? When we gather, we sing together. What other gathering do you participate in where you sing together, except maybe a choir or a sporting event where our national anthem is sung?
We sing and we pray; we talk to someone we can’t see, and we assume that he hears and cares and can actually do something about what we talk to him about.
We sing, we pray, and we read and study an ancient book together. But it’s not a discussion group; instead we typically have one guy claiming to speak with authority and telling you how to live your life based on what we find in this ancient book, written at a very different time in history to very different groups of people in different geographic and cultural settings, and yet somehow we believe that it is relevant to us today; in fact we expect it to shape the way we live our lives.
We also observe ancient rites or ordinances. We take a small bit of bread and a cup of juice, and we all eat it together, as commanded in this ancient book. Those who want to become part of our gathering, we ask them to be immersed in water, fully clothed, in front of everyone.
Does any of this seem just a bit strange? Imagine inviting a friend who has no familiarity with what we call ‘church’. ‘I’d like you to come with me. You’ll have to get up early on a weekend morning when you’d normally be sleeping in, and we will gather together with a bunch of people we have very little in common with, some of whom we probably disagree with over important life issues. We sing songs to a crucified man who claimed to be God, who we believe is now alive, we talk to him, we take bread and juice that symbolize eating his flesh and drinking his blood. We listen to someone talk at us out of this ancient book and tell us how to live our lives. Oh, and if you decide you want to become part of our gathering, you’ll need to get dunked in water in front of everybody.
A Subversive Kingdom
By the way, this gathering has been viewed throughout most of history by governments in power as subversive and dangerous. Many churches today have to gather secretly, but they continue to gather. Politically we may be on different pages, with different goals and priorities. But we agree on this; whatever human governments are over us, our primary allegiance is to a different kingdom and a different King; our citizenship is in a different country. And although human governments will rise and fall, the kingdom we belong to will one day rule over all others and will last forever. Do you see why many human governments feel threatened by this kind of assembly?
Exclusive and Universal Claims
Here’s another thing that makes a lot of people really uncomfortable about what we call church. If you spend any time in a gospel preaching church, you will hear talk of being lost and being saved. Our society is all about self help and self improvement and positive affirmation. But the central message we as the church have is that everyone is hopelessly lost and broken with no possibility of self improvement; no way to fix ourselves (Is.53:6; Rom.3:23). We are completely helpless and utterly dependent on outside help that we don’t deserve. We talk about sin – that going our own way and doing whatever we think might make us happy – is not a good thing to be celebrated, but a bad thing worthy of eternal punishment by the God whose world this is (Is.59:2).
This is a shockingly negative message about us, and a surprisingly narrow claim in today’s world. Everyone is lost and condemned, and the one and only way of rescue is believing the message churches proclaim about a Jewish Messiah who was crucified for sinners and raised from the dead.
This message is incredibly narrow (Jn.14:6), but the claim of the church is that it is universal in scope. This is not just our truth that is true for us because we find it compelling; we claim that it is absolute truth that will prove true for you whether you believe it or not. We have been entrusted with this message, and we have been commissioned to bring it to every person and every people group around the globe, because it is the one and only way to be rescued from what we deserve.
Let’s review; what have we said so far about the church? We are an assembly of dissimilar people with very little in common, who gather to sing and pray to someone who isn’t visibly present, we hear teaching from an ancient book that we seek to live by. We tell people that they aren’t free to do whatever they want or whatever they think will make them happy; rather they are accountable to the God who created all things and whom they have offended by their assumed independence. We rehearse rites that remind us of a crucified man who claimed to be God and who rose from the dead. We immerse in water those who turn away from their own path and entrust themselves to this crucified One. Although we seek to submit as far as possible to our local governments, our ultimate allegiance lies with a greater King of a greater kingdom to which we belong.
How do you think this will go over with your neighbor, your co-worker, your boss? How can we possibly expect anyone to listen to this kind of a message? Could this message gain any traction in today’s world?
Why get up early on a Sunday morning and gather with dissimilar people where you might catch a cold or worse, and when you can get better content online in the privacy of your home on whatever subject interests you whenever it’s most convenient? In a world of viruses and virtual meetings and telecommuting, why actually come to meet together in person?
Meeting With a Person
Here’s the most important reason to come to meet together in person; because we come together to meet with a Person. Although Jesus, the crucified and risen Lord is not visibly with us, he is indeed with us. Jesus said ‘I will never leave you or forsake you’ (Heb.13:5);
In the context of seeking lost sheep, and church discipline, and extending lavish forgiveness to those who sin against us repeatedly Jesus said:
Doing church with dissimilar people is messy, but it is Jesus who brings us together. It is Jesus that we have in common.
The Identity of Jesus
In Matthew 16, Jesus took his disciples away from busily serving the crowds, and he asked them ‘who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ After listing several of the popular opinions, ‘John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets’ Jesus asked them ‘But who do you say that I am?’
The identity of Jesus is the foundation stone of the church. Jesus is the promised Christ, the Messiah, the anointed Prophet, Priest and King, one who will reign forever on David’s throne. Jesus is the eternal Son of the living God, the only begotten, God of God, eternally existing in relationship with God and as God; God with us, who came down.
The identity of Jesus is essential, it is central, and it is something that is supernaturally known. Jesus affirms that Peter didn’t come up with this on his own. It isn’t merely one more opinion about Jesus. This is the revelation of the Father about his only Son. And it is on this revelation of the identity of Jesus that Jesus will build his church.
But what Peter said was not complete. He was missing part of the story.
Jesus wanted to make sure his followers understood that he was the promised reigning King, but he was also the suffering Servant, the one who would bear the sins of many, he would be like a lamb led to the slaughter, he would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, he would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; the Lord would lay on him the iniquity of us all (Is.53).
It is on the identity of Jesus as coming King, Divine Son of God, suffering Servant that his church will be established.
I Will Build My Church
Notice, the church does not belong to us, and it is not our job to build the church. It is not our job to persuade people to believe that Jesus is the Messiah King, Son of the living God, who died for their sins. It is our commission to proclaim the truth about him, to bear witness that we have experienced him as such. But Jesus claims to be the one who will build his church. Using the unlikely message of the gospel, that we all are sinners and have all fallen short, but that Jesus bore in his body the consequences of my sin, died the death I deserve, so that I could be forgiven and live to enjoy relationship with him; using the unlikely announcement of a crucified Messiah, Jesus will build his church and his church will advance against the very gates of hell.
Do not be ashamed of Jesus. Do not be ashamed of the good news of the Messiah crucified for sinners. It is the very power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom.1:16). Jesus is building his church, and the gates of hell will not be strong enough to stand up against the advance of Jesus’ church.
Who Do We Think We Are?
Just who do we think we are? We are the blood bought and dearly beloved bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the flock of God. We are the temple of God, the church of the living God, the household of God, the pillar and buttress of the truth.
What in the world are we doing here? We are bearing witness to the identity and transforming power of Jesus to make people new inside, to forgive and give life, to conquer sin and set captives free. We are advancing against the very gates of hell, taking ground from the enemy of our souls.
2022.01.09 Sermon Notes - The Church
What in the world are we doing here?
Just who do we think we are?
Church: a gathering or assembly of different people
What we do:
We Sing Colossians 3:16
We Pray 1 Timothy 2:1, 8
We Hear the Word 1 Thessalonians 2:13
We Observe ordinances Matt.28:19; 1 Cor.11:24-25
Our allegiance is ultimately to another kingdom
John 15:19; 17:14; Philippians 3:20
Our message is negative, narrow and universal
Isaiah 53:6; 59:2; Romans 3:23; John 14:6
Why gather in person? To meet with a person
Hebrews 13:5; Matthew 28:20; 18:20
The identity of Jesus is our foundation; Matthew 16:13-21
The Christ /Messiah; anointed Prophet, Priest, King
Son of God; who was with God and who was God
Suffering Servant; Isaiah 53:3-6
Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org