Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Church – “My Church”


I love “My Church”! Turn with me to Matthew 16 …

It is important to note how Jesus felt about His life’s mission which is the Church. The Bible declares that Jesus died for the Church and that one day He is coming back for the Church … The Church is not only His Body, but also His Bride … and, it is the Family of God in heaven and on earth.

Throughout the New Testament this overriding goal of Jesus’ life, death, burial and resurrection is very well defined and confirmed. Even though the subject of Church is evidently precious to Jesus, yet the word “Church” is only mentioned directly a total of 3 times in all the volume of the Gospels, twice in one verse and only once in another. (Matthew 16:18 & 18:19)

However, from the resurrection of Jesus throughout the rest of the Bible, the Church is directly mentioned by name on an average of once every 1.5 chapters. In fact, virtually every word beginning in the book of Acts through the book of Revelation is either written to or about the Church. You see, Church is not only the main theme but also the ultimate goal and constant work of the New Testament. Both Jesus and the Bible are all about the Church. I’m not talking about the Church as an institution, organization or icon, but as the Body, the Bride and the functioning Family of Christ … souls of men, redeemed and adopted into families.

The New Testament concept of “Church” is an ordered and purpose-filled assembly of Born Again Believers drawn together and empowered by the will and the authority of God. (It’s people, not perfect, but forgiven and driven by the Holy Spirit) The New Testament Church of Christ is built on the pattern of the Old Testament family of God in respect to both relationship and structure. The Bible consistently speaks of Three Levels of Church Family to which each Believer belongs, at least in God’s eyes:

1.   The Universal Church Family Resident In Both Heaven and Earth
2.   The World Wide Church Family
3.   The Local Church Family

(These are not intended to be in reference to names or doctrines to which many errors have been associated, rather these are but simple descriptions in laymen’s terms used in form to define location and connection in the most basic of meanings)

Matthew 16
18  “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

As I said earlier: It is important to note how Jesus felt about His life’s mission … notice:

·        “My Church” – Jesus took it personal
·        “build” – Jesus forewarned it would be work
·        “I will build” – He intended to be on scene and be involved
o   Church, like family, is a “hands-on” project
o   His declaration, “I will”, reveals a tenacious determination
o   Jesus was definitely sending a message of personal commitment
·        “hell shall not prevail …” – Church is
o   destined to encounter attack
o   designed to endure adversity
o   decidedly victorious on every front both in heaven & on earth
·        “I will give” – The Church is the future and the hope

We see this vision beginning to unfold shortly after Jesus spoke these words. Only a few days after Matthew 16, Jesus is crucified. Three days later He is resurrected in victory over death, hell and the grave. For forty days afterwards Jesus showed Himself alive with many infallible proofs. Prior to His ascension into heaven where today He sits at the right hand of the Father, Jesus directed His followers to be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and begin building the Church.

One week after the ascension, which was barely 50 days after the crucifixion, God sent the Holy Spirit on an ordered assembly of Believers who were gathered all in one accord and the work began. Everyone in this small Church of only 120 people abandoned their personal pursuits in order to provide powerful testimony to the wonderful works of God.

That day 3000 people were added to the Church. These new converts, led by the example of those 120, gathered together every day to be taught the Word of the God and to pray, growing together in fellowship with other Believers even taking their meals together. (Acts 2)

As a result God added both numbers and strength to the Church every day.

Almost immediately, beginning in Acts 3, the gates of hell began to test the Church.

Neither God nor the devil does anything in the earth except through people.

Acts, chapters 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7, detail the foundation and early structure of this first Church Family Jesus built in Jerusalem. If it had not been for the persecutions, attacks and adversities brought on the Church by the devil, the Church might have well been relegated to only a Jerusalem phenomenon. However, God, as He always does, took what the devil meant for harm and turned it to His Church’s advantage. Let’s look in Chapter 8, at the first mission trip of “The Church” – “My Church”

Acts 8  NKJV
1 ¶  Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.

God wants to multiply, the devil wants to divide – there is a difference … one adds strength the other weakness – Romans 16:17 tells us to mark those who cause division or weaken the Church and avoid them.

This division caused great loss and great lamentation. We find it referred to again in Acts 11:19. The Jerusalem Church never fully recovered from this scattering of its strength. God intervened in what the devil intended for evil and turned it for good. Jerusalem suffered but the Church moved forward.

2  And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
3  As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
4 ¶  Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.
5  Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.
6  And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.
7  For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.
8  And there was great joy in that city.

Acts 8 is an account of the first mission trip ever made by the Church. Interestingly enough the Church beings at this point to fulfill the second and subsequent portions of the Great Commission given by the power of the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28 and Acts 1:8.

Today, we have no other command and Jesus has no other mission but to build “His Church” on the Rock, and work through the family it to make disciples of all nations. The New Testament is our pattern example and if we are to be more like Jesus we will also need to Take Church Personal.

Let’s each one of us begin to:
·        Develop a “My Church” Perspective
Let’s each one of us:
·        Embrace the reality - it will take work
Let’s each one of us consider and:
·        Commit to be on scene and involved
Let’s each one of us be prayerfully filled with the Holy Spirit so we can:
·        Provide our community with testimony to the wonderful works of God
Let’s each one of us strive for unity in our Church Family so that we:
·        Don’t let the devil use us to weaken the work of God
o   In our local Church
o   In the Church World Wide
o   In the Eternal Church which Jesus is still building