Let Christ Rule…In Your Church
2 Corinthians 5:6-6:2
There was once a man who left home heading to college. While in college he met a woman who would later become his wife. The man and his wife began their new life in the town where they went to college. The years past and they had two children began to get involved in a local church. The church was friendly and loving. This family felt like it was both a place where they could be nurtured but also a place where they were encouraged to use the gifts that God had given them for His Kingdom.
The man and his family were pleased to be a part of this church. After a special Christmas Eve Service the man was telling his wife how much the service reminded him of the services he used to go to as a boy in his local church. His Father had died years ago, and that was the last time he was in that church. His mother had moved away with his sister’s family for health reasons. There just didn’t seem like a compelling reason to go back. A few months later a friend called him about an upcoming high school reunion. The man and his wife made plans to attend the reunion, one child now in college and the later on in high school stayed behind.
Once arriving there the couple enjoyed a great time, she got to meet more of his friends from high school and see a few of them again that had made it out to their wedding years ago. On the drive back to the airport the man’s wife said maybe we have a few minutes and could ride by that church again, the one that meant so much to the man growing up. As they pulled into the lot it was not immediately evident that there was anyone there. The man remembered that office doors where usually open on the side, so he went around to the doors but they were locked. He remembered often during the day the doors to the church would remain unlocked. He told his wife that he wanted to walk around to the front. As he climbed the steps something on the door caught his eye, but it looked like a promotion for a church event, and not thinking anything of it he reaches for the door handle and it too is locked.
A little confused he stood there for a moment and looked up at the door again, this time he actually read the sign it said, “Gone Out Of Business, because We Have Forgotten What Our Business Was!” The man stood for a long time and eventually his wife came to look for him so they wouldn’t miss their flight and she found him there sobbing. The church that had meant so much to him and lead him to the Lord had not led anyone anywhere for quite some time. What a sad epitaph for the church…not that it had to die, but it had forgotten how to live.
So then my friends what is the business of the church? What is the church to be about? Let’s first begin with what is the church?
The church is not a place. It is a people, the body of believers who share their faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
When we fall into the trap of looking at the church as a place, we easily separate ourselves from its mission because we thing of the church as a physical place to worship together instead of understanding the church as our identity with a specific purpose. The church leaves in the cars that exit the parking lot after Sunday worship and carries on its work throughout the week.
The church is made up of those who have placed their belief-their faith-in the person of Jesus Christ. Having established who the church is, Jesus commissioned those who believed in Him to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19-20). It has always been the work of the church to bring others to belief in Christ and to experience a personal relationship with Him. Jesus came to save the lost. Those who believed in Him became His church and took on the responsibility that comes with belief-the commitment to continue the work Christ began.
The mission of the church is to make disciples-to led people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.
When we think about where we are so far we have talked about the impact of Christ on our lives and in our families, and now in the family of faith, the church. When we think about the theme let Christ Rule, it may be tempting to ask what is a church supposed to do? Although it is in important question it is not the primary one. What is the church supposed to be? We must know who and whose we are before we can possibly know what to do. Being precedes doing. It is of little value to work without understanding who we are. Sure the works will be good and maybe help some people, but if the source of the works are not established in our being first, although many may be good they are still the works of man not God. The Hope of Glory is Christ in You.
Galatians 2:20 Paul reminds that we live and walk in Christ. The source of the work is Christ and they are His works not ours. Our work, even if it is good, if it is done for our glory and not His it is the very definition of vanity. In building our own kingdoms in His name, we are neglecting the power and life of His true kingdom. What are we willing to do for His Kingdom?
Our scripture tonight directs us to look at where we are. Live by faith not by sight. No matter where we are or what we are doing it should always be our goal to please God. Be made aware that we are responsible for that what we have done or neglected toward the kingdom of Christ. Jesus does not use the word church very often but one time that comes to mind is when Jesus asks the disciples who do others say that I am, then who do you say that I am, and Simon Peter responds quickly, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus tells him that flesh and blood did not reveal that to him but God did. Jesus continues with, “you will be called Peter and on this I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” What if that was us? What if we can look at what was just said here and know that the Gates of Hell stand no chance against the testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”
Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. John 3:16 is very familiar to most, “For God, so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth on Him shall not perish but have eternal life. But John 3:17 is often unnoticed…For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It is difficult sometimes for churches to remember it is not about the building, it is difficult sometimes for long time believers to remember that they were once unbelievers. Too many times we rush to accuse or condemn people about their life or their sins. Telling a sinner all the horrible things that do that make them a sinner and not helping them to know what happens next about the love, mercy, and grace of Christ, says far more about us then it ever will those who we meet. It is our responsibility to share Christ with others to reach out and be ministers of reconciliation for Christ as Christ reconciled us to Himself.
“It is risky to reach out to unbelievers. It changes a church when newcomers are unlike the old-timers. God’s work is seldom neat, clean, or free from problems. Our world is changing around us. All healthy organisms adapt or die. The same goes for churches,” writes Anderson. He continues, “The church of the twenty-first century is dealing with a generation that is discouraged, depressed, tired, lonely, and feeling guilty. They are more interested in learning what to do about their sins and struggles than being told they are sinners and struggles.”
V. 11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. If you know God you should be trying to persuade others. It is the work of the church it is the commission of Christ in Matthew 28:19ff Therefore, as you go make disciples of all nations…not just the people who look like us or have similar interests but all means all. It also says make disciples not “church members” so to say, or converts we can check off at the next denominational meeting, but instead vibrant soul-winners for Christ, who have grown in maturity, wisdom, and stature. We are to teach them, not just reach them! Part of the problem with the church today is that in most cases the ones who are reaching folks for Christ are content to get them to the waters of Baptist, and then leave them to drown in a pool of shallow faith and doctrine. At the moment of commitment our works as the body is not done, it is just really getting started. We also do not have to do this alone, Jesus reminds them that He is there with them even until the very end of the age.
Give them life and help them to spread that life to others. We were a product of the saving work of Christ sacrifice, and we being brought from death to life should celebrate and share, helping to give life to the world around us. Will each of us commit to allowing Christ to rule and reign in our churches? It will be scary, we will have to give up power and control, and but wait isn’t it Christ church to begin with. Why would we do such a thing, v. 14 Christ’s love compels us…v.15 and those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Do not look at people with eyes of the world, when we were unsaved we looked at Christ the same way. Anyone who is in Christ is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! Hallelujah what a message of hope for the hopeless today, why would we not shout it from the mountain tops. V. 18 This newness if “all from God” it is His work of salvation in Christ and He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are now ambassadors for Christ, His representatives caring the weight of his promise to a foreign land. “He is reconciling the world to himself in Christ and is not counting men’s sins against them. What a wonderful great good news, that we should be telling folks about, don’t worry about if this church or that gets credit, or a denomination or association, because no one can take credit for the God’s sized work of salvation save God alone, and He gets all the credit and glory for His wonderful saving grace. Think of the brother, sister, or neighbor that you will or won’t be spending eternity with.
Paul’s language gets more carried away as he uses words like appeal, and implore. We implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. We implore the world on behalf of the one who died to make it all possible, if we do not allow Christ to rule in our church then we will never have the heart to implore anyone of anything because we ourselves do not have the heart to follow. In neglecting to share we are essential wasting the expansive grace of Christ and in not so many words telling the world that we are ok if the go to hell.
If we are going to take the salvation we have in Christ seriously and his Lordship we must look to share Christ with others. If we the church are not already effectively doing we must begin to ask tough question about what may need to change to be effective for Christ. Change is scary and many do not want to do it, talking of money, or tradition, or you fill in the blank, but at the end of the day Christ tells them as they go to make disciples and teach, and do not be afraid because Christ is with us, it is His work.
Nothing is more relevant to our day than the message of salvation through Christ Jesus. However, unless we are willing to make the changes that will equip the church to do its work, the relevancy of the gospel will likely never reach those who are lost.
As we change, we must also stay the same. Contradictory? Not really when you consider that the church has one mission and many avenues by which to accomplish it. (like Dr. Towns analogy are we falling behind the drag racer, or worse are we not even on the same path). The key was recognition of the mission and willingness to change. The book of Acts is replete with illustrations of the church changing. The mission stayed the same, and as the church changed, it grew. (We need to be doing mission and ministry from imagination, not memory). As long as we keep our priorities straight and continue in the work Jesus commissioned us to do, we will seek better ways of reaching the lost for Christ without being threatened by the thought of change.
The price is steep, Christ having no sin because sin for us, dying in our place. There is no magic eraser, we truly have freedom from our sin in Christ because the penalty of that sin was paid in full. But there is also this, that in Christ we will be made righteous to God. His sacrifice paid for our sin, and gave us His own righteousness before God.
Dr. George Hunter observed, “Effective churches recognize a number of things concerning reaching unsaved people. Among these are three that stand out in my mind: (1) know that people who aren’t disciples are lost, (2) know that lost people matter to God, and (3) see the church as primarily a mission to lost people rather than a gathered colony of the faithful.”
“The ministry is not called to fit the church’s structure; the structure exists to further effective ministry.”-George Barna
The church needs to be the ambassadors of the Kingdom of Christ, finding as many ways possible to save lives, rather than cheapening the sacrifice of Christ. Don’t receive the grace of God in vain. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.