Except the LORD Build the House…

A recent study found that there were 195 million un-churched people in America.  This makes America one of the top 4 largest “un-churched” nations in the world. [Statistics August 22, 2015].

Each year 3,500 churches close their doors forever, while only 1,000 to 1,500 new ones are started in the same timeframe.  In the small town that I reside, with 3 churches on every corner, it’s hard to believe there’s a need for more churches.  BUT THERE IS!

While writing this blog, the church I attend has sent a missionary team to the Philippines to help build a church facility where church planters are sacrificing, serving and doing their part to spread the good news.  What we must understand in our efforts that we nor anyone else can build a church!  God is the One Who builds a church!

We are told in scriptures that “Except the LORD build the house they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1).

Unless the LORD builds it, those who labor are laboring in vain.

There are many people who are good at building things (I’m not one), but a nice building doesn’t qualify as a great church!

We (the people) Are the Body of Christ…Not A Pile of Brick and Mortar!

I know of some churches that are thriving without “nice facilities.”  There are congregations meeting in movie theaters, warehouses, strip malls and old barns doing great work for the Lord in their communities.

On the other hand, there are countless brick buildings with large white steeples, padded pews, and stained glass windows who have plateaued, dead, and dying.  We tend to measure a church’s success by how many cars there are in the parking lot, or how many people are in the pews and how much money has been taken up on Sunday morning offerings.

A church can give all the appearances of being successful and still be a failure according to God’s standard.  On the other hand, a church may meet in someone’s basement with a handful of members who are obedient and faithful and God sees them as a success.

There always seems to be a new program, a flyer or e-mail promoting the latest and greatest “church growth method.”  And oh, how many church growth seminars I’ve attended over the years.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see my church filled to capacity in every service to the point that we have to tear walls out and build on.  With that being said, I have some good news!  God wants our churches to grow.  He wants the church down the street to grow.  God wants new churches to be built and God wants old churches to be revitalized.

We have the privilege to be a part of the process.

BUT, if any church body is going to grow, if a TRUE CHURCH is going to be built, then it will be built by God, NOT MAN!!!

There’s an area of theology that wants to understand all aspects of the church.  It’s known as ecclesiology derived from the Greek word “ekklesia”. That’s a term referring to a gathering or assembly of believers.  This involves more than attending church.  IT’S ABOUT BEING THE CHURCH! –

1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV)

[27]  Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

Fellowship, worship, edification, and ministry are all performed by people, not builders.

As a result of their persecution, the first century Christians often met secretly in people’s homes.  And over time things have enlarged into what we see and have today.

In this week’s Blog-Text…

…we can get a glimpse of God’s building program.  Turning to 1 Peter 2:4-10 we’ll examine together how God builds a church.

VERSE 4 – GOD’S VISION FOR THE CHURCH

Come to Him [then, to that] Living Stone which men tried and threw away, but which is chosen [and] precious in God’s sight.  [AMP]

Since the beginning, God had a plan for His church.  God chose His own Son to be the Cornerstone of the Church.  In 1 Peter 1:20, Peter revealed the fact that God had this plan before the world began.

[20] He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.  [21] Through Him you believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and glorified Him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  [NIV]

In the Word of God we have several images portraying the Church:

THE CHURCH AS A BODY – Ephesians 4:15-16

THE CHURCH AS A BRIDE – Revelation 21:9

THE CHURCH AS A BUILDING – 2 Corinthians 6:16

The Image Of The Church As A Building – [verse 5]

“[Come]  and, like living stones, be yourselves built [into] a spiritual house, for a holy (dedicated, consecrated) priesthood, to offer up [those] spiritual sacrifices [that are] acceptable and pleasing to God through Jesus Christ.  (AMP)

How amazing is it to think that before the world began we were part of God’s master plan!!!

Any church begins with a VISION.

And this is the right way to start.

Proverbs 20:18 (NIV)

“Plans are established by seeking advice, so if you wage war, obtain guidance.”

We must remember that “Faithful people do not build the church of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ builds His church through faithful people.” [author unknown]

Not only did God have a “Vision” for His church, But He also prepared the proper foundation for His church.  His only Son laid that foundation – 1 Corinthians 3:11

[11] For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

The Foundation Of God’s Church – Verse 6

Here Peter speaks of the “Chief Cornerstone”.

CORNERSTONE is defined as 1) Literally, a stone that forms the base of a corner of a building, joining two walls.  2) Metaphorically, an important quality or feature on which a particular thing depends or is based.

Jesus is both!

He is literally and metaphorically the Cornerstone of the Chruch.  The “Cheif cornerstone” is the basic, essential, and most important part of a building and it’s the foundation.

In these verses Peter references Isaiah 28:16 – “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic.”

God has laid the foundation (Christ) and the Jews rejected Him (verses 7-8).

Any church that’s ever going to be successful for God…MUST BE BUILT ON JESUS CHRIST!  Not people, Not traditions, Not man-made measures of success, Nothing other than Jesus!!!

The Motivation For God’s Church – Verse 5

The chief cornerstone is where all measurements begin.  Every other stone was laid in relation to the cornerstone.

Jesus Christ As The CAPSTONE

 

Peter says that WE, the church, are “living stones, built up into a spiritual house.”  That means that Jesus is the CORNERSTONE, and we are the building blocks.

God is building a spiritual house,  He is putting all of His children in the place where they belong.  He’s joining us with one another.  Simply stated, we are the church that God is building.

Peter also mentions that we are “a holy priesthood”. –

A priest was the one who had access to God.   We have that access!

Hebrews 4:16 (NIV)

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

And as a part of the priesthood, we present “offerings of spiritual sacrifices” –  HOW DO WE DO THAT?

WE OFFER OURSELVES – We offer service, we offer prayers, we offer worship, we offer thanksgiving, we offer praise!

We are “priests” in the sense of being servants.

But Jesus is our Great High Priest!!!

This verse tells us as the church body, that “Spiritual sacrifices” are the motivations of God’s church!

This all may come as a surprise to many in the church today but somewhere along the way, people came to the conclusion that the church was all about them.

They leave the church on Sunday and complain because:  Someone didn’t shake their hand – The service was too dry or too long – Some say it was too shallow – Some don’t like the music because it was too old – Others didn’t like it because it was too new!

The Apostle Peter was a man who went hungry and thirsty following Jesus.  A man who left everything he knew behind to be Christ’s disciple.  He was cursed, beaten, imprisoned, persecuted, and eventually crucified for the cause of Christ Jesus.  Can you imagine what his response would be if he heard some of the self-centered garbage coming from our mouths?

Regardless of your motivation, God’s motivation for His church is that His people “as living stones offer Him spiritual sacrifices!!!”

But since the beginning, there have been those who were opposed to God’s Church.

The Opposition to God’s Church – (verses 7-8)

The Cornerstone that we’ve come to lean upon for strength is the same Stone that those who reject Him stumble and fall over.

Since the beginning, Satan has opposed the church.  And he has used many others to come against it as well!  We see this in Scripture with the Pharisees – It was seen in the Roman government – It has been seen through 2,000 years of church history – And we see it each and every day on our T.V. screens:  Islamic terrorist are beheading people just because they are Christians.

Here in America, the atheists have succeeded in taking God out of schools, courthouses, and government.  Even many churches throughout the land that bear the Christian name have rejected the TRUE Gospel – Jesus makes it quite clear in Mathew 12:30, “Whoever is not with me is against me…”  There are numerous people who not only reject Christ, but they are opposed to God’s church.

Though there’s much opposition to face we find in these verses as a mission for those who belong to Him.

Our Mission As The Church – (Verse  9)

Along with God’s VISION for His church comes His Mission for His people.

WE ARE CHOSEN!

God chose us!!!

What a BLESSING and a PRIVILEGE it is to think that the God of all creation chose us not only to be His people but to accomplish a specific task.  God does BUILD the church but He has chosen to use us as His laborers!

HE CALLED US!

We Are Called! (V. 9)

“…from DARKNESS into LIGHT”

Psalm 40:2 (AMP)

“He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and of destruction], out of the miry clay (froth and slime), and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps and establishing my goings.”

We were once dead in trespasses and sins.

JESUS called us out of that DARKNESS!

Peter says that He CALLED us into His marvelous light- He SAVED our souls – He CLEANSED our sins – He CHANGED our lives,

WE ARE THE CHURCH!!!

And when He did all this…He had a MISSION in mind for us to accomplish for Him.  And once the LORD calls us unto SALVATION, He then commissions us to work in the Kingdom for Him!!!

We Are Commissioned – (V. 9)

[9] “…that you may declare praises of Him”

Peter states that as a result of our being CALLED OUT of darkness and into the marvelous light, we should show others the way of the goodness of God.

Just before Jesus ascended He left His Apostles with some final words for His church – He didn’t say build the biggest buildings you can! – He didn’t say make sure you have the best youth program in the communities – He didn’t say to fill the seats on Sundays by any means necessary! – He didn’t say to have the most vibrant music ministry in the land! – He didn’t say make sure to preach eloquent sermons!

His final words were about the church’s MISSION:

Acts 1:8 (NIV)

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

What Is Our Mission For The Church?

It is for the “living stones” to “make more living stones”.

The people of God are to GO…and “make disciples”.

When people see us they should see something different…that we are special!!

In fact, we find in this very text that we are – LIVING STONES – A CHOSEN GENERATION – A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD – A HOLY NATION – A PARTICULAR PEOPLE.

We Are God’s Church!!

The People of Purpose!!

Great things happen when God builds the House!!

____________________________________________________________

CREDITS:

Dictionary:  “Cornerstone” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary; Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary Of Old and New Testament Words by W.E. Vine, Merrill Unger and William White Jr.

Photo/Images:  Google Image Search.

Music Video:  Youtube – WE ARE THE CHURCH – Youtube – Rend Collective – Build Your Kingdom Here

Bible Translations:  New Internation Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP).

 

“Where is the PREEMINENCE of Christ in Most of Our Churches?”

In my last blog-post, JESUS Is More Than An Image, I intentionally skipped over Colossians 1:18 to address the importance of who JESUS is and His headship of the body, the Church.

“He [JESUS] is the head of  [His] body, the Church, seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent]”  (Colossians 1:18 AMP).

Church in the Wildwood

A Song of Old – “The Church in the Wildwood?”

I’m probably dating myself with this song, but here are but a few of the lyrics:

There’s a church in the valley by the wildwood.

No lovelier spot in the dale.  No place is so

dear to my childhood.

As the little brown church in the vale.

I enjoy the song, but being perfectly honest here, what a sappy and sentimental picture this is of the Church.  The words might bring back some memorable images, but not a true picture of the Church.

The Church is…

The Church is the body of Jesus Christ Himself.

The Churchthe one we might be attending–is the body of Immanuel, God with us.

Before we start the detective journey together, let me give you understanding of why I chose the word PREEMINENCE in the title of today’s blog.

PREEMINENCE simply means “to be first” (Grk. protos) and is used of Christ in relationship to the church in verse 18.  So now perhaps you understand a little better and I’ll continue on with the importance of Christ being Pre-eminent; in everything that we do personally and the effect of our responsibility in the church.

How dare we ever take that for granted.  How dare we abuse the body of Christ with gossip and backbiting.  How dare we neglect the body of Christ with messed up priorities and apathy.  Notice who the apostle Paul is talking to here–the local church and not some unseen universal church.  He is writing to a specific group of believers who gathered together on a regular basis; the local church in Colosse.  Paul tells them they are JESUS’ body!

The Church Is the Body of Christ Jesus–

The word “church” comes from ekklesia (ek-klay-see’-ah), meaning a congregation or assembly made up of people who have been “called out.”  Being “called out” by the gospel (“born-again”) means being part of the local church as Jesus’ body.  This is the only way that we can truly give Him the preeminence in verse 18 of Colossians 1 refers to.

Don’t misunderstand me here, the preeminence is already His:

“Therefore  [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him [JESUS] the name that is above every name” ~ Philippians 2:9.

JESUS willingly obeyed the will of the Father, and the FATHER highly exalted Him–lifted Him up.

JESUS SAVES–

When JESUS saves a person, He saves them to be baptized into the local church, to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by themselves.

Jesus’ Relationship to His Church and its Importance–

His relationship to His church is His body on earth.  Paul speaks of the many parts of the body; the body does not consist of one limb or organ but of many (1 Corinthians 12:12-24).  So when you hear of a friend in the local church who is in the hospital sick, don’t ask and expect the Pastor of your church to go–you’ve got feet…you go!

JESUS in-dwells those who trust Him as Lord and Savior and because He in-dwells us, we become part of His body.  As a part of His body, we should desire to unite with the rest of His body.

But Only In The Context Of Worship and The Work In The Local Church–

I am probably sounding redundant to you at this point, about PREEMINENCE, but the emphasis is critical to the church.  This is where the body gathers, where we can truly show JESUS the preeminence He already has.  Our worship, our work (James 1:22-27; 2:26), is the only thing that truly shows who JESUS really is to a lost and dying world.  Don’t judge your own past relationships with people in a church you once attended by what God has to offer.  It’s not all about you, it’s about JESUS–His preeminence.

JESUS HAS A RELATIONSHIP TO HIS CREATION:

In 1985, being without employment, I decided to take an opportunity of a new job and location in the United States–Honolulu, Hawaii:

I lived with a young couple who also worked at the same job in a small cute home.  They were parents of a three-year old little girl and were having difficulties with their finances.  Contrary to belief, Hawaii isn’t the Paradise you might think.  So here I was, in Paradise (not really), living in a small but full house, with people I barely knew.  Three months later, I left the island of Oahu after sharing the Gospel and seeing a young man saved by JESUS.  This would have never happened if a relationship hadn’t been developed and nurtured.  It’s called Life Style Evangelism and I had become like a member of their family.

Living in someone else s family, in their home, made it impossible not to have a relationship.  JESUS has a developing and nurturing relationship with us–His church.

Biblical Examples of Christ’s Relationships–

“Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her,    So that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the Word.    That He might present the church to Himself in glorious splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such things [that she might be holy and faultless.    Even so husbands should love their wives…”  (Ephesians 5:25-28).

SALVATION and BAPTISM ARE ALWAYS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE LOCAL CHURCH:

When JESUS SAVES a person, He saves them to be baptized to the local church; to be united with other believers into His body.  If you think that you are saved and not part of a local church, you might want to check your heart and the hardening of an artery or two.  The Bible doesn’t talk about JESUS’ body parts floating around by their selves.

Washing away our sins in Baptism–

The context here in these verses pertains to the RELATIONSHIP between husbands and wives.  Something I’ve learned in over 48-years of being married to the same woman is,  “LOVE can only be known by the action it prompts.”  Christ uses His relationship with His bride, the church as an example for us to follow.

The definition of the word “washing” as found in Strong’s Concordance Greek Dictionary #3067, indicates that water baptism is used by Christ to achieve cleansing and sanctification of the bride–the church.

“And now, why do you delay?  Rise and be baptized, and by calling upon His name, wash away your sins”  (Acts 22:16).

I was saved and baptized at the age of 30.  Although I understood the meaning of the act–and in obedience to His Word–I somehow had lost the preeminence of JESUS over the years and I know my worship had suffered.

THE REAL JESUS IN OUR CHURCHES:

God almighty cannot be known, worshiped, served in any way, to any decree, except as He is known, worshiped and served by faith in and through the merits of Christ Jesus our Mediator.

Our Savior declares, “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”  Our faith, prayers, church services, and sacrifices of praise are acceptable to God only through the person and work of JESUS our Mediator (1 Peter 2:5).

In the Preaching of the Word Christ is Pre-eminent.

The most important aspect of public worship is reading and preaching of the Word of God.  But this fact must be understood–it is not enough to just preach the Bible.  We are “called to preach” the message of the Gospel!  And the message is JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED.

There is not a page in our Bible that doesn’t speak of Christ, not a page!  And there is no preaching of the Word of God unless Christ, who is the Gospel, is preached (1 Peter 1:25).

The Book of Acts–

The Book of Acts demonstrates that our Lord JESUS was the  singular subject of preaching in the earliest days of Christianity.  The words preach, preached, and preaching is used 37 times in the Book of Acts.  Every time they are used the subject preached is JESUS Christ the resurrection!  So if the Book of Acts is then our standard, it must be concluded, unless Christ has been preached…no preaching has been done.

That man who pretends to be a “preacher”  and doesn’t preach JESUS Him crucified, mocks the people who hear him.  Rather than serving their souls, he destroys them.

In all our songs of praise Christ must be Pre-eminent–

It’s insignificant–what musical instruments are used.

It’s insignificant–whether the tempo of the music is modern/contemporary or conservative.

But it is the utmost importance that the Word of and message contained in our songs of praise be both doctrinally accurate and Christ exalting.

Going Back to the Question I Started With–“Who is Jesus to you?”

Is He just a baby in the manger taken out of a boxed stored in the garage, then dusted off once a year?

Is He some “get out of jail free” card to you?

Is He some type of Fire Insurance that lets you live any way that you want to and still escape the fires of Hell?

Do you know the real JESUS or have you settled for a cheap imitation?

What the Real JESUS Demands in His Preeminence–

Preeminence in yours and my church! 

He doesn’t just SAVE you to keep you out of Hell!

He doesn’t just SAVE you to make you healthy, wealthy and prosperous!

1.  THE REAL JESUS SAVES YOU FOR A PURPOSE–To die to flesh and live for Him!

2.  HE SAVES YOU TO GROW IN HIS CHURCH–

3.  HE SAVES YOU TO REACH THE LOST– (even going to Hawaii if needed)!

That’s the REAL JESUS!  It is your decision if you haven’t already, to make Christ Pre-eminent in your life–in your church.  What then are you going to do?  I’ll be looking forward to you answers in the comment section of this blog.