BE THE CHURCH! Romans 12:3-13Introduction: When I ask you what is a Church, you may answer in one or two ways: A church is a building where Christians go to worship. Or a group of committed believers of Christ, figuring out how best to live out their faith. When people come to church, they come with preconceived ideas of what a church should be and with high expectations of what a church should do for them individually, or for their family. When those expectations are not met people become disgruntled and eventually leave to shop for another church.
Unfortunately, we have many church shoppers and hoppers these days, who do not have full understanding of what church really is or perhaps they are looking for a perfect Church. Let me assure you, there are no perfect churches, because there are no perfect people. Let me read a poem, I found it interesting. “What makes a good church?
If all the lazy folks get up
If all the sleepy folks wake up
If all the discouraged folks cheer up
If all the gossiping folks shut up
If all the dishonest folks fess up
If all the estranged folks makeup
If all the depressed folks look up
If all the disgusted folks sweeten up
If all the lukewarm folks fire up
If all the Sanctified folks show up
If all the leading folks live up
If all the vowing folks pay up
And if all the grumbling folks pray up.” (Unknown)
On a sunny morning, William's mother came into her son's room and said, "William, it's Sunday. Time to get up! Time to get up and go to church! Get up! "From under the covers came mumbles, "I don't want to go!" "What do you mean?" she said. "That's silly! Now get up and get dressed and go to church!" "No!" he shot back. "I'll give you two reasons.
I don't like them and they don't like me!" "Nonsense," she told him. "I'll give YOU two reasons to go. First, you are 42 years old, and second, you are the PASTOR!" (Unknown). In this time and age, who needs church anyway? At times you may wonder why even bother going to Church? For the past several weeks we have been studying some important themes from the book of Romans. Today we look at what it means to “Be the Church.” (Romans 12:3-13)
In the New Testament, church is compared to a building, a flock, a bride, a treasured possession, branches of a vine and a temple. The Apostle Paul while writing to the Roman believers gives a powerful analogy of the human body to explain what church is. Romans 12: 4-5, “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
I THE BODY OF CHRIST (Vs 3-5)
The word “Church” is so often used out of context. The word "church" as rendered in the New Testament comes from the Greek term ekklesia which is formed from two Greek words meaning "an assembly" and "to call out" or "called out ones." Let me establish who really is in charge of the Church. “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” (Ephesians 1:22-23) In summary, the New Testament church is a body of believers who have been called out from the world by God to live as his people under the authority of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23).
At Hope Church, we believe Christ is the head of our church and we all are members of his body with designated responsibilities and authority. Before we delve deep, let’s see the premises upon which Paul built his argument. It is GRACE, which appears 18 times in Romans.
What is grace? In the New Testament grace means God’s love in action towards men who did not deserve his love. It is the unmerited favor. Only by the grace of God and by our faith in Christ Jesus are we saved. Therefore, we have nothing to boast. When we understand the concept of grace, we will seek God’s grace and extend his grace to others. In other words, we become “graceful people.” When we are filled with grace, we are realistic about our abilities. We become less judgmental of other’s mistakes and failures. We accept people as they are.
Let’s look for a moment how the human body works. The human body is one of the most complex organizations that exists. It is intricately and beautifully created by God. The American Association of Anatomists lists more than 7,500 named, human body parts in Latin, as of November 2014. The list of human body parts includes dozens of organs, more than 200 bones, hundreds of muscles, nerves, blood vessels and microscopic structures.”
In a perfectly healthy person all these parts are working together for the common good of the whole body. Just imagine what happens if these parts do not cooperate with each other, and stop functioning the way they are supposed to function, worst of all if they start working against one another and fight against each other? Could that body survive and thrive? Absolutely Not!
The Apostle Paul brings this parallel truth to the body of Christ, almost in a warning way. Understanding this concept of Church as the body of Christ can radically change the way we look at ourselves, others and in general at the Church. As certain as a physical body cannot function efficiently without the cooperation of the other parts, so does a local body of Christ. Only with the cooperation of its members, each doing their job selflessly, sacrificially and tirelessly, a local church will survive and thrive.
Sadly, speaking during my three decades of ministry, due to the lack of cooperation of its members many churches have closed their doors. When you see that happening it is painful, not only that, it gives a bad taste to non-Christians. I hope and wish that would not happen to Hope Church. How could we prevent that from happening? It calls for clarity, intentionality, humility and unity to be the Church that God wants us to be primarily in Sharon and beyond.
II. BE THE CHURCH (6-13)What does it take to be the Church, in a highly individualistic, self-sufficient, self-reliant and do it yourself culture? To be the church we need to realize that we cannot do it ourselves and we need others to help us along the way. For example, if the United States army wants to send a solider to fight in a battle abroad, would they send one soldier alone with the best available weaponry in the world? Let’s suppose if they did, could that solider survive alone in the battle field? The answer is an emphatic NO!
Then how in the world could you and I expect to fight spiritual battles alone all by ourselves? That was what Paul so passionately communicating to the Roman believers. They were a part of the larger body of Christ and they could not do it by themselves, and but were in need of the other members for their own survival. In order to make them understand he gives them two principles, to be the Church: Recognition, and Release.
A. We need to recognize, in Christ we are many, yet we belong to each other.
This recognition is very critical for the survival of any local church. When we come together on a Sunday worship service we need to recognize that we are not just a few but are many, that makes room for others. I encourage you all to join us, there is place for you here at Hope church, you belong here, we need you and we cannot do without you. Those of us who are already serving need to recognize that we are primarily serving Christ and one another.
We also need to recognize that each of us are uniquely gifted by God, and those gifts are for serving others. Here in this passage Paul mentions eight gifts. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is teaching, let him teach, if it is encouraging, let him encourage, if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously, if it is leadership let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6-8). We will do an elaborate study on gifts another time, but for now we need to recognize God gave each of us a special gift.
B. We need to release ourselves in our gifts to serve the body of Christ.
Any ministry gift is a gift and not a privilege. The Holy Spirit determines who to give those gifts, therefore we have nothing to boast, except to humbly receive them by faith. The Apostle Peter, writing to the persecuted church encourages them to exercise their unique gifts. “The end of all things is near. Therefore, be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” 1 Peter 4:7-10
The apostle Paul shows how we can use our gifts and be the Church: Vs 9-13 “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.”
The message of both Paul and Peter is one and the same. Each of us are given a special gift, not for ourselves but for the purpose of serving others. We should release ourselves in our gifting. When I look around in our Church this morning, I see some of these ministries already happening. We are blessed to have: God fearing leadership team.
Capable administrators, and trustees. Gifted and anointed worship team and musicians. Caring and loving people, those who are gifted in hospitality. Technically creative people. People who are burdened for prayer and missions. We have mercy oriented people who are ready to meet the practical needs of people. If you want use your gift to serve God and one another, there is place for you at Hope Church. Please come and talk to one of the leadership. We will do our best to see you released in your gifting. God needs you and Hope Church needs you.
I envision the Hope Church members in the days to come will move out into the community, connecting and being the salt and the light in tangible ways. Through our love for God and for one another many will be brought into the Kingdom of God. Let’s recognize that Christ is the head of our Church and we all are the members in the body of Christ. We need to learn to release the potential that is within us and to serve Christ and one another. Jesus is coming back soon and we have no time to waste, we have some work to do, let’s rise up and “BE THE CHURCH. Amen