Bible Church International
Defending the Church
Boldly Defending the Faith: (Part II)
DEFENDING THE CHURCH
Acts 2:41-47 (NIV)
41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.
45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.
46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Do Christians need to be a part of a church today? Can one be a good Christian without committing himself or herself to a local church? It is quite unfortunate to realize that, as we examine the kind of Christianity we know today, the church seems to have lost its true value in the minds of many professing Christians. According to the Barna Research Group, 83 percent of the people in America are self-described Christians. But with this percentage, here are some interesting facts:
- 3 out of 5 adults don't attend church.
- 30 percent have distanced themselves from being protestant; 17 percent from being Catholic.
- Even without church, 18 percent say they made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important to them today.
- Even without church, 15 percent say their religious faith is very important in their life.
- Even without church, 35 percent say the Bible is totally accurate.
These statistics are really disturbing, especially when you highlight the last bullet. It is hard for me to reconcile how people can believe the Bible as God’s Word and that its contents are accurate, and then not recognize how the Bible puts so much emphasis on being a part of the church.
How can these people miss it? Looking at the passage we read earlier, from the time the church was established in Acts 2, people who embraced the message about Jesus Christ were baptized and were added into the church of Jerusalem. The pattern has always been – people who believed were baptized and they were built up in the church (vs. 41-42). In addition to this, it is hard to ignore the fact that the majority of the books in the New Testament were written to specific local churches, believers who were actively participating in the church. The reality is that in the New Testament, if you are a Christian, then you should belong to a church. If I don’t belong to a church, one would have to ask if I am truly Christian.
Unfortunately, many have found excuses for not joining a church or not wholeheartedly committing themselves to a local congregation. Allow me to enumerate some of the major excuses people use today.
- Church is full of hypocrites
There are people who have distanced themselves from the church because they have seen Christians live inconsistent lives. They say that Christians do not really live differently from the rest of the world. Often, church scandals contribute to their perception.
- Church has hurt them
Some have left the church because of painful experiences and have decided that they just don’t want to be hurt again.
- No church has met their standard
There are those who have not settled in a church because they have some ideals of what a church should be, and none of the churches they have seen so far have met their standard. Wherever they go, they find something that is not right in the church.
- They have no time
There are also those who have fallen into the trap of looking at Sunday as their own day – a day of work, a day to have more sleep, a day for their chores, a day of rest and leisure, or a day for their children’s sporting event.
There may be other reasons why people are not committing themselves to a church. But based on some studies, these are the most common excuses. So I would like to spend some time this morning answering the question – Why do Christians need the church? On the outset, let’s be totally clear that joining a church is not necessary for anyone’s salvation. If we are looking to the church or our church attendance to provide us with the entrance ticket to go to heaven, we should know that this idea is not taught in the Bible. This can often be traced in man’s false perception that salvation comes from our religion. When we talk about religion, we think of the rituals or the acts of service we do for God, thinking these are the bases for our acceptance in heaven. But the Bible is very clear in telling us that it is not religion but our relationship with Jesus Christ that will save us.
John 14:6 (NIV)
6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Titus 3:5-6 (NIV)
5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,
6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,
Both Scriptures consistently declare that salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ, not on the basis of our righteous acts, which includes joining a church. This is a precious truth. However, I also recognize that this same truth has been used by the devil to undervalue the church in the lives of believers. Some have the tendency to argue, “Well, I’m already saved, so there no more need for the church.” That’s absolutely wrong. Even if the church is not the means for salvation, Christ has built the church for the highest good of the believers. Today we will go through three reasons why we should not neglect the church.
I IT PRIORITIZES THE LORD:
In order for us to understand this point, we need to first realize the importance of the Sabbath for God’s people in the Old Testament. We are all familiar with the 10 Commandments wherein we find the law concerning Sabbath keeping.
Exodus 20:8-11 (NIV)
8 "Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work,
10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates.
11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
Why do you think did God give this law in the Old Testament? Without a doubt, God gave this law so Hiss people would spend regular time where they can develop their relationship with Him. Sabbath was not only so they can rest, it was primarily spent to worship God, acknowledge Him in their lives, and develop their love for Him. No wonder when Jesus summarized the first part of the commandments, He said that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and strength (Mark 12:30). In short, in the mind of Jesus, when people kept the Sabbath, that’s one way they were showing God that they love Him.
Then this Sabbath shifted to the Lord’s Day in the New Testament. Since Jesus resurrected on the first day of the week, there is evidence to prove that God chose to ordain the first day as the new day of worship for the church.
- Jesus met the disciples after His resurrection and commissioned them to preach on the first day (John 20:19-21).
- The church was born on the first day (Acts 2:1 – “the day of Pentecost” is the first day – Lev. 23:16).
- The church regularly met on the first day (Acts 20:7).
At the time when John wrote the book of Revelation around 95 A.D., Bible scholars agree in saying that Christians were referring to the first day as the Lord Day.
Revelation 1:10 (NIV)
10 On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,
Now here’s the question, since the early believers were mostly Jews, do you think they would have treated the Lord’s Day lesser than how they were treating the Sabbath Day? I don’t believe so. I’m sure they treated it as sacred because it was a day they worshipped God and had the opportunity to develop their love for Him. I hope all of us understand this truth. Worshipping the Lord on the first day is ordained by God. God never meant for it to be optional. God chose one day of the week to be set aside for Him. We should do our best to dedicate that to Him and acknowledge Him as our priority. Jesus Himself gave a precious promise to everyone who makes Him the number priority.
Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
It is certainly to our advantage if we commit ourselves to doing what we know pleases the Lord.
II IT PROCLAIMS CHRIST TO THE WORLD:
When you think of the church in the New Testament, the church is not referred to as a place one must go to. It refers to the believers congregating together to represent Jesus Christ in the world. Unlike the Old Testament, where the presence of God was represented by the temple within the community, today that presence is embodied by the church.
Acts 17:24 (NIV)
24 "The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
1 Corinthians 3:16-17 (NIV)
16 Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?
17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.
There is a significant shift of perception in the New Testament. From the physical temple in Jerusalem, now the believers have become the dwelling place of God. Now the church, which consists of believers, is God’s dwelling that represents Jesus in the world.
For this reason, you have this serious warning in verse 17 of 1 Corinthians 3. This chapter was written within the context of immature believers who have been causing divisions in the church of Corinth. To them, God said - If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. You see, when the world sees the church in so much conflict, believers back-biting each other and destroying one another, would one really see Jesus Christ through her? Absolutely not! No wonder people do their best to avoid the church because of all the inconsistencies of God’s people.
Let’s face the fact that the only way Christ would be proclaimed to the world is through the church. He has chosen no other means but through us. So instead of moving away from the church, you and I should be active contributors in making the church effective in proclaiming Jesus Christ. I believe one attitude that is hurting the church today is the consumer mentality of many believers. It seems that believers in the church are more concerned with what the church can do for them, instead of thinking of what they can do for the church. I don’t think the church would be any better if everybody wanted to be on the receiving end all the time. Here is a good question we can ask ourselves, “Is your church better because you became a part of it?” If not, perhaps you need to find ways to help out and make it better. Stop complaining and start helping! The truth is that, knowing our church represents Christ to the world, it deserves our best efforts and sacrifices. Pastor Erwin McManus once said,
“The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world.”
III IT PROMOTES MUTUAL ACCOUNTABILITY:
Lastly, the church is the place where we can grow and become productive believers. The apostle Paul spoke about this truth in Ephesians 4: 11-12.
11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,
12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.
When you examine the church, you would find a group of believers who have been given different spiritual gifts and talents by the Lord. All of these special abilities were given so we can minister to one another so that, as a result, all the believers would be strong and capable of serving the Lord effectively. Let’s not miss one important description of the church found in verse 12 – the church as the body of Christ. The church is compared to a physical body because it is composed of many parts – eyes, nose, ears, hands, feet, etc. The point is that every part is needed, having a specific function. When everyone is functioning properly, the body becomes more productive.
Do you know why churches often struggle to become productive? There are parts which are missing or are not properly functioning. If we want to experience greater productivity in our lives, we need the ministry of others. Of course, others can also benefit from our ministry. This is what I call mutual accountability. This is one of the important reasons why we need the church in our lives.
This truth of needing each other is also perfectly illustrated in Hebrews 10:24-25.
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The context of this passage was the discouragement of some Jewish Christians because of the growing persecutions against them. In their discouragement, they felt that they would be better off if they would just forsake the church. The author of Hebrews reminded them that their response towards their challenges were not correct. They should instead commit themselves to encouraging one another, especially as they see the Day approaching. By the way, That Day approaching is no other than the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The point is that as the church moves closer to the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, it will be tougher to take a stand for Jesus Christ. So there is a need for greater encouragement in order for Christians to remain faithful and victorious.
Folks, there’s no doubt that the Devil is working hard to weaken and destroy many believers around us. Most of the time, the primary targets are those who isolate themselves from other believers. The more isolated you are, the easier it is for you to be overwhelmed and discouraged by the pressures of life. Do your best to find people in the church who can encourage you. For those who are strong and thriving, be sensitive of other believers whom you can encourage in the Lord. The church is at her best when Christians are mutually responsible to one another.
As we close this message, I hope and pray that none of us will be deceived to think that we don’t need the church. I would like to use one more verse.
Acts 20:28 (NIV)
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
I underlined the part that I don’t want us to miss. The church is so precious to Jesus Christ that He did not hesitate to offer His life for her. If we are true followers of Jesus Christ, we should love the church. We cannot say we love Christ and be anti-church or neglect His church. When we follow the lead of Christ in relation to the church, we will realize that we receive the highest benefits in loving her.
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