What Churches Are For
What Churches Are For
Some of the most beautiful and breathtaking buildings that exist in the world are church buildings. There is the cloud piercing spires of the Gothic Cathedrals of France, and the architectural wonders of Renaissance Italy, as well as the simple, whitewashed wooden chapels of the Smokies- each beautiful in its unique way. Some attract tourists from thousands of miles away. Some only provide a roof to shelter a village in prayer.
But as magnificent, or lovely, or useful as they may be, none of them is the building the Bible speaks of, when it talks about “God’s building.” God’s building isn’t made of marble, glass, stone, or wood. In fact, the materials, His building is made of, are really unique- muscles, skin, hearts, and wills. God’s building is made of people! “You are God’s building, “ says the Apostle Paul (1 Cor. 3:9). He lives and works, in and through, those who belong to Him. He’s “at home” with all who are His. Where His people gather to worship and praise Him, when they meet together to help, serve, and encourage each other, this is God’s house. It’s been going on for 2,000 years in Jesus’ name. It’s one of the oldest “buildings” there is!
If you’re going to “enter into this building,” made of people who belong to Jesus, and be a part of the church, you need to know what kind of building it is. What do people do in church? What kind of building is it?
I. The Church is like a temple, where you give gifts to God.
Psalm 96:8 “Bring an offering and come into His courts.”
Back in the days of the Old Testament, when those who loved God would come to worship Him in the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, they would always bring a “gift” to God. A present to say, “I love you Lord!” It seems strange to us, but they usually brought gifts that were “on the hoof”- goats, oxen, and bulls to be sacrificed on the altar. Exodus 34:20 says, “No one is to appear before Me empty-handed.” They knew that giving gifts to God was very important ... to Him!
Today often you hear it said, “I just don’t get much out of church, “ or “it just didn’t do much for me today.” Maybe this is because we’ve forgotten something. Worship is primarily a gift you bring to Him!
Church is not about entertainment (although worship is often fun). It’s not primarily about evangelism (although those who don’t know Jesus learn what it means to know Him, watching The Church at worship). Church service is about giving- giving to God worship!
What are the gifts God is waiting to unwrap from you? The people of the Old Testament brought animals. The wise men brought gold, frankincense and myrrh. What should we bring?
I.A. Worship is giving the gift of praise
Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name."
“Worship” is actually an old Anglo-Saxon word. It means, literally, “worth-ship,” or, “recognizing the worth of.” Many of the words used in the Bible for worship teach us that worship involves expressing to God our appreciation and gratitude for all He is and does. One word for worship- the Greek word, “proskunein”- combines the idea of bowing down with that of kissing! Worship is like kissing Jesus’ feet, like a woman once did to the surprise of those present (Luke 7:38)! Worship is telling Him we love Him.
The words of praise in the Old Testament, like “hallel” (from which “hallelujah” comes), “barak” (to bless), “yada” (to give thanks), and “ranan” (to sing), teach us that praise means coming together to let God know, with songs and voices, that we appreciate Him. Together (and in the Bible, praise is always something you do together!) we recognize His “worth-ship.” We come together to give the gift of praise!
I.B. Worship is giving the gift of ourselves
Romans 12:1 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God..."
Back in the Old Testament when a person brought the gift of an animal to God in worship, it was a way of saying, “Lord, this animal represents me. By laying this goat (or bull, or whatever) on the altar, I’m saying I give myself to You.”
In Romans 12, Paul takes this a step further. He tells us that, in the light of the amazing mercy that God has shown to us, we ought to “present ourselves as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” When the Old Testament priest would take the goat from the giver to present it on the blazing hot altar, between the priest’s knife and the altar’s fire, it didn’t stay on all fours for long! But we are to be a “living sacrifice.” Because God has done so much for us, Paul says you ought to give the rest of your life to Him!
He goes on to say in Romans 12:4-8, God has a special job for you to do. Some are encouragers. Some have the job of helping others. Some are the ones who teach. Some will be good at reaching out to others. Others will help organize things. God has something for you to do! And He also gives you the power to do it. When, by the power God gives, you do the jobs God gives you to do in building His kingdom, that’s worship!
I.C. Worship is giving financial support
Paul was in jail ... again! This time he was in Rome. And he was in need. He was under “house arrest,” which meant he couldn’t go anywhere, and yet he had to provide for many of the things he needed to live. Back in Philippi, the believers heard of this, and because they owed so much to him, and because they loved the Lord Jesus so much, Whom Paul had introduced to them, they sent him a gift of money. In his “thank you” note to them, he explained that this gift of money was “ a fragrant offering, and acceptable sacrifice, ‘pleasing to God’ (Philippians 4:18). In giving to meet the needs of God’s work, they were really giving to Him! Speaking of those same Philippian Christians, Paul says that their giving and generosity was an expression of “overflowing joy,” having given “themselves first to God” (2 Corinthians 8:3-5). If worship is “giving gifts to God,” as we’ve been saying, giving to support what the church is doing, is worship!
II. The Church is a Gym where you grow strong
Grunts, huffing, weights clanging, or sweat dripping, are not usually the thoughts associated with church! But one image that you find over and over in the New Testament is that of the church as a body ... Christ’s Body! The Church is the Body of Christ on earth. Before, He walked the hills of Judea, showing the Father’s love and doing His will. Now, He is risen and glorified in heaven, and He does the Father’s will through us now. In a sense, we’re His “hands and feet.”
That’s why this “body” needs to be strong. Its job is the most important one on earth. So, Paul says that “the whole body, joined together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work” (Ephesians 4:16). Christian bodybuilding!
What does it take to get strong?
II.A. You need the Bible to grow strong
You can’t grow if you don’t eat! Some eat too fast. Some eat too much junk. But the bottom line is, you can’t get by without food. Your bones need the calcium: your muscles need the protein and the carbos. Your brain even needs fat to function!
Food is what the Bible often calls itself. It says it is milk (Hebrews 5:12), meat (Hebrews 5:14), bread (Deuteronomy 8:3), seed (Mark 4:14), and even honey (Psalm 119:103). Peter says that just like newborn babies can hardly eat enough of that sweet milk only God could provide, so we ought to be aching with hunger for the Word of God (1 Peter 2:2). That’s why at our church, we serve a lot of meals from the Scriptures, We want there to be plenty of nourishment to go around.
We think the most balanced diet comes through “expository” teaching. This means taking a book of the Bible and systematically, sequentially, studying or teaching it, from beginning to end. We strive, in handling God’s Holy Word, to be accurate, clear, and practical.
The best way not to be bullied around by false teachers, who would lead you astray, is to be strong through knowing God’s Word. The best way to not be weak when temptation calls your name, is to be strong of heart through knowing the Scriptures.
Our goal is to teach God’s Word consistently, accurately, and thoughtfully, preparing simple, honest meals for the soul. We don’t want you walking around hungry!
II.B. You need fellowship to grow strong
You can’t grow by yourself. You need other Christians. We need one another. It’s as simple as that. Have you ever noticed how many things there are that you can’t do by yourself? You can’t sing in a choir by yourself; who’ll sing the other parts? You can’t play on a basketball team by yourself; even if you’re open under the hoop, who’ll pass it to you? You can’t seesaw, run a relay, have children, do surgery, or square dance, by yourself. And you can’t be a mature Christian by yourself.
Hebrews 10:24-25 is a key passage of Scripture for understanding why we need each other.
"Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near."
We need each other for encouragement. And you can’t do that by yourself! Even if you don’t need encouragement at the moment, you can’t give it without someone to give it to!
Have you ever noticed the “one another’s in the Bible?” Here’s a list of just some of the things Christians are to do for each other:
Romans 12:10 “be devoted to one another in love.”
Romans 12:16 “live in harmony with one another.”
Romans 14:13 “stop judging one another.”
Romans 15:7 “accept one another.”
Galatians 5:13 “serve one another.”
Galatians 6:2 “bear one another’s burdens.”
1 Thessalonians 4:18 “comfort one another.”
Hebrews 3:13 “encourage one another.”
1 Peter 1:22 “love one another.”
Whew! That’s enough to keep us all busy! And think of which of these assignments you could pull off by yourself. It’s like trying to clap with one hand!
II.C. The Body is strongest when it’s on its knees
Jesus did incredible, never-before-seen wonders. Eyes bulged and mouths dropped open at feats of power, accomplished often by only a word from our Lord. “Be still!” He said, and a blustery storm, in an instant, was still. “Be cleansed,” was His command, and a leper’s skin went from looking like the moon’s surface to being Oil-of-Olay smooth, in one second. He gave thanks for a few buns and dried sardines, and more than 5,000 people feasted! What a king! Almighty God in human form!
Yet once, after Jesus had been preaching and healing late into the previous night, His disciples awoke and found Jesus had gone off early, before sunrise, to pray to His Father. Think of that. Jesus spent time in prayer! He created the world. He was called “Immanuel”- “God with us.” Thomas called Him, “my Lord and my God!” And yet, while He was on earth, doing His Father’s will, Jesus had to pray! God the Son, praying to God the Father. It goes beyond our comprehension!
Yet we do learn one lesson from this. If Jesus had to pray when He was here on earth, how much more do we! The Father has work for us; He has a plan and mission for us to accomplish. If our Lord needed to pray to the Father in order to see His mission fulfilled (and He is Lord of Lords!), it just makes sense that we normal humans have to learn to pray for our needs, goals, and brothers and sisters in Christ as much and as well as we can!
"We still find it hard to believe today that Prayer is more important than action." -Jacques Ellul
III.The Church is a barn, where the seed is kept; later to be thrown.
“. . . with every head bowed, and every ah closed, as thousands ah still coming, let us have a word of prayah togethah . . .” For all who love Jesus, hearing Billy Graham say those words, and watching that scene on his televised crusades, always makes our hearts beat faster for joy! How God has used him, down through the years! Yet we would be making a serious mistake to think that he is the only one responsible for the evangelization of our generation!
In Matthew 13, Jesus told a couple of stories about a farmer, scattering seed in his fields. Jesus said that the hearts of people in the world, are like this farmer’s fields. Some are hard and trampled on; some are weedy; some are rich and fertile. And He tells how the Word of God is like seed, sown in the field. It goes out to people; it reaches the heart, and sometimes it sprouts and grows. But in a second story, with the same farmer-seed-field motif, He gives a new meaning. In this story, the field is the world of people, with their hearts and choices, like before. But He says that, this time, the seed is the sons of the kingdom ... you and me!
That explains a couple of things. Like a seed, you and I who have accepted Christ, look normal on the outside, but inside, we have life! Not only this, but like seed that’s thrown out all over the fields, between the rows and in the furrows, we’ll bring growth and life to the world, when we’re scattered out in it! We thank God for Billy Graham and how God has used him, but the majority of people who came to faith in Christ, don’t find Him at a crusade. Studies show that most people who become Christians in our society, don’t make this most important of decisions because of the appeal at crusades, or because of the influence of evangelistic TV, or through having read booklets. The overwhelming majority of people, who come to believe in Jesus, do so because of the impact of a friend, neighbor, or family member! They come when they see the love and life of God in someone they know ... in someone who cares!
Evangelism (sharing and explaining of the message of new life in Christ) doesn’t happen primarily in the church. This is why you don’t hear Gospel appeals every week. Evangelism happens when the seed (you and I) is scattered out into the fields (the lives you touch each day). All around us are hurting people, broken people, empty people. When you’re thrown out there among them, and the life inside of you is bursting through your “shell,” you’re right where God wants you...you’re where He’s “tossed” you!