Summary: Paul talks about a radiant, glorious church. Just what would it take for us to be a radiant, glorious church? What are the characteristics of a glorious church? (Powerpoints available - #178)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(PowerPoints used with message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request #178.)
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church & gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy & blameless" (Ephesians 5:25-27).
A. As much as we enjoy being together as a congregation, it is important for us to remember that churches are not made of wood & stone - these make the building only. Churches are made of men & women, boys & girls. Churches are made of human personalities & brains & hearts & hands.
The Bible says that Jesus is the cornerstone & the foundation, & that you & I are building blocks in the Church which He loves, and for which He died.
And Paul says in Ephesians, in the passage of Scripture which we have just read, that Jesus wants a radiant, glorious church, without stain or blemish.
B. That is what Jesus wants. But we are the church, & I wonder, just how glorious are we? A poet wrote these familiar words:
"Christ has no hands but our hands to do His work today;
He has no feet but our feet to lead men in His way;
He has no tongue but our tongue to tell men why He died;
He has no help but our help to bring them to His side.
We are the only Bible the careless world will read;
We are the sinners' gospel. We are the scoffer's creed."
ILL. Chuck Swindoll, in his book entitled, "Living Above the Level of Mediocrity," tells a story about a church back in the days before the Soviet Union broke up. The church met secretly in homes out of fear of the communist authorities.
They tried to be as inconspicuous as possible as they gathered on Sunday to worship the Lord, so they came at different times & casually walked into the house until they had all arrived. Then they would close & bolt the doors, pull the curtains, & quietly worship the Lord.
They had managed to obtain one copy of the Gospel of Luke for the whole church. They cut it up into little sections & passed out those pieces of the Gospel of Luke to individual members.
The members would take them home for the week & memorize that section of scripture, & then bring it back to exchange with another who had a different section of the Gospel, until finally everyone had an opportunity to read the entire gospel & to commit much of it to memory.
One Lord's day they gathered for worship as usual. With deep emotion they quietly sang their hymns of faith.
Between songs different ones would stand up & recite the passage of scripture they had learned that week from the Gospel of Luke. In this way they worshiped & praised God.
But right in the midst of their worship service, two KGB officers burst into the house, & at gunpoint commanded everyone to line up against the wall. Then they were told that they had a choice, either to renounce their faith in Christ & leave, or they could stay & suffer the consequences.
Several of the people quickly left. After a few moments, which seemed like an eternity to those still lined up against the wall, the officers said, "This is your last opportunity to leave. We repeat, ‘You may renounce your faith in Jesus Christ & leave, or stay & suffer the consequences."
Finally, two more left, almost hiding their faces in shame as they walked out. But the rest stood their ground, children standing beside their parents, trembling in fear, some even crying. Parents were trying to look down & comfort their children.
Then, after all had left who had elected to leave, the officers closed the doors once again, turned to the remaining Christians & said, "Now keep your hands up, but this time in praise to our Lord & Savior."
Then the two officers explained that some time earlier they had been given the assignment to infiltrate & to break up house churches & arrest Christians. But in the process, they had heard the gospel & had come to accept Jesus as their Lord & Savior, too.
"But," as they explained to these Christians who had refused to flee, "We have learned that you can't trust people who are not willing to die for their faith."
I've always wondered how I would react in such a situation. I pray that my commitment would be just as strong as theirs.
Now let me ask you, what is the level of our commitment? Are we really committed to the challenge & the commission that the Lord has given to us?