Summary: Who or what is the church, what does church membership look like, and how is the church to be "in" the world but not "of" it.

Dakota Community Church

May 6, 2007

“In” but not “Of”

John 17:14-16

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world…”

That is a powerful and revealing statement from Jesus at the end of his earthly ministry. How many wish he would just take us out of the world? I wonder what your reason for that desire would be.

I think there was a time for me that the main reason I wanted to be taken out of this world was because I wanted an end to temptation. I wanted an escape from “sinners”. I didn’t want to have to listen to vulgar language at work; I was tired of Hollywood’s influence cropping up everywhere, I had had enough of political agendas I did not agree with being embraced by society around me. I heard about revivals of old when taverns were shut down because conviction fell on the people and nobody would touch a drop of alcohol and I thought that is what the world needs now. I believed that we should fight to get prayer back in the schools and Christian values back on the TV. I thought my number one goal as a Christian was to become pure, and the only way I could see of doing that was to distance myself from “worldliness” and that meant either I had to wall myself off from the sinners, or they had to be forced to live my standards.

I don’t think that brand of Christianity is anywhere near what Jesus had in mind for his church. Nowhere in the gospels do we see Jesus distancing himself from the ungodly or sinners. He is never concerned about his image in the eyes of the religious; to the contrary he spurns their judgements, and goes out of his way to associate with the unwashed masses.

Why? He goes to the sick and broken and sin ravaged, he risks his own reputation because his mission is not to secure a good reputation for himself, his mission is to bring healing to those in need and - that can not be done from a distance.

This morning I want to talk about this beautiful assembly, and how it is to relate to itself and to the world around it. Let’s begin by asking a crucial question:

1. Who or what is the Church?

The word church comes from the Greek word “ekklesia” meaning assembly or congregation and appears in the New Testament 114 times. The Christian Church then is the assembly of any and all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

There is all manner of debate on the internet about whether or not there is a universal church to which all believers belong.

They debate about whether or not we should get together as we do on Good Friday here in the St. Vital area.

They argue that there is no scriptural evidence for this belief, but they clearly can not have read the New Testament.

1 Peter 2:2-10

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:

"See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,

"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The church then - is the assembly of those people who have received mercy; those who believe in the precious cornerstone, those who trust in Him who is rejected by men but chosen by God!

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