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Summary: Having grown up in "The Restoration Movement", our emphasis has been restoring today’s chuch in the likeness of the early church. We should be imitating Christ, not the church.

RESTORING THE CHURCH INTO THE LIKENESS OF CHRIST!

A. Modern Day Parable:

ILLUSTRATION:

Around the turn of the last century, there was a man who lived alone with his 5 year-old son. The boy’s mother died shortly after giving birth. The boy was greatly ADMIRED by his father. He was especially admired for his INNOCENT CHARACTER--his HONESTY, LOYALTY, and GENUINESS—traits that his mother exemplified.

One day while waiting on some customers who came to shop at his GENERAL STORE, the man noticed two teen-age boys who shop-lifted two POCKETKNIVES setting on a display case. He ran after them, but the boys gave him the slip. That evening while walking home from work, he noticed other boys engaging in some very MISCHIEVOUS DEEDS. This annoyed him terribly. He thought, “Why are these boys so CRUEL? Where has their INNOCENCE gone?” Then it dawned on him that his own son will not always maintain his CHILD-LIKE INNOCENCE either.

All through dinner he sat watching his son—a very POLITE, WELL-MANNERED, LOVING child. The father was bothered by the actions of the gang of boys he saw earlier in the day. He wanted so much for his own son to be as PURE and INNOCENT as he now is, but knew deep down that will not always be. He wondered how he could remember his son as an INNOCENT little boy.

The father decided to commission an ARTIST to come live with him and his son so he could OBSERVE the boy and then CAPTURE his INNOCENCE on canvas. Some weeks later the artist finished the PAINTING. As he unveiled the PAINTING, the father’s face gleamed with delight. “That’s it!” the father said. “That’s how I want to remember my son.” The PAINTING depicted the boy as an ANGEL with wings and a halo ROMPING in a beautiful meadow.

The father would sit for hours GAZING at the PAINTING. Some of the towns-people said that he even had CONVERSATIONS with it. Meanwhile, the boy was being NEGLECTED by his father. They didn’t have the father and son talks like they once enjoyed. The FISHING TRIPS stopped. The father quit listening to his son’s PRAYERS at bedtime. If not for the MEALS they had together, the boy would have very little CONTACT with his father. As the boy grew OLDER, the NEGLECT worsened. The father became more and more OBSESSED with the PAINTING. It seemed that his LOVE shifted from the SON to the PAINTING. The PAINTING became his life.

On his son’s 10th birthday, there was a KNOCK at the door. The father invited the STRANGER in, and then called his son. Elated that his father wanted to see him, the boy came running down stairs. Pointing to his son, the father said to the STRANGER, “There he is. Go ahead and take him.” The STRANGER gently took the boy by the arm and began leading him outside where a horse and buggy awaited. “Father,” the boy said out of desperation, “where is he taking me? Are you coming father? Where am I going?” The father stood SILENT. The man said to the boy, “Son, you are going to live with me and some other boys on a WORK FARM. You’ll like the place once you get used to it.” The boy cried, “Father, please don’t let him take me. Please, father, please . . .!” The father turned around, walked into the house, sat down before the PAINTING and said, “Son, it’s just you and me, now!”

COMMENT:

You’re probably thinking, “Why would anyone LOVE and ADMIRE a painting, a picture, a sculpture, a model, a REPLICA of someone more than the actual person?” We can’t imagine a father loving the painting of his son more than the son himself. We wouldn’t dream of replacing anyone that we dearly love with a PHOTO or any other likeness of that person. Yet, I’m afraid that we may be GUILTY of doing that very thing to Jesus, in an UNINTENTIONAL way.

B. Many have been guilty of putting a greater

IMPORTANCE on the CHURCH than on Jesus!

1. In times past when conducting one-on-one Bible studies, my EMPHASIS was on the church not Jesus.

a. I CONVERTED people to the CHURCH, not Christ.

ILLUSTRATION:

I told them a lot about the church--how we WORSHIPPED, what we didn’t BELIEVE, why we have the name “Church of Christ,” etc. And after our STUDY, they knew how I felt about the CHURCH, but they knew very little how I felt about Jesus.

b. Is the gospel “GOOD NEWS” about the CHURCH, or it is “GOOD NEWS” about Jesus?

2. Throughout the New Testament the EMPHASIS is always on Christ, not the church.

a. When Philip was asked to join the Ethiopian Eunuch to help him understand the passage he was reading from Isaiah, the text states that “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from the Scripture he PREACHED Jesus to him”- Acts 8:35. (He didn’t preach the church, he preached Jesus.)

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