Summary: An expository sermon designed to show the true nature and character of the Church as Jesus designed it.
THE NATURE OF THE CHURCH
INTRODUCTION: One Sunday morning a stranger wandered into a small country church in the middle of the sermon. The man was unkempt and dirty, and clearly smelled of alcohol. The usher tried his best to seat him off in a far corner but instead the man walked to the very first pew and sat directly in front of the preacher. Then to the congregation’s horror the man began to shout, "Amen. That’s right! Preach it brother." The minister cut his eyes at the man, but that didn’t work. The stranger just continued, "Praise Jesus, Hallelujah!" Finally the usher went to the man and whispered in his ear, "Sir, we don’t act like this in church." "But I’ve just got religion," said the stranger. "Yes sir," said the usher, "but you didn’t get it from here."...
As funny as that story is, unfortunately it is all too common in churches all over this country. In far too many places there is a drought of spiritualuality and a desperate need for God’s people to rediscover the foundation of the Church. We all know that practices and characteristics differ from church to church. Even the most conservative Christian Churches have their differences in methodology and even ideology. But the most disturbing difference is found when the Church deviates from it’s identity. READ TEXT There are two powerful lessons in these few short words of Jesus, two that we who profess to be His people so desperately need to relearn and powerfully embrace.
I. IT IS THE LORD’S CHURCH
A. A minister friend of mine named Jerry Taylor tells a story about taking his grandfather riding one day in his hometown of Brownsville, TN. He said that as they were taking their leisurely cruise, they came upon a church building with a sign out front that read "Church of Christ." He said, "You know how your heart swells when you see that name? There’s just something about seeing that name on a sign, some sort of connection." So he said to his grandpaw, "Look there’s a Church of Christ." To which grandpaw replied, "Yes it is!" A little later he came across another church building with a sign out front that read Church of Christ, and so he said, "Hey grandpaw, there is another Church of Christ." Grandpaw replied, "Yes is it!" A few more miles down the road, he spotted a third church building, but the sign was a little different. It read, "Church of Jesus Christ." He decided to test grandpaw and said, "Grandpaw, there’s another Church of Christ." Grandpaw squinted his eyes and said, "No it’s not! It’s got Jesus in it."
B. Folks, there is something fundamentally wrong with that statement. The church is the Lord’s Church. It belongs to Him. He bought and paid for it with His life and His blood. It is not my church, it is not your church, it is not the apostle’s church, it is Jesus’ Church. And you know what, we need to put Jesus back in His church!
1. For too long we have used the Lord’s statement from Matthew 16:18, "I will build my church," as the basis to argue about the name of the Church and consequently the name painted on the sign out front. Folks, there are a dozen or so names in Scripture by which the New Testament Church is identified. And every one of them would do just fine.
2. We need to realize that this was not the point Jesus was making here. There is something far more powerful in this statement. Jesus wis not telling us what title our movement should have, nor that we should argue over such things. What He is doing is proclaiming for all the world to hear that the only Church that has any validity is the one in which He is in. We need to get Jesus back in His church.
3. You know, one of the greatest movements over the past 150 years was the What Would Jesus Do phase we went through 5 or 6 years ago. You remember what that was all about – asking the question, What Would Jesus Do before we did anything. The ideology was fantastic! What better description of Christian life is there than to live like Jesus? The marketing was great! Remember the WWJD bracelets, tee-shirts, necklaces, and the like. But what happened to this movement?
4. Like the Prayer of Jabez, it was little more than a fad. As a result we let the most promising spark of spiritual renewal fizzle just when we were on the verge of letting Jesus take back His people and His church. We heard all the sermons and bible class lessons we wanted to hear on the subject, and we took our interests and our dollars elsewhere.