Sermon Manuscript . . .
Seeing More of Christ in the Church
More than your personal prayer, more than your personal study of the Word, more than your quiet time, ministry or voices in praise–you are to see more of Christ in the local church than anywhere else. Sadly, that is not always the case. Churches lose their way, get off focus, miss God’s design, fall short of God’s Word, and lose Christ in their midst.
Jesus even warned those who claim to be believers in Matthew 7:22 and 23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
Jesus encouraged the church at Ephesus for their labor, hatred of evil, and sound doctrine–but warned the entire church they had lost their first love in Revelation 2. Christ was no longer their greatest affection, greatest passion, best goal and sole focus. The Church has drifted from the person to programs, from a body to a business, from a love to a license, from hot intimacy to detached externalism.
This AM, in the midst of a brief challenge series which starts before our study of Malachi, then 2 Peter–challenge #2, I want you to see God’s design for His bride. I want you to embrace His purpose for the Church is to show off Christ, in order for you to come to Christ and become like Christ.
Jesus Christ loves His bride. You know how I’d react if you were to criticize my bride, or dis her, or ignore her–yet how many of you treat Christ’s bride, the Church, in that manner? You say, “I love Jesus,” but you’re distant, indifferent and uncommitted to His bride. For you, it’s all about Christ–but somehow, for you, church is optional. If you love the groom, you love His bride. If you love Christ, you love His Church.
His design for the Church is perfect, even though it’s made up of people who are not. The local church is the plan of God for this age. There is no other plan–no other option. The Holy Spirit moves missionaries to start and establish local churches so people in that region will come to Christ and become like Christ. They do that by proclaiming the Gospel of Christ, preaching the Word of Christ and by demonstrating Christ.
The great passion of FBC individually and corporately is to proclaim the message of Christ, teach the truth of Christ, and display Christ in how we function. But for that to occur, the church must function the way Christ designed more and more. That means you must pursue what Christ has commanded and designed for His Church–why? You don’t attend church–you are the Church. You don’t go to church–be the Church.
Without question, FBC has not arrived. We are not the ideal church, and certainly not the church which displays Christ the way we should. But we want to more and more. And today, I am praying for God’s Word to encourage you, cut you and impact you to make movement toward becoming the church where we will see more of Christ in our midst.
And I’m praying God would convict you about how you can facilitate more of Christ in our midst by you grading yourself as you study key passages about His Church today. And evaluate yourself against many New Testament passages describing the Church.
Now this is scary, because most of you have come from other churches and those experiences were not all positive. Some of you have baggage, hurts, distortions, expectations, ideas, or preconceived errant understandings. My goal this morning is not to tell you FBC is better than what you think, but to affirm God’s Word is better than your thoughts, your ideas, your baggage and all your previous experiences. FBC needs to pursue God’s Word, just as you need to pursue obedience to God’s Word.
So grade yourself in each category with five familiar choices–A, B, C, D, or F. Don’t manipulate or cheat in your grading–don’t give yourself all C’s. Why? You’re only cheating yourself. The only way our church will see more of Christ in our midst will be if you, as the individual members of the church, see more of Christ in your life and our life together.
If each of you seek to dependently obey even in just one area God desires for His Church, then you will be used to cause our church to see more of Christ and grow. Isn’t that what Paul said in Ephesians 4:16, “From whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
When each individual part fulfills its responsibility, it causes the growth of genuine love in our midst–we see more of Christ. Are you ready? Be ready to grade yourself, seeing Christ through a . . .
1 UNANIMOUS eldership and UNITED membership
There are false forms of unity that exist. A seething under the surface between people who are forced to get along. The toleration of an unfair boss, the swallowing of tension toward an uncooperative neighbor, the false peace between a husband and wife, children who can’t wait to leave their homes. And churches which put up with each other, as long as no one interferes in their ministry or relationship.
But when there is true unity, people who are vastly different get along supernaturally. When there is a true unity, people of difference race, culture, preferences, food tastes, car choices, and vastly different incomes will function as one. Our triune God is a unity–the different persons of the godhead function as one. And they alone can produce supernatural unity in the midst of a church. And when God does, you see Christ in our midst. Supernatural unity glorifies God and shows Christ off.
When people get along, it is the exception, not the rule. When a church gets along, it is the exception, not the rule. Jesus prayed in John 17:22, “The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one.” You show more of Christ when we are one with each other.
Philippians 2:2 says, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Paul goes on to describe the emptying of Christ in order to demonstrate the oneness and unity of God. So that is why you will have commands like Ephesians 4:3, “Being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Word very hard to function as one.
Every ministry, every gathering, every member, every leader work hard to function in unity. Like Acts 20, 1 Peter 5, and Titus 1 teach, elders are always a team of gifted men who serve Christ uniquely, but seek the headship of Christ as a team, functioning in total unanimity. In that way, they can show off Christ.
Like the Early Church in Acts, members are to function with one heart and one mind together in common doctrine and common direction, in order for Christ to be seen in their relationships as a church. And you should never do anything to undermine true unity in the church, like criticism, gossip, or focusing on weaknesses, differences or preferences.
Let love cover unintentional, non-defiant sins–overlook them, meaning don’t be offended. Never be the victim, never be indifferent and never, worst of all, proudly think you’re above it all. And make certain you never talk to anyone else, but directly and exclusively to the one who sinned against you when you can’t overlook their sin against you. You diligently preserve the unity of the Spirit–to see Christ, you must get along.
And just like there’s no unity in marriage if you’re not intimately engaged with your spouse, serving your spouse, sacrificing for your spouse, praying for your spouse, communicating with your spouse–there is also no unity in the church between members if you are not engaged in serving, giving, fellowshipping and loving your brothers and sisters. A first step for you might be to immediately join a ministry or a community group. Grade yourself–are you one who preserves unity–A, B, C, D, or F?
2 Seeing Christ through MINISTERING your giftedness
First Corinthians 12:1 to 7 describes giftedness as God-given abilities for service within the body of Christ. Romans 12 says some of you are gifted with a combination of serving, teaching, exhorting, giving, leading or mercy. First Peter 4:10 to 11 tells us there are serving gifts and speaking gifts–all special abilities to put Christ on display.
Read 1 Peter 4:10 to 11, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. 11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Christ is seen, glorified, as you employ your gift in service.
The Bible says you received your spiritual gift the moment you were saved. Your gift was given to you by the Holy Spirit in order for you to show off Christ in a special way. God’s will is for every believer to grow to be like Christ–and the Holy Spirit in you wants to make you like Christ. One of the ways the Spirit makes you like Christ is for you to be responsible to serve in the church body in the way the Spirit gifted you. Not only will you become more like Christ in the way you are gifted, but you will impact others to become like Christ in the way you are gifted.
I love fireworks shows. I’ve seen small shows that fill 20% of the sky–they get occasional wows and maybe a few ahhs. But I have seen huge, spectacular shows which seem to fill 80% of the sky and those shows blow you away. There are cheers, wonder, awe, tears and celebration. Spiritual gifts are fireworks–most churches are small shows. But when a church is filled with those who exercise their gifts in ministry to one another–that’s when Christ’s character is celebrated with wonder and awe.
You discover your spiritual gift by serving, watching for fruit and listening to God’s people. For some of you, you need to take off your bib and put on your apron. Join a ministry. But right now, grade yourself. Are you ministering your giftedness–A, B, C, D, or F?
3 See Christ in the ONE ANOTHER’S toward each other in community
We see Christ not only in our gifted service to each other, but also in our relationship to each other expressed in the New Testament commands to be interconnected and interrelated. There are around 40 one another commands directed at each of you in the local church. Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other.” Ephesians 5:21, “Be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Philippians 2:3, “Regard one another as more important than yourselves.” First Thessalonians 5:13, “Live in peace with one another.” Hebrews 3:13, “Encourage one another day after day.”
The people of this world don’t normally treat each other this way–but this is how the Lord expects us to treat one another, because this is how the Lord treats others. He is kind, abounding in love, peaceable, encouraging and treats others as more important than Himself. So when we treat each other in this manner, He is seen–He is glorified.
When the lost come in our midst, they too should see us behave this way to each other. And they should taste, in this treatment toward themselves–so that they will see Christ. Like 1 Thessalonians 3:12 exhorts us, “Increase and abound in love for one another, and…for all people.” The saved and the lost should see Christ in how we treat one another.
I am certain you have been frustrated in your spiritual life. I know of a father who was trying to crank out a rushed time in the Word before going to work. Tiring of his lack of consistency in his Christian walk, he cried out one simple prayer, “God, please make me more like Jesus.” With that, he shut his Bible, ran out the door and rushed down to his train station.
Pressing his way through the crowd at a slow run, the late man ran right into a third grader whose books and lunch exploded on impact. After squeezing out a, “Sorry, son,” he continued to run towards his train. And then he remembered what he had prayed. So he stopped, waved goodbye to his train, turned around with a forced smile and started to help the startled little boy. Stooping down, he picked up all the third grader’s books and lunch, as everyone else rushed by in all directions.
After that brief moment of assistance, the man stood up, patted the little boy on the head, and was about to turn and walk away when the gaping, wide-eyed third grader took a step toward him and said to the man, “Hey mister, are you Jesus?” We show off Christ when we are kind, encouraging, and treat others as more important than ourselves. Make that a goal every week. Grade yourself–do you practice the one anothers in community–A, B, C, D, or F?
4 See Christ in a heart for the LOST locally and internationally
It is true that the Church has a mission–to go, baptize and teach them to obey all I have commanded you in order to be making disciples…it is our final command–the briefing before the battle, the mission for the Church and each individual Christian. Yet it is more than a mission–it is the heart of Christ, the passion of our Savior, the drive of every true Christian, to proclaim the Gospel.
In recent years, there’s been a great emphasis on being Gospel-centered. And the Bible does teach us to live a life which honors the Gospel. Philippians 1:27, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” But do not miss the main, most important, continually repeated, always emphasized focus of the New Testament concerning the Gospel. The Gospel is a message that must be shared.
The Gospel is good news which is to be proclaimed. The Gospel is the only message which can result in salvation, forgiveness from sin, and the certainty of eternity in Heaven. Why share the only message which can result in eternal life? For many reasons, but most of all because it is the heart of Christ.
First Timothy 2:3 and 4, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Second Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
Christ loves the lost of this world–He loves those who are doomed to Hell in spite of their sins. Yet to be just, He must judge every sinner. Every one of you has sinned–you have lied, cheated, stolen, lusted, spoken harshly, been selfish, and have a massively proud heart. You are far from perfect. But the bad news is, God is perfect and must judge our rebellion to His perfect design. You chose to do your own thing, go your own way, invent your own ideas, be indifferent and even be passive about God.
The worst news is, there is nothing you can do to get right with God. You can’t undo your sinful actions, you can’t stop sinning, you can’t live perfect in order to be able to live with a perfect God. But the good news is, God did the work to rescue you. God Himself was born a man, suffered and died on a cross as our substitute, taking all the punishment you deserve for your sin upon Himself, bearing God’s wrath against sin upon Himself, then rising from the dead.
But He didn’t suffer and die for you because you deserved it or were religious, giving, nice or caring enough. You show off Christ when you tell of His sacrifice. You are seeing more of Christ when you recall what He did for you. Christ told us in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
It’s true that God is sovereign in salvation, but you and I are responsible to turn to Christ. More than a message, the Gospel is calling you to a person. The Gospel calls those without Christ to surrender to Christ, depend upon Christ and live for Christ and no longer live for themselves. And along with proclaiming the Gospel to those in the Church, along with family, friends, fellow students, neighbors and those in your workplace–Jesus commands you to make disciples of all the nations, to send missionaries who will plant and establish churches who will then preach the Gospel to the people of those nations because it shows Jesus off. It puts Christ on display–it shows the world who Christ is.
Grade yourself–do you share the message of the Gospel, the good news of what Christ accomplished on the cross, and are you a significant part of supporting the work of the Gospel around the world through prayer, encouragement of missionaries and sacrificial giving? Give yourself a grade–A, B, C, D, or F?
What are some additional ways to see more of Christ in the Church?
5 See Christ in the WORSHIP of His gathered children
Too many Christians on Sunday are like Christopher Columbus, right? When Christopher set sail, he didn’t know where he was going. When he arrived, he didn’t know where he was. And when he got back, he didn’t know where he’d been. Too many believers have forgotten why they come to church. You’re not here primarily for the sermon, the praise, the fellowship, or your service. You’re here to worship the One who horribly suffered and sacrificially died for you. You’re here to offer yourself as a sacrifice to the One who sacrificed for you.
In Romans 12:1, notice the very first phrase, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God.” Therefore–on the basis of all the gracious mercies Christ accomplished for you described in Romans chapters 3 through 11, Paul says to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.”
Genuine worship is offering yourself as a living sacrifice–all of you, every task, every day, all day, in everything you do and say is sacrificed to Christ–that’s worship. Because of all that Christ did for you, you give all that you are for Him. Because of everything Christ accomplished for you, you offer everything in your life to Him. Hebrews 10 commands you and me to faithfully gather every Sunday to offer ourselves in worship to Christ for all He has accomplished for you and still does for you.
The single reason why believers can be cavalier about faithful worship attendance is they’ve forgotten just how helpless and hopeless they were to save themselves. They’ve forgotten just how deserving of Hell they are because of our sin. They’ve forgotten just how gracious, merciful and loving Jesus Christ, God in the flesh is to sacrifice Himself in our place–to take our punishment. They’ve forgotten just how deserving of eternal torment in Hell everyone is. They’ve forgotten just how sinful each person is and how holy, righteous, and just God is.
Believers gather each week because you and I desperately need to gather in order to remember. Believers gather each week to worship Christ–to offer ourselves as living sacrifices. Worship is our lives given in sacrifice back to Christ–a living sacrifice to Christ. When you and I worship as a living sacrifice for Christ–we show off Christ. And every element of our service is an opportunity to display Christ and thank Christ.
First Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come.” Second Corinthians 9:6 and 7, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
Every Sunday, as you sacrifice in your giving, you demonstrate the giving heart of Christ who didn’t have to give, but chose to give. “For God so loved the world, he gave.” When you partake in communion, 1 Corinthians 11:26 reminds you, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
And we know, 23% of you can’t sing–we’ve measured. But when you approach singing as an act of worship, even if it’s a joyful noise but done with a heart that says thank you to the Lord for all that He has done and is doing for you, then 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.”
Grade yourself–do you offer yourself as a living sacrifice? Do you choose to use every element of the worship service and offer it back to Christ to honor Him and see more of Him in our midst? Give yourself a grade–A, B, C, D, or F?
How can you not be here every week to worship the One who gave everything for you?
6 See Christ in the EQUIPPING of the saints and training of ministers
Why do we preach the Word as written? Why is the Word central to our services? Because the Bible is the words of Christ, the character of Christ, telling us about Christ. As we respond to it, apply it, and seek to dependently live it, the Word causes us to grow to the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:11 to 13, “And He gave some …as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”
I don’t know about you, but I want to know the fullness of Christ. Grade yourself–do you respond to the Word of God as a doer, or a hearer? A,B,C,D or F? As you respond to God’s Word, seeking to be equipped and trained by it, you will see more of Christ in and through you personally and as a Church.
As a church, the elders don’t care about our size up to a point, but we do care that Christ is exalted in our church and functions as the head of our church. Some of that is up to you–what’s your overall grade? For God’s glory, will you depend upon the Holy Spirit to adjust your commitment to see more of Christ in us?
Look at your grades and make some choices, make some decisions, get accountable and strive for spiritual A’s. Offer your all to Christ who offered His all for you. If you want to become like Christ, you need to pursue Christ, His Word and fill your life with all the means of grace found in His Church. Let’s wrap up and take home four L’s.
A LOOK for Christ as we gather together for Worship
In order for Christ to be the one you look for on Sundays, He has to be the One you live for everyday. When Christ is your first love, your first affection, you’ll look for Him, long for Him and want to be with Him when He is most manifested on Sunday.
B LISTEN for Christ speaking to you through His Word and through His bride
Stop attending in time for the sermon–get here so you can praise Him, give to Him, listen to Him and talk to others about Christ. Listen for Christ as you gather.
C LOVE His perfect design for His Church and love our imperfect expression as a Church
Stop treating church as an option, it is a command. Stop attending church when it is convenient, it is a commitment. Look forward to attending church as another opportunity to offer yourself fully to the Savior, who fully offered Himself to you.
D LONG for intimacy with Christ through His Church
John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Salvation is knowing Christ personally, intimately–it is being indwelt by His Spirit. It is having Christ in you. Do you have Christ? Turn to Him today. Let’s pray.