The Local Church: Basic Principles, part 2

1 Apr

 

If we want to do church well, we need to make sure we have mastered the basics.

One.

The church begins with God.

Two.

The church is incredibly blessed by God.

If we look around, we see a lot of people who are going to places and doing religious things, because they think that’s the way they can get a blessing.

They don’t see themselves as already blessed.

Instead, they see themselves as not being blessed, and the reason they go to church, is in order to somehow obtain a blessing.

Which is different than how Paul thinks about it.

In Ephesians 1:3 he writes, “we have blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” And the whole rest of the passage is basically Paul drawing out and describing some of those blessings.

Like election.

Verse 4.

“God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

And adoption.

“In love, he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the beloved.”

And redemption.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us.”

And revelation.

We know God’s great plan for the universe.

“In all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of his will according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

And future glorification.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him, you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

And what’s so sad, is for a lot of people, who are going to churches, all these blessings, are not really what they are interested in.

As Paul’s in prison, suffering, he’s overflowing with worship, because he sees himself as incredibly blessed, and he uses all this really strong language to describe how good he has it, like every spiritual blessing, and the riches of God’s grace, which He has lavished upon us, and yet there are a lot of people going to do religious things who actually are living a lot more comfortable lives than Paul ever lived, and still they don’t see themselves as blessed by God, because honestly they are not interested in these kinds of blessings.

If you asked them to write this verse, it might be blessed be God so that He will bless us on the basis of our rituals and prayers with all kinds of physical blessings in the earthly places.

I was thinking about the way Paul describes how God has blessed us, as a contrast, and you see at almost every point, it’s different, than how people normally think about it.

First, he says, we have been blessed in Christ.

It’s solely because of our relationship with Him.

Outside of Christ, no blessing.

In Christ, every blessing.

And second, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, which could mean they come to us as a result of the Spirit’s work in our lives, or it could be a contrast with physical, they are spiritual kinds of blessings, and I think that’s maybe the emphasis, because of what Paul says next, we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing, in the heavenly places.

And it’s that phrase that I think highlights something that you’ll notice about real churches, which is that while they are interested in physical, now sort of blessings, those are not the kinds of blessings primarily that drive them to worship. What excites them most, instead, are the kind of blessings that have to do with their actual relationship with God and with what God has done for them through Christ and what God is going to do for them in the future.

I guess, this is such a sharp contrast for me.

Most people in this world are not interested in blessings like election and adoption and redemption and revelation.

Those are spiritual blessings, and they are dead spiritually.

Instead what they are interested in are things they can see and touch and feel, so if you talk to them about blessings like cars and houses and money, they get excited, because that’s all they know, that’s what makes their heart beat.

And that’s why if you want to gather a crowd, promise people those things. You can say the craziest things, obvious lies, and yet, people will still come, because they are of this world, and what interests them, are the things of this world.

But that’s not true of the church.

Unbelievers are dead to spiritual things, and so of course, they only get excited about physical things, but the church isn’t dead spiritually.

The Spirit of God has set them apart, and given them life.

He’s given them a new, vital spiritual principle. He’s placed it right there in the center of their soul. A spiritual mind, you might say, a spiritual understanding, and so he’s enabled to put the right value on things.

The church knows what is important and the church knows what is not.

And the church sees just how valuable the spiritual blessings that God has given them in Christ really are, and so, they look at the world differently than the unbelievers do around him.

They are thankful for it.

Of course, we enjoy this world as a church.

But we know we are just passing through it. This world is not our home. There is an inheritance we are waiting for in heaven. And so the blessings that matter to us as a church most, are the not the physical ones we might experience here on earth for a little while, but the eternal, spiritual ones that are kept for us in heaven, where are our real home is.

It’s kind of like.

We were in vacation in Durban recently.

And we were staying in someone’s house, and there were lots of nice things about that house, and we enjoyed it. And you can imagine, if while were staying at that house, someone comes and says, oh man, I see this house doesn’t have a pool, and so while you are here, I will build you a pool here at this house, that you can use, and I see there’s no internet, and so I am going to give this house wifi, so you can use the internet while you are here, and I see this house doesn’t have a car, and so I am going to give the owners of this house a car, that you can use while you are here on holiday, and you are like wow, those are wonderful blessings, and I am thankful for them, but I am only here for a week. And so I enjoy those gifts but I would obviously enjoy them a whole lot more if someone gave me all that stuff for my home.

Back in Pretoria.

You see, and this is all just so important for understanding how we are going about life as a church. Because I know you might come in here from some other places, and you are like, this is different.

Why isn’t the pastor talking more about, I don’t know, health and prosperity, and my best life now? And why do these people seem so content and so happy, regardless of whatever circumstances they are in? I want more talk about how to get more money or achieve a better status in life or get a better job, and all that’s fine, I guess, but it’s all so temporary.

And it just doesn’t energize us.

It kind of bores us a little honestly.

I mean, if someone takes me around this home I am staying in for a week, and they have some amazing Plasma T.V. and he wants to talk for a long time about the T.V., I’m kind like, ok, it’s nice, you have got a great T.V., but can we maybe talk about something else?

Because, I am only here for a week.

And that’s the way it is for us as a church in this world.

Obviously, we are concerned about this world, it’s made by God and we are living here and we want to enjoy what God’s given us in this world, and we want to use what God’s given us in this world for His glory. And besides that we love people, and so we want to help people with the problems they are facing in this world.

Like I know I would love it if you all were able to have great jobs and live in nice places and use the gifts God’s given you as easily as you can, but at the same time, if you are going to understand the way we think as a church, you have to understand, at the end of the day, our heart is really in the heavenly places, that’s where our treasure is, and so that’s the kind of stuff we get most excited about.

We think being chosen by God in Christ before the beginning of the world is better than driving a BMW, we think the inheritance we are going to enjoy forever is more important than having a big bank account, and so we’re always constantly finding reasons to rejoice no matter what circumstances we are experiencing, because we know we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing, and because we’ve come to see how truly valuable those blessings are, those are the kinds of blessings we are most desperate people come to know and experience.

 

 

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