The Local Church: Basic Principles, part three

4 Apr

It is pretty obvious you aren’t going to end up in the right place if you don’t start out headed in the right direction, which is why as we seek to establish a local church, we want to work hard to make sure we are at least pointed the right way.

We are doing that by going back and looking at Ephesians 1 and identifying several fundamental principles that will help us check our direction.

We have seen that:

The church begins with God.

And the church is blessed by God.

Now third.

The church belongs to God. 

If we look at every blessing Paul describes in Ephesians 1:3-14 we will see they all shout back at us that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

These blessings that we have been given don’t end with us.

It’s not like we are the center and God is over here on the side and we use God to get blessings for ourselves. Instead as we read this passage, it’s clear that God is smack dab at the center, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and He is using the church, to bring glory to Himself.

The church is an instrument that God is using to make Himself look great.

One of the things you do sometimes as you read through a passage is you look for repeated words and phrases.

And there are lots in here.

But one of the phrases that is repeated is found at the end of verse 5, “according to the purpose of His will.”

That means, God has a will.

God has something He desires and He has planned and that what we see happening in the church, is according to what He wanted to accomplish through that plan.

“According to the purpose of his will.”

Verse 9.

“According to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan.”

Verse 11.

“According to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

If you were going to go back, way, way back, before even the foundation of the world, you would see that God had a plan. Before He even created the world, He could see what was going to happen to people.

He saw the way Adam was going to sin.

And He understood the consequences of that.

He knew what sin was going to do to people and how sin needed to be dealt with.

And so He made a plan.

Sometimes people call this the eternal covenant of God, or the covenant of redemption. Basically, there was an agreement made between the Father and the Son.

As someone’s said,

“God the Father gave a people to the Son, and the Son voluntarily made Himself responsible to God for them. He contracted to do certain things for them, and God the Father on His side contracted to do other things. God the Father said He would grant forgiveness and reconciliation and restoration and new life and a new nature to all who belonged to His Son. The condition was that the Son would come into the world and take human nature and the sin of mankind upon himself and bear its punishment, stand for them, and suffer for them, and represent them.”

That was the plan, Paul’s describing.

And so, here are you and I, here we are as a church, and we are just little pieces of dust, and yet even though we are nothing, we are proud and selfish and angry and wanting all kinds of honor and glory for ourselves.

And the only thing we really deserve is for God to punish us.

But what’s happened instead, is that before He even made the world, this great and happy God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, who had no problems, who were totally happy and satisfied with each other, looked at us, and thought about our problems, and saw what would happen to us as a result of our own sinful choices, and made a way for us to be forgiven and redeemed.

He chose us.

He started by choosing to set us apart so that we might be made perfect.

And not only that, He decided to bring us into His own family.

We were enemies but He made us sons.

At the cost of His own Son.

His plan involved sending His own Son into this world as a human being for the purpose of dying, so that we might be set free from sin.

Forgiven.

And then, there’s all God had to do, to enable us to know what He’s done through Christ.

If Jesus had just come and died, and then rose again, and that was it, we’d still be in trouble, because we wouldn’t understand what was going on, and so God raised up and inspired these different men to preach His Word, and then raised up others to protect it, and then He sent His Spirit to give us life so that we can understand it.

Ultimately, not just so that we could only be forgiven and adopted, but you know, so that we could live forever in His presence.

God has a great big goal for us, which doesn’t end with us dying, but with this great future glorious gift He wants to give us of a new heavens and a new earth, and joy and privilege of living forever as His people in His presence.

And of course, you look at all that, you look at that plan, and you say what exactly was God seeking to accomplish through all that?

What was the purpose behind His will?

And the answer that keeps coming up as we read this passage is another phrase that Paul keeps repeating.

Verse 6.

“To the praise of his glorious grace.”

Verse 12.

“To the praise of his glory.”

Verse 14.

“To the praise of His glory.”

Now this is so important, but you have to catch this, because we say this a lot, but everything in this world is either an instrument or an end. And what I mean, is there are some things that are the purpose, the end, and then there are some things that you use to accomplish that purpose, they are instruments.

So, a computer is not a purpose.

It’s not an end.

You don’t just save up all sorts of money to have a computer sit there. You buy a computer to accomplish something.

You use a computer to accomplish an end.

Well, ultimately in this world, there is actually only one great purpose, there is only one great end, and everything else is an instrument, and that great end is the praise of God’s glory.

God is the great purpose of everything that exists, and everything else is an instrument, even the church. We are an instrument God is using to put His glory on display.

Now think about that, because what does that mean?

It means, God’s beautiful.

Everything about Him is beautiful. And one of the words the Bible uses to describe His beauty is the word glory. He’s perfect and it’s like His perfections just shine forth from Him, almost like rays from the sun, or like a fountain that’s just overflowing, and we might call that, shining forth of His perfections or overflow, His glory.

And, what’s cool, is that God’s always been enjoying His own glory.

That’s what He’s been doing, basically forever.

If you were to look way back to the beginning of the world, what you would see is God the Father looking at His perfections in the person of God the Son, and this is deep, but as He’s looking at those perfections, He’s totally enjoying His glory on display through the Holy Spirit.

So, He’s glorified as He puts His perfections on display and as He enjoys and delights in those perfections.

Which means, when you say, God wants to glorify Himself, that’s His purpose, what does it mean for God to glorify Himself, you can look at the Trinity, it means He’s showing how awesome He is through the Son, and it means He’s enjoying how awesome He is through the Spirit, which ultimately, is God’s great purpose for the church.

It’s like God’s plan from the beginning of the universe all the way to the end is to do through us and for us what He’s been doing forever, putting His beautiful character on display through the person and work of Jesus Christ and enabling us to enjoy and delight in the excellence of the Son and the Father by giving us the Holy Spirit.

Or maybe just to make it all more simple, so you can understand what all this has to do with us as a church, it means, our church exists because of God, we are not here because we are good, but because God’s good, and He’s rescued us, and we are really passionate about knowing Him and enjoying Him and putting Him on display, because we’ve begun to see and taste and enjoy just how good He’s been to us through Jesus Christ, and so our purpose as a church, is to praise the glory of His grace.

And I am emphasizing this, because if you look at the way a lot of people think about church, they’ve flipped it all on its head.

It’s like the church exists for them ultimately, to entertain them, to satisfy their needs, their desires, their preferences, to get them what they want, and that’s not why we are here, we are here for God, that’s what we mean when we talk about being the church.

We’re a group of people who have been set apart by God and who have been saved through faith in Christ and who are experiencing the grace and peace of God right now even as we speak and who are absolutely astounded by just how good God’s been to us, we’ve seen it, we tasted it, and we gather together as a result in obedience to His commands in order to praise and worship and glorify and proclaim Him. In other words, God the Father has communicated how beautiful He is to us through the work of the Son and enabled us to enjoy it through the work of the Spirit and is causing us to respond by sending praise and worship and delight and joy back to Him.

And so I am going on, I guess, but given the importance of the local church, it’s vital we get this right.

This church is about God.

 It begins with God.

It exists because of what God’s done through Christ and it exists for God.  It begins and ends and revolves around God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

 And we are not saying we know all the ins and outs and the implications of all of that, in terms of how we live out our life as a church. But those are our fundamental convictions that drive us, and so we are going back to God’s Word constantly, and asking God, how do we church, in a way that makes it clear, we begin with you, not with us.

That we are not saved by what we do, but by what you have done?

How do we do church in a way that makes it clear, we’ve been blessed by God with every spiritual blessing?

That shows the world what we really value? That we are excited about heaven? That we value spiritual blessings and eternal blessings even more than short term physical blessings?

That shows the world how good God’s been to us, right now?

And maybe most fundamentally, how do live as a church in a way that makes it clear, we don’t exist first and foremost for ourselves? For our comfort? And for our pleasure?

But instead, for God?

 

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