THE CHURCH EXISTS TO . . .

 

EPHESIANS 4:11-16

 

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            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Ephesians chapter 4 as we look at why the Church of Jesus Christ exists, what it is for.  And please understand, this building is not the church, it is a structure where we gather together to meet, but it is not the church.  The reality is, we are the church, we are the temple of God and God indwells us.  Thus, this study is really on why we exist, the purpose for our lives, what we are to do as a body of believers.  In knowing that, listen to this letter that was written by a High School girl to her friend and it shows us what we are not to be like.  She wrote:

            I attended your church yesterday. Although you had invited me, you were not there. I looked for you, hoping to sit with you. I sat alone. A stranger, I wanted to sit near the back of the church but those rows were all packed with regular attenders.  An usher took me to the front. I felt as though I was on parade.

            During the singing of the hymns I was surprised to note that some of the church people weren’t singing. Between their sighs and yawns, they just stared into space. Three of the kids that I had respected on campus were whispering to one another throughout the whole service.  Another girl was giggling. I really didn’t expect that in your church.  The pastor’s sermon was very interesting, although some members of the choir didn’t seem to think so.  They looked bored and restless. One kept smiling at someone in the congregation.  There were several people who left and then came back during the sermon.  I thought, “How rude!” I could hear the constant shuffling of feet and doors opening and closing.

            The pastor spoke about the reality of faith.  The message got to me and I made up my mind to speak to someone about it after the service.  But utter chaos reigned after the benediction. I said good morning to one couple, but their response was less than cordial.  I looked for some teens with whom I could discuss the sermon, but they were all huddled in a corner talking about the newest music group.

            My parents don’t go to church.  I came alone yesterday hoping to find a place to truly worship and feel some love.  I’m sorry, but I didn’t find it in your church.  I won’t be back.

- Author Unknown

 

            Folks, may we never see that here at Calvary Chapel but let me also say this, it can happen as we take our focus off of God, as we are self-centered, self-consumed, we get into our little groups, we lose sight of those who are seeking to worship God, to find God, and tragically, like this girl, many just find dead orthodoxy, a cold, lifeless church!

            This morning we are going to look at three primary reasons why the church of Jesus Christ exists today.  They are: TO EXALT GOD, TO EDIFY HIS PEOPLE, and to EVANGELIZE THE WORLD.  So with that said, lets’ begin reading in Ephesians chapter 4, starting in verse 11, and see what the Lord has for us this morning.

 

EPHESIANS 4:11-16

 

            Paul tells us that Jesus has given to us, His church, men that He has gifted for leadership positions.  The office of primary apostles and prophets have passed off the scene as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:20-22.  He tells us the church, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

            The apostles and the prophets have laid the foundation and now evangelists, pastor/teachers and teachers are building the entire structure.  They are building up the men and women of God to go forth and do the work of the ministry. And as this is done the people of God learn to exalt God, they are built up in the faith and they will go forth with the Good News of Jesus Christ evangelizing the lost.  Thus, with the remainder of our time this morning we are going to be looking at these three areas and see what we can learn from them, what we are all about.

 

1.  TO EXALT GOD

            To exalt God or worship God speaks of bowing down before Him in honor of Him, who He is. It would be like bowing before a king to pay him homage, respect.  In John 4:24 Jesus tells us, God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.  His point is simple, you can’t worship God without first being saved, without first having the Spirit of God in you.  Secondly, you must worship God according to truth, or according to His Word. You can’t worship God any way you want. A great example of this is when the children of Israel were waiting for Moses to come down from Mount Sinai with the commands of God and they decided to worship God the way they wanted to by making a golden calf and worshiping that!  And God did not accept false worship then nor does He accept it today, it must be in Spirit and in truth!

            In fact, in Romans 1:24-25 Paul shows us what can happen as people turn from the true worship of God and do their own thing, negate the living God.  We are told, Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  I find it interesting because we see that so prevalent today, the worship of self!  We are only to worship God for He alone deserves our worship.

            As a body of believers, the church, we gather together to worship Him, to sing praises unto Him, to pray to Him, to exalt His holy name!  What is worship?  I like what A. W. Tozer said:

            Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of the most ancient Mystery, that Majesty which philosophers call the First Cause, but which we call Our Father Which Are in Heaven.

- A. W. Tozer

 

            You see folks, worship is not just about singing songs unto God, it is giving our entire life over to God for His use, to bring Him glory.  Paul makes that very clear in Romans 12:1 where he says, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.  The Amplified Bible puts this verse like this, I APPEAL to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.

            Paul is calling for us to present or PARISTEMI  (par-is'-tay-mee) in the Greek, our bodies to God.  In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, this word was used as a technical term for a priest placing an offering on the altar of sacrifice.  Thus, as Christians, we don’t place dead animals on the altar of sacrifice but our own lives, a living sacrifice unto God!

            Now what does that mean to us today, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice unto God?  Let me explain with this example.  “The story is told of a Chinese Christian who was moved with compassion when many of his countrymen were taken to work as coolies [an unskilled laborer] in South African mines.  In order to be able to witness to his fellow Chinese, this prominent man sold himself to the mining company to work as a coolie for five years.  He died there, still a slave, but not until he had won more than 200 men to Christ.  He was a living sacrifice in the fullest sense.”  (John MacArthur).

            Are you willing to go and do what God is calling you to do no mater the cost?  You see, if you willingly lay down your life for God, that is worship!  In the Greek reasonable service is translated LOGIKOS LATREIA (log-ik-os’ lat-ri’-ah) and the idea is rational worship.  It includes service and worship, they go together, you can’t worship God without serving Him and you can’t serve Him without truly worshiping Him!

            It is as John MacArthur tells us:

            True worship does not consist of elaborate and impressive prayers, intricate liturgy, stained-glass windows, lighted candles, flowing robes, incense, and classical sacred music.  It does not require great talent, skill, or leadership ability.  Many of those things can be a part of the outward forms of genuine worship, but they are acceptable to God only if the heart and mind of the worshiper is focused on Him. The only spiritual service of worship that honors and pleases God is the sincere, loving, thoughtful, and heartfelt devotion and praise of His children.

            The problem today is much of our worship is mechanical and we are even removed from worship by thinking of other things as we are trying to worship God.  We go through the motions but there is no real emotion with our worship of God. And folks, that is not acceptable to God. Let me explain:

            There is an old story about a man who dreamed that an angel escorted him to church one Sunday.  There he saw the keyboard musician playing vigorously, the praise team singing, the musicians playing their instruments with gusto. But the man heard no sound.  The congregation was singing, but the sound was utterly muted.  When the minister rose to speak, his lips moved, but there was no volume. In amazement, the man turned to his escort for an explanation.

            “This is the way it sounds to us in heaven,” said the angel.  “You hear nothing because there is nothing to hear. These people are engaged in the form of worship, but their thoughts are on other things and their hearts are far away.”

- Author Unknown

 

            What is the solution?  We are to fall in love with Jesus all over again.  Focus on Him, fill your life with Him and as you do what will flow from your life is the worship of God!  You see, we delight to bring praise to that which we enjoy!  Enjoy your life with the Lord and see what will flow from your life – worship!  In fact, according to Revelation 4:11 we see the reason why we were created, and this is from the KJV, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  Thus, if you are not worshiping God, bringing Him pleasure, your life will never be satisfied because you are not doing what you were created to do – the worship of God – it is your reasonable service!  THE CHURCH EXISTS TO EXALT GOD!

 

2.  TO EDIFY HIS PEOPLE

            Another reason the church exists today is to edify or build up the people of God. That is why here at Calvary Chapel I teach you the Word of God – I give to you the whole counsel of God as we go verse-by-verse through the Bible.  I do realize that some don’t feel this is important, they even may have a hard time remembering what was taught each week, but folks, the Word of God is our spiritual food and it helps us to grow.  Listen to this story and you will see what I mean:

            A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday.  “I’ve gone for 30 years now, “ he wrote, “and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons.  But for the life of me I can’t remember a single one of them. So I think I’m wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all.”

            This started a real controversy in the “Letters to the Editor” column, much to the delight of the editor.

            It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher: “I’ve been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.  But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.  But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me those meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!”

            - Author Unknown

 

            The Word of God is very important to us.  Listen to what Peter tells us in I Peter 1:22-25, Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.  The grass withers, And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.’  Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.

            Our salvation is related to the Word of God. You see, as someone spoke to you the Words of God, shared the Scriptures with you, as those seeds of faith were planted in you God brought forth the increase, He opened your eyes to the truth and you received Jesus as your Lord and Savior!

            Not only are we saved through the Word of God but we also grow as we read, study; hear the Word of God being taught to us.  Tragically, the mentality of many today, is expressed by one pastor who responded to the question, “Why don’t you teach verse-by-verse through the Bible?” and he responded by saying, “Because it is boring!”  Folks, anyone who feels that way should not be teaching the Word of God let alone be pastor!  You see, if you don’t teach the sheep that God has entrusted to you the Word of God then they will be tossed to and fro like a ship being tossed in a violent storm.  Those winds will be blown by men who trick people, deceive them, they blow a lot of hot air and yet, those that don’t know the Word of God set their sails and are blown all over the place by what these men are saying!

            Paul, in II Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  First of all the Word of God tells us what is right, it gives to us the correct doctrine. You need to know the truth or you will fall prey to the lies that are out there, the doctrines of demons!  Next, God’s Word tells us when we go astray, when we are doing something that is wrong – reproof.  Also, God’s Word shows us how to get right when we have gone astray – correction.  And lastly, the Word of God tells us how to walk right – it instructs us in righteousness.  The end result is that we are complete – ready for God to use us.  If we don’t grow in the Word of God we are not complete, we are immature and can easily be lead astray!

            In Acts 20:27-30 Paul admonished the Ephesians elders by saying, For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

            Paul did not avoid teaching the Word of God, he taught the easy stuff, the difficult stuff, the stuff that may ruffle some feathers, he taught it all, why?  Because he wanted to equip these believers because wolves were coming, not maybe, they would arise from outside the church trying to devour the flock and from within the church doing the same! He did not want them to be consumed by these wolves so he equipped them to be strong, to be ready!

            Again, I not only feeding you the Word of God but I also warn you of the dangers that are out there.  Why do I do that?  Because I not only want you to be healthy sheep but I don’t want you to be dinner for some wolf!  THE CHURCH EXISTS TO EDIFY HIS PEOPLE!

 

3.  TO EVANGELIZE THE LOST

            Folks, if we just sat around and ate, and ate, and ate, what would happen to us?  We would get fat, we may even reach a point where we can’t move, we can’t get out of bed, we can’t do anything!  We as Christians can be so well fed that we get fat, we are not exercising our faith and we become dead because we don’t have works!  A great example of this is seen in the Dead Sea.  We were in Israel in November and we went down to the Dead Sea and I will tell you this, we did not see one fishing boat on that Sea, why?  Because there is no life in it, it is dead!  Water flows into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River and with it many minerals including salt.  Because there is no outlet for the water and minerals to flow out, they just build up and they have killed all life that was in the Dead Sea.

            We as Christians can become dead, lifeless, like the Dead Sea, by just taking things in, Bible teaching and never giving back, never having an outlet for your faith to be released.  You see, the church exists today to evangelize the lost, to bring them the Good News of Jesus Christ.

            William Barclay gives us an excellent insight into the nature of the true church. He writes:

            Suppose a great doctor discovers a cure for cancer.  Once that cure is found, it is there.  But before it can become available for everyone, it must be taken out to the world. Doctors and surgeons must know about it and be trained to use it.  The cure is there, but one person cannot take it out to all the world; a corps of doctors must be the agents whereby it arrives at all the world’s sufferers.

            That precisely is what the church is to Jesus Christ.  It is in Jesus that all people and all nations can be reconciled to God.  But before that can happen, they must know about Jesus Christ, and it is the task of the church to bring that about.  Christ is the head; the church is the body.  The head must have a body through which it can work. The church is quite literally hands to do Christ’s work, feet to run upon His errands, and a voice to speak His words.

- Morning Glory, Sept. –Oct. 1997, p. 19

 

            You see folks, we have the solution to man’s problem of sin, his separation from God and that is Jesus Christ.  Paul said in I Timothy 2:3-6, For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.  Jesus is the bridge-builder between man and God and thus, we have received Him into our lives and we have received that reconciliation, but that is not the end of the story.  We are to go forth with that message of reconciliation, the cure for sin, the Good News of Jesus Christ.

            Jesus also gave to us the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion!  In Matthew 28:19-20 we are told, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’  Amen.  We are not only to go and make disciples of all nations but we are also to teach them the things of God, to help them to grow in the Lord!

            How are we doing?  Have we made an impact on this world for Jesus Christ?  Listen to this and you can judge for yourself as we compare how the drink Coke a Cola is doing and how we are doing. We are told:

 

I think they have a far better marketing team than we do, don’t you?  And yet, we have God on our side and so what is the problem? They can’t be smarter than God can they?  Of course not, the problem is not our God but us, we lack the power to move the Gospel message forward because we try to do it in the power of our might, we are looking at worldly marketing strategies and that is wrong!  Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

You see, it is not by my power, it is not by my might, but it is by the Spirit of God working in me and through me, empowering me to move the Gospel message forward to all parts of the world!  Maybe we are so distracted by so many things that we lose focus and we lack power!  It is as this story shows us:

One afternoon author Patsy Clairmont found herself on an airplane, sitting next to a young man. She writes, “I have already observed something about this young man when I was being seated.  He called me ‘Ma’am.’  At the time I thought, ‘Either he thinks I’m ancient, or he’s from the south where they still teach manners, or he’s in the service.’  I decided the latter was the most likely, so I asked, ‘You in the service?’”

“Yes, Ma’am, I am.”

“What branch?”

“Marines.”

“Hey, Marine, where are you coming from?”

“Operation Desert Storm, Ma’am.”

“No kidding?  Desert Storm!  How long were you there?” I asked.

“A year and a half.  I’m on my way home.  My family will be at the airport.”

I then commented that he must have thought about returning to his family and home many times while he was in the Middle East.

“Oh, no, Ma’am,” he replied.  “We were taught never to think of what might never be, but to be fully available right where we were.”

- Focus on the Family, July, 1993, p. 5

 

            Folks, let us not lose sight of being available for God to use no matter where you are.  You see, Paul said in Romans 1:16-17, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Thus, wherever we go, let us be ready for God to use us because we have the answer to man’s problem, the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  THE CHURCH EXISTS TO EVANGELIZE THE UNSAVED!

            As I close this morning may we not lose sight of why we exist as a body of believers!  We are here to exalt God, to edify the body and to evangelize the lost. May we not become dead in our orthodoxy but alive to Christ. Let me close with this story.  We are told:

            The ministry of the Church is a ministry of people.  When a church lives, it lives because the people within are vital and active.  When a church dies, it withers and dies not because the brick and mortar and carpet and pews get old and begin to crack and rip and crumble.  A church withers and dies because the people wither and die.

            I think a vivid illustration of this comes from a true story of a young minister in Oklahoma who went to this little, though long-standing, church in hopes of really reviving the ministry of it. He had stars in his eyes and great hopes for the future.  He thought he could turn it around.  And he gave it his best effort and his best shot week after week, to no avail.

            Finally, he had one last idea, and it seemed to work. He announced in the local newspaper on Saturday that the church had died, and on Sunday afternoon there would be a funeral service at the church itself, and all who wished could attend.  For the first time in his years there the place was packed. In fact, people were standing outside on tiptoes looking through the window to see this most unusual funeral service for the church.

            To their shock, because most of them got there twenty or thirty minutes early to get a seat, there was a casket down front. And it was smothered with flowers.  He told the people as soon as the eulogy was finished they could pass by and view the remains of the dearly beloved that they were putting to rest that day.  They could hardly wait until he finished the eulogy.  He slowly opened the casket, pushed the flowers aside, and people walked by, filed by, one by one, to look in and leave sheepishly, feeling guilty as they walked out the door, because inside the casket he had placed a large mirror. As they walked by, they saw the church that had died.

- Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote

 

            Folks, let us not lose sight of being available for God to use no matter where you are.  You see, Paul said in Romans 1:16-17, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Thus, wherever we go, let us be ready for God to use us because we have the answer to man’s problem, the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  THE CHURCH EXISTS TO EVANGELIZE THE UNSAVED!