What Jesus Thinks About the Church

LM ppt background

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25–27, NIV)

Consider this question: Are you are worshipper or a consumer?

When you go to your local shopping centre, you are a consumer. You buy your coffee from Jamaica Blue, your Burger from Grill’d, Sushi from the Sushi Palace, and clothes form Kathmandu. You are the consumer, they are the providers. Our culture revolves around this dynamic.

Part of the challenge for us today is that we may be tempted to see our own church the way we see the local shopping centre: as a provider of services. You go to that church for Sunday worship, youth programs, children’s programs, and home groups. In one sense, it’s understandable: these programs are how we connect with our local church community. It can also be a problem: the more we think this way, the more we cease being worshippers and start being consumers, and we start to choose church because of what it can do for us.

Imagine if we chose our spouse like that: for what she can do for us. Imagine the night we go out on our first date we saying something like this:

OK, so here’s the deal. I’m looking for someone who can cook like Masterchef, look like Scarlett Johansen, get the housework done, parent the children, walk the dog, decorate the home, and snuggle up like (use your imagination) … so if that’s you, I reckon this will work fine. But if the day comes when a large portion of that is not happening, you need to know that I will be looking around. My season of love will have come to an end, and I’ll be entering into a season of someone else…

Guys, you say that to your lady, how’s that going to work for you? Even so, many people seem to approach the church that way. And shouldn’t be surprised to find them dissatisfied and frustrated with the church. But let us not focus on what some people might think. Let’s consider what Jesus thinks about the church. This section in Ephesians demonstrates this very clearly. It’s written about husband and wife relationships, sure, but the model for those relationships is how Jesus views the church. So what is that?

Christ loves the church

The short answer: Christ loves his church!

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25–27, NIV)

Do you say that when the subject of church comes up: “I love my church!”?

Christ does! And get this: He doesn’t start with what the church does, or even what he wants from his church, he doesn’t make demands or set up a program. He just commits to loving it, straight up. At the very least, it is a wonderful statement of God’s sovereign grace. But before we dive into the love Christ has for his church, let’s make sure we know what we’re referring to when we use the word ‘church’.

When Christ loves the church, we know he’s not talking about a building, or even an organisation. He is talking about people. His body. Christians together. Christ loves the people he has called into his grace. He loves this community. He loves this new society. He loves this new humanity. He loves his church because through it he will announce his grand plan to the world:

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ephesians 3:10–11, NIV)

Christ loves the church: he has huge plans for it. Plans that are greater than anything we can imagine. Through his church he will announce his great plan of grace and restoration. Not just to the rulers of the day: to Abbott, Obama, Merkel – but to the spiritual forces of our age. Every power. Every ruler. Every authority. Jesus is saying to these powers: you see this church? You see the community of my people? You might ignore them and write them off, but by my resurrection power through them I am going to restore my creation. You’d best bow the knee and come on board…

Can you see how when we see the church merely as a provider of services, we easily miss Christ’s true intention for it. And if we don’t understand his plan, we’re never going to understand our purpose.

Chuck Colson has said

We cannot understand the church without seeing her as part of the sweeping story the Bible tells, and we cannot be faithful Christians without affirming God’s central role for the church – the living body of Christ. The church is a reclamation project, reestablishing God’s rule in the midst of a world still mostly under Satan’s sway. [The Faith, p.148]

No doubt about it: Christ loves the church! The question we want to answer is how do we see him put this love into practice? We see the answer unfold in Ephesians 5:25 “he gave himself up for her” Right at the outset, Christ’s love is connected  to his death, to the cross. Think of the importance of those words. The reality is this: You won’t understand the church until you come to terms with the price Jesus paid to love it. The eternal Son, through whom everything was created, counted his glory as nothing, was rejected, suffered beatings and scourgings, was nailed to a cross to pay for the sin and to bear the punishment of undeserving people. That was the price he paid to love his church. The redemption he won was more costly than we can ever understand.

This redeeming love comes to expression in two key phrases in Ephesians 5:25-27:

First: He gave himself up for her to make her holy  Negatively, something had to be fixed, and that was the sin and rebellion of humanity. In Christ’s death he paid for all their unholiness. He cleansed them on his cross. As he bore their punishment he absorbed into his perfect being the wickedness of their heart, all their open rebellion to God’s loving care. In the acts of sacrificing himself up for this church, he separated his people from a rebellious and fallen humanity. He made them holy through his blood.

Christ did not chose these people because they were holy. They were dead in transgressions and sin (Eph 2:1). They were rebels. Rather, he made this plan, he chose them before the creation of the world, to make them holy. He fulfilled his plan in time, as v.25 reminds us, through the washing with water through the word: shorthand for the preaching of the word and baptism. What he planned in eternity he brought about in time because of his love.

So through his death he made them holy. He fixed what was broken.

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,” (Ephesians 5:25–26, NIV)

Secondly, and positively, he wanted his risen life to shine gloriously through them!

“…Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” (Ephesians 5:25–27, NIV)

Christ did not love his church for what she already was (because she was not much). He loved his church because of what she could become, because of how his grace would transform her. He will transform that church into a glorious, beautiful and radiant bride who resembles his true intention for humanity. He will remove the warts. Surgically treat the blemishes and stains. Apply his grace to all the wrinkles. And she would be gorgeous!

It will be such a beautiful change, that people will look at this new community, at this church, as say ‘hey, that’s a beautiful community! That’s just what life with others should be like! I love what’s going on there!

God always had this plan for his church. When his people were camped on the border of Canaan, the Lord told old Israel why he was showering them with his love, and it turns out to be a very similar picture:

“Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself…

[That is: I love my people and expend myself to rescue them]

…Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’…”” (Exodus 19:3–6, NIV)

Something had to be fixed: So in His death He cleansed her from her sin and rebellion. Something needed to be brought to life: He took up residence in her to make her beautiful and glorious and beaming with resurrection life! Isn’t that a beautiful picture?

Have you ever heard that platitude “God wants us to be all he has planned for us to be”. Truth is, sometimes I think that sort of language is a bit soppy. A too bit chick flick for reality. But the glorious picture of Ephesians 5 is no platitude! It has real substance! This is the ‘all’ Christ wants for his church: He wants it to be a brilliant community.

Gracious.

Open.

Inclusive.

Compassionate.

Creative.

Friendly.

Life giving.

Grace breathing.

Glorious.

Radiant.

Beaming with life!

This is what he wants for us! Right here in our church! Right here at 63 Spencer St, Cockburn Central!

He wants us to overflow with his life and love! And size? Size does not matter!

Love matters!

Grace matters!

Life matters!

Wow!

Now, here’s the question: Do you love the church like Jesus loves the church? Not so much because of what it is, but because of what he wants it to be?

Do you love the church like Jesus loves the church?

It’s a critical question because there’s a confronting implication: you are either working for that purpose, or working against it.

You might think you’re OK sitting on the fence. Like when you go to McDonalds you can decide pickle or no pickle. You might think you can come and go, and take a bit of this and a bit of that. But here’s the challenge: That ‘take what you like’ approach is not true Christianity. It is not following Jesus. It is not biblical church membership.

We look at Christ, and we see what he was prepared to do to love his church. How he suffered and died and bore all their sin. How he did that to create a glorious new community. How he has drawn you into that, and how more than anything he wants you to see and taste the love he has for this church. He wants you not only to be part of that church, but to love it, and seek its blessing.

Today, he is calling you to be committed to this church, to his church. To long for it to be radiant and beautiful and glorious and overflowing with love and life and grace and hope!

Is that what you want for your church?

Some here are working very hard to see the church become radiant, but some are on the sidelines. God is saying: you cannot sit on the sidelines. You cannot stay on the fence. Why not? Think of Jesus. Jesus didn’t stay on the sidelines, or sit on the fence. Jesus didn’t hold back. Jesus was not prepared to toss in a few coins. He went all out. He went to the Cross, out of love for his church. He did this because he could see a better day! He looked forward with joy to what his beloved church would become!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1–3, NIV)

Christ loves his church! He is calling you to have a love like his, to give yourself for what the church must become, not for what it is.

In the next weeks we will see how he is calling you to commit to biblical teaching, the apostolic Gospel; to fellowship, celebrating what we have in common; to engage in compassionate and merciful sharing; to give your heart to worship, more than what you have been; to be witnesses and signposts of His grace, and to work hard to build a church of gracious, winsome, redemptive character.

Jesus loves his church. As we see the depth and cost of his love for us, how could we do anything less?

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  1. What Jesus Thinks About the Church – Study Group Questions | A Sermon & A Study

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