Christ’s Church – His Fullness!

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“Christ’s Church – His Fullness!”

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday, 19th July 2020

I want to begin this morning by saying thank you to everyone for your understanding and your support as we weave our way through this incredibly strange and precarious year – 2020.

I knew there was a good chance that Covid could upset things again and prevent us from meeting together as a whole body…. But I didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

The good news is, God is still speaking – He is still in love with His church…. And we can still worship and meet together in our homes…

In fact, as I said in my text the other day, it would be fantastic to see small groups of people gathering together in homes all over this district to worship, have the Word wash over them, to pray and share life together as the church in that more intimate and relational environment. 

My message for this morning, is even more relevant now that we are back online…

You know, there’s something in all of us that just wants life to be straight forward and relatively easy going.  

I mean, we don’t live in fairy land….  But it would be cool to have a bit of predictability and stability happening – wouldn’t it?

I know there might be just a few of us who like to live on the edge – and are fans of random unpredictability…. 

But for the main part, most of us prefer to have some kind of order and a fairly steadfast plan – at least from one week to the next…

Last week, I spoke about walking worthy of the calling to which we have been called.

It was really about God’s worthiness, not ours.  But we identified a few qualities of a person who walks worthy of their calling.

Things like – being able to always fall back on a special moment – an experience – a revelation – where we know God set us apart for a purpose.  It’s having that firm foundation of truth and life that holds us up.

It’s about being fruitful in our calling – about always growing in the knowledge and the love of God – about being strengthened for the journey – having patience, long suffering, joy – and a thankful heart – knowing that we join with others in the light – called to shine in a dark world.

That’s what walking worthy means in the context of Colossians 1.

But there’s something about walking worthy also as the church together as one!  Worthy of God’s glory.  Worthy of being part of this amazing – God ordained living organism called the church of Jesus Christ.

And this is probably an even greater challenge than our personal walk with Jesus. 

I’ve had my eyes opened to a fresh way of looking at the church.  

I naturally want to see everyone walking in harmony.  I like it when there are no dramas – when we get a glimpse of that bride arising – beautiful – spotless – without any wrinkles…

But I believe the Holy Spirit has been giving me a reality check – and saying – it’s actually when our differences surface – when our different pasts and experiences reveal themselves – when things actually appear to get a bit messy…

It’s in these moments that the church has the greatest opportunity to experience the true depth of God’s love, grace, and glory – and it’s when we respond to one another in the difficult and trying times from the Jesus within us – that’s when the most powerful expression of the church happens.

As Pentecostals, we often refer back to the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room – and the days and weeks following – as thousands accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour and King.

This was the birth of the Christian Church.

Acts 2: 42-47 (NKJV), “42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”

I’m sure all of us would long to see that kind of spiritual zeal and fire and burning again…

But it’s not going to happen because everyone and everything is perfect.   It won’t be because everyone will be perfectly in agreement.  

Yes, there was amazing unity amongst those in the early church – but it didn’t mean they were all the same.  There was a huge diversity of backgrounds, religious doctrines – there were educated people, fishermen, rich and poor…

And we know as time went on, the church became a place where former tax collectors, prostitutes, Jews and Gentiles all came together – and the whole thing exploded and became a movement of Christians that ultimately spread throughout the world.

But it was far from perfect – and far from being filled with perfect people!  

Even the apostles themselves had to work through their differences and disagreements – they had to sort out church issues – other peoples issues.

What’s my point?

My point is – it seems to me – that if the Spirit of God can move so miraculously upon such a diverse and motley bunch of disciples in the first century – He can do it again today – even with all of our different opinions about what church should look like – how it should be done – and who it should be reaching.

And if there’s one thing that these Covid restrictions have done for us – it’s caused us to reassess all of these things – which is a good thing.

I know some are asking themselves – should church be about meeting in homes just as it was at the beginning.  Do we need to meet as one body in a building?

I think it should always have been about meeting in homes and doing life together –  sharing meals together – sharing around the Word of God together. 

But it’s not about either or.  It wasn’t about either or in the beginning.  

The scripture says quite clearly, the people met daily in the temple together – in the building…  There’s something powerful about coming together as the body of Christ – lifting our voices in worship together.  I think we’ll get a shock in heaven if we’re not used to crowds. 

The point is – meeting in a building and meeting in homes should go hand in hand.

The real issue is, are we loving one another the way Jesus commanded us to, and the apostles taught us to?

I think, as we move forward as a church, we must uphold above everything else, this scripture:

John 13:34-35

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And so I’m getting this glimpse of the church full of all kinds of different people – different backgrounds – different giftings – different experiences in life – but all there for one another – willing to love one another as Jesus commanded.

And in the process of giving preference to one another, honouring one another, being hospitable to one another, rejoicing with one another, weeping with one another, lifting up one another…  serving one another…. all those things which are clearly stated in scripture…

In the process of doing all that – we will see the fire of the Holy Spirit burn again in our midst – and all will know that we are disciples of Jesus Christ.

There’s quite a list of the ways we can express our love for one another – that builds unity of heart and spirit – but recognises that we are all wired differently – we all have different personalities – we express love more effectively in different ways…

Praise God for that!  How boring it would it be if everyone was just like me!  Or even worse – just like you!  That’s a joke!  You get my drift. 

What I’m talking about is radical love.  Radical and impossible in a natural sense.  

It was supernatural that Jews and Gentiles would worship together.

It was supernatural that former prostitutes would be welcome to worship with former Pharisees.

It’s not about whether we sell houses and divide our possessions to give to those in need.  It’s about the heart and the spirit of loving others the most effective way we can.

It’s about our motivation to do the things we do.

And here’s another thing.

Apart from our differences – there’s also the recognition that we all come out of brokenness to one extent or another.  And we still experience and encounter hardships and brokenness even as Christians.

I think the brokenness of others – particularly in the body of Christ – gives us the perfect opportunity to express Christ’s response to one another.

How do we respond to someone who is diagnosed with cancer?  To a family that is going through a breakdown?  To a man or woman who has lost their life-long partner?  To someone who is struggling with mental illness?  To an addict who struggles with the overpowering cycles of addiction?

This is where the church is meant to shine.  Shine like a light in the world.

If we want to be a genuine loving community – then these are the opportunities we have to express what true community looks like.

I know it’s not easy – and I don’t have all the answers.   But I do know there’s a way forward – in Christ.  And it will be beautiful and glorious in amongst all the messiness.

If people like Mother Theresa can love and shine in the slums of India, then surely we can shine as a church in one of the most prosperous and blessed nations of the world.

We need each other!  The church is meant to be multi generational, multi gifted, multi expressive.

Everyone has their place.

We have to get past from the idea that the church has to be this or it has to be that.

Let it be the fullness of Christ!   

Paul’s letter to the Corinthians really expresses to the heart of God in relation to our diversity and unity.

Speaking about the gifts of the Spirit, he says:

1Cor 12: 4-6 (NKJV), “4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.”

The speaking about the different roles we are to fulfil, he says:

1Cor 12: 20-26 (NKJV), “20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

Let’s bring this into the now.  

Just because one person loves to serve and express their gifts in very practical ways – don’t let that cause that person to judge those who are called to prayer and intercession.

Just because one person has the gift of prophecy and spiritual discernment, don’t let the one who touches others lives through compassion and mercy make judgements on the other – and vice versa.

Just because one person has been blessed with a godly upbringing and loving parents – don’t let that become a stumbling block to loving the one who has come from a dysfunctional and broken home life.

Do you see what I’m saying?  We can so easily make judgements about others – even in the household of God – who are different to us.  Yes, they may be different – but we are still unified and one in Christ.  We are still part of His household as brothers and sisters.

Love still needs to be the overriding factor in everything.

Jesus said, if you reach out and love the least of these, you reach out to and love Me.

That’s a profound message just in itself.

So let’s bring this all together.

The heart of what I’m saying, is stay humble, remain loving, don’t allow offence or judgements to distract you from your call.

It’s not about the method of how you express being part of the church of Jesus Christ. 

It’s about your heart.  It’s about loving God first and foremost.  But then, coming a close second, is loving others in such as way that everyone will know you are Christ’s disciple.

It’s not rocket science.  

Don’t wait for the church to be perfect.   It’s not going to happen this side of heaven.  The bride won’t be completely spotless until that moment she meets with Jesus.

I know God sees us clothed in righteousness.  But that’s generally not how we see each other. 

Instead of waiting for everyone to get their act together – let’s minister Jesus to into those areas of brokenness and need – because to be honest – I think the church will shine the brightest in the messiness and the difficulties of life.

Let’s pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Help each one of us to love like You do.

Help us to find our place in the body of Christ where it will cause the Church to shine brightly and beautifully in a way that brings glory to your Name.

Reveal to us our judgements of one another – our attitudes – our places of unforgiveness.

Help us to become the true church you birthed 2,000 years ago.  Let the church express the fullness of Christ, and not be limited to this way or that.

Let the building be full of multitudes of people as it explodes with praise and worship.

But let our homes be a place of ministry to one another on a very personal and intimate level.

You are a God that draws all our diversity and turns it into a powerful demonstration of unity.

To You be the glory and honour, always, In Jesus’ Name.

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