Monday, August 06, 2012

What's a church to do?

Recently I have been preaching a sermon series about the church titled - Who Cares About the Church? Jesus Does. The doctrine of the church is vitally important for Christians. Salvation is not simply getting to heaven; salvation entails a host of blessings, both personally and corporately. God calls us into His family which means we will spend eternity with our brothers and sisters. On this side of eternity we get a glimpse of eternity in the church.

Our glimpse into the next age comes from our status as believers. Once a person confesses Jesus Christ, his or her walk to obey all that Jesus commanded begins. Jesus calls all believers to be baptized. The clear picture of a person eligible for baptism in the New Testament is one who has repented and believed in Jesus for salvation. It is also clear that those who have faith in Jesus associate with a local church. The early church presupposes membership in a local church because a person's life has been radically changed. The reaction of a person saved by grace is to fellowship with other believers. Worship becomes riveting, engaging, and amazing when the truth of Jesus Christ is proclaimed. When Paul gives instruction to the Church at Colossae (Col. 2.6-15), he roots their behavior in the reality of the Gospel. Paul tells them, “Act like who you are because of Christ" (paraphrase H. York). The church is full of Holy Spirit filled brothers and sisters of Christ.

A glaring objection about the church immediately jumps off the page. Even though church members are "new creatures in Christ," the church is full of hypocrites, liars, and cheaters (a.k.a sinners). People who claim to believe in Jesus Christ do not act much different than Buddhists, atheists, or any other false religion. One function of the church is to build each other up even through discipline so there is a clear distinction between the church and the world. Since every member of the church is a member of Christ, we are called to love our brothers and sisters even when that means we have to correct them. As culturally unpopular this notion might be, it is clear from Scripture that God uses the church to hasten holy living among members who live contrary to God’s will.

Church discipline benefits church members. This action is not branding people with Scarlet Letters. The church calls an individual to repent of sin tenderly, patiently, and lovingly. Jesus spoke about church discipline when he told the church to judge each other after famously telling people not to judge (Matt. 7.1-7). Jesus taught a way to judge. It is important we help each other live holy for God's glory by looking out for each other's walk with the Lord. Paul encouraged the church to do the same thing (Gal. 6.1-2). Paul did not expect the church to judge those outside of the church. Church discipline is for those in the church.

The church proceeds with church discipline (out of love) to bring a brother or sister to repentance. By pointing out a person's disregard for personal holiness, the church affords that person the opportunity to repent. Repentance brings worship, joy, and satisfaction in Christ over false idols and temporary pleasures. Church discipline portrays a holy God righteously judging sin. When the church confronts sin in a person's life (binding and loosing - see Matt. 16.19 & 18.18), the church acts on the authority of Christ. A person has the opportunity to repent, but when a person hardens his heart, the church acts in the same way God will act on the day of judgment.

You may wonder why a pastor of a small church would teach such a difficult and controversial topic. Simply stated, it is in the Bible. Jesus instructed His church to do this. Who am I to implement other means to keep His church holy? I pray that GracePointe will be marked by love and holiness. May we be a church filled with people who care for each other and live for the riches of Christ.