We belong to a consumer society. We have bumper stickers that say “born to shop” and shopping malls have become our cultural centers. The government has even got into the act: we are no longer called citizens we are now consumers. We are no longer patients in a hospital; we are now “health care consumers.” This attitude has long crept into the church: we have become consumers of religion, and we even speak of “church shopping.” We come to church to have our spiritual needs met, and if they are not met here, then we will try the next church, consume their religious goods and see if they satisfy.But the reality is, the church is not a “God store” dispensing spiritual nourishment for the masses. If you have come hoping that this church will meet your spiritual needs, you are mistaken. The church cannot meet your spiritual needs. We are not a religious institution. What we are is a community of faith who come together to meet God – and he and only he can meet our spiritual needs.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV)
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The church is not a religious institution, it is not a service provider, and it is not a retail outlet: it is a community of faith. The word for church in the Bible is “ecclesia” from which we get the word “ecclesiastical.” It comes from two other Greek words “eke” for out, and “kleisis” for a calling. When the Bible calls us the ecclesia, it is calling us “The called-out community. That is why verse 9 says “he has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. The “Ecclesia” is not an organization or an institution; it literally means a gathering of the people – a gathering of God’s people! Church is not a place – it is a people.
YOU ARE A CHOSEN PEOPLE. Think of the significance of that statement! When you become a part of the Church of Jesus Christ you are joining the ranks of a chosen people. God chose you! You belong to Him! You are the child of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You are royalty! There is an incredible joy that comes from understanding the full significance of that statement. However I want to talk further today on the important responsibility that comes with this understanding and it begins with the observation that…
1. Eternity Matters Most.
Matthew 25:19-21 (NIV)
19 “After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’ 21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
– We will have to settle the account.
– He is not looking for faithful attendees.
– You have a talent that needs to be used and multiplied.
Notice that Peter writes, “…you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood….that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” For every person who is a part of the family of God has an incredible God-given purpose for their life. That purpose is always an eternal minded one. What you do with your God-given purpose has implications for eternity…
Many years ago a man conned his way into the orchestra of the emperor of China although he could not play a note. Whenever the group practiced or performed, he would hold his flute against his lips, pretending to play but not making a sound. He received a modest salary an enjoyed a comfortable living. Then one day the emperor requested a solo from each musician. The flutist got nervous. There wasn’t enough time to learn the instrument. He pretended to be sick, but the royal physician wasn’t fooled. On the day of his solo performance, the impostor took poison and killed himself. The explanation of his suicide led to a phrase that found its way into the English language: “He refused to face the music.” (Just Like Jesus; Max Lucado)
Today you can pretend to be a part of God’s orchestra by just blending in with the crowd and going through the motions. No one may notice, because you say the right things, go to the right places, and hang out with the right people. And you can enjoy the comfort of being accepted by the crowd of your choice. But there will come a day when you must face the music, one day you will be separated from everything. On that day you will stand alone before God and give an account for your life, your decisions, and whether or not you were tapped into the living water.
Romans 14:11-12 (NIV)
11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
2 Corinthians 5:9-10 (NIV)
9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
– Think about the way you spend your time.
– Are you ready to give an account?
– Are you a participant or a spectator in the Body of Christ?
– Have you slipped into neutrality?
Why do we lose our eternal focus and slip into lukewarmness, apathy, and neutrality?
a.) Time passes and we lose heart.
Many Christians think they need to hear more in order to grow when really they need to obey the teaching they have already received! They need to do the Word!! This brings me to the next point…
2. Christianity is about doing, not hearing and watching.
The most influential and effective times in my life have not been sitting in a pew listening to a message but in doing the message I heard. One of the reasons God has given each one of us a purpose is so that in the pursuit of the fulfillment of that purpose we grow and influence others for Christ. This was probably one of the biggest lessons that was reinforced for me with my recent trip to Zimbabwe…
How many times do you think about what you’re going to get out of a ministry in the church? I rarely think about what I am going to get out of a Sunday service, I focus on bringing what God wants me to give.
What about you?
1 Corinthians 14:26 (NIV)
26 What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
– These must be done or the Church will not be strengthened.
That explains the weak state of affairs in the North American Church. I believe Jesus has a strong message to the consumer church and the consumer Christian…
Matthew 25:31-40 (NIV)
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
An older sister was sitting next to her younger brother in Church one Sunday morning unsuccessfully trying to keep him still and quiet. Finally she said, “I wish you would calm down.” “I can’t”, he said, “it’s just so boring.” With that his sister turned and said, “It’s supposed to be boring.”
Is this really true? Is church supposed to be boring? I want to tell you something folks – if you’re involved in church, it won’t be boring – and there are many ways of being involved… (list some ministries)
James 1: 22-25
22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it–he will be blessed in what he does.
A German soldier was wounded. He was ordered to go to the military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, “For the slightly wounded,” and the other, “For the seriously wounded.”
He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For officer” and the other, “For non-officers.” He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, “For party members” and the other, “For non-party members.” He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street.
When the soldier returned home, his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?”
“Well, Mother,” he replied, “to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!”
The soldier’s comment describes many churches in our day: really organized, but accomplishing little.
It is imperative that the church be a nation of “doers”. But our actions should always be accomplished and directed by our Lord and Saviour…
3. Jesus is our “True North” guide (conclusion)
True north is a constant and refers to the geographic North Pole. Magnetic north tends to shift and refers to the pole of the Earth’s magnetic field. In mid 2002, true north and magnetic north were approximately 590 miles apart.
… Maps are aligned along true north, so hikers have to make adjustments when navigating by compass (taken from http://ask.yahoo.com/20030826.html)
There are times when we may be going along a path that seems like the right direction but it is always important to check the direction we go against the one who always guides correctly!
Recall that Peter said, remember…
1 Peter 2:10 (NIV)
10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
The Apostle Paul writes about the one who enabled this mercy to his protégé Timothy…
2 Timothy 2:8 (NIV)
8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel,
a.) Remember Jesus.
When we get discouraged and feel like quitting as Timothy does at this time it is because we have lost sight of something. We have become focused on ourselves instead of Jesus.
Remember the incredible victory He won over sin and death and the struggle to quit.
b.) Remember His humanity.
Remember that He did not win as God but as a man like you and me.
c.) Remember His resurrection.
Remember how He made a show of the forces of the enemy openly. Like a Roman Caesar returning in victory He ascended to the thrown and announced, “I am still King!”
d.) Remember the gospel message.
If you don’t remain true for any other reason then remain true for the sake of those who are watching and judging the Gospel message based on your witness.