JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: THE CHURCH IS LIKE A BODY

The church is God’s people meeting.  To teach us more, the apostle Paul uses a word picture or metaphor for the church.  The church is like a body – one person, but with different parts.

The church in Corinth was a church with lots of problems.  Paul wrote the famous 1 Corinthians 13 about love not so they could read it at weddings but because they were so unloving.  They needed to learn what love is.  They needed to learn how to love other Christians.  That is what 1 Corinthians chapter 12 is about.

No one who is speaking by the spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12 verse 3)

Paul starts by explaining who is part of church.  (Look at the text above).  It is anyone who knows, trusts and serves Jesus.  It is not about wearing the right clothes, knowing enough stuff in the Bible, or being good enough.  God’s Spirit teaches you to know the truth about Jesus.  That makes you part of Jesus’ church.

Now if the foot should say ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’ it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  (verse 15)

Then Paul says the church is like a body.  A body is one person, but has many parts – the church is one group, but with many parts (that is in verses 12-14).  And just as the parts of a body are different – the ear, the nose, the arm and so on – the people in a church family are different.  What does that mean for us?

The eye cannot say to the hand ‘I don’t need you!’ (verse 21)

First, Paul says, don’t count yourself as nothing.  Just because you do not have an impressive or noticeable role in church life, does not mean you are not part of it.  That would be as daft as a foot thinking ‘I’m not as special as the hand, I don’t really belong’.  If everyone was a preacher, the church would have no music.  If everyone was a musician, who would teach Sunday school?
Then Paul says, don’t look down on those with roles less impressive or less noticeable than yours.  That would be as daft as the eye saying to the hand ‘I don’t need you’.  God has made them part of the church.  We must not say to people, ‘we don’t need you, you don’t do enough’.

Paul is not teaching Christians to work out what part of the body I am, what my ‘gift’ is, so I can use it.  He is teaching us to accept others and to be confident that I have a place in the Church family because of Jesus. Be glad for the different people God has put in our church family.  Don’t compare yourself to others.
No matter how impressive you are at speaking, how joyful your singing, how exciting and fun the Sunday school class you lead, how brilliant your musical ability, if you do not love Jesus as Lord and saviour, you are not in the body.

What are some of the roles in the church family?

  • Vicar – his role is to care for the church, praying for it, teaching the word of truth, protecting against lies, training and helping Christians in their service.
  • The wardens – help the vicar lead church life, they are responsible for the care of the buildings, and to protect the vicar from being swamped by admin.
  • The Parish Church Council –make decisions about church life, with the vicar, on behalf of the church family. They make decisions about finance

You could use these questions and answers to teach children what we have been hearing about the church.

  • What is church? It is Christians meeting together
  • Is everyone in the meeting a Christian?   Only people who trust Jesus and love him are in his family.
  • Should people who are not Christians come?   We should welcome other people to our meeting so they can start to be Christians too.
  • Why do Christians meet together? Because we love Jesus and want to obey his command to meet.
  • What happens in church? When we keep on going to church, God the Holy Spirit uses it to change us
  • How does church change us? God the Holy Spirit uses the prayers, the songs, the teaching and other Christians to make us better love God the Father and Jesus his Son.
  • What should we try to do in church? We should try to encourage other Christians
  • How can you encourage other Christians? Come to church, come on time, join in by listening, singing, saying ‘hello’, being friendly
  • Which people can you be friendly to? (Say their names)

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: WHAT IS OUR JOB?

Look at Hebrews 3 verses 12,13 below.

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Hebrews 3)

‘See to it.’  Here is a command, not just a suggestion.  Instead of seeing other turn aside, encourage each other.

There is a process going on here.  Look at it carefully.

  • It starts with a heart that doubts God’s promise, that distrusts his care.
  • That kind of person turns aside from God.

It is said another way in verse 13

  • Sin is deceives – it misleads – it persuades us to think wrongly about God.
  • So we end up hardened against him – unresponsive

The danger is that we drift away from God.  We believe lies about him and so disobey him.  Don’t think that this couldn’t happen to you or even to the ‘really keen’ Christians.  It can.  That is the danger.  The answer is that God gives us each other to help us to hold on to him, to protect us from turning from him.  We need others; others need us.

 Paul Tripp, a helpful Christian author, wrote this:

“Physically blind people are always aware of their problem and spend much of their lives learning to live it.  But the Bible says that we can be ‘blind’ to our sin and yet think that we ‘see’ quite well.  I need you in order to really see myself.  Otherwise I will listen to my own arguments, believe my own lies.”

Sin leads us to believe things are true about God and us that in fact are not true.  And so sin makes us spiritually blind: we don’t see ourselves properly.  We end up believing one thing about ourselves when another thing is true.

Though we are often blind to our own sin, we may see other’s sins clearly – we can be better at seeing others are wrong than seeing it in ourselves.  That can be very irritating!  But it can be very helpful.  Because you can help me by pointing out how my life is drifting from God.

How are we going to get that help?  Again Paul Tripp helpfully wrote:

“Doing this for others is not about being a private detective, forcing someone to obey.  Instead, we need to invite others to intrude.”

This is a good way of looking at this isn’t it?  Rather than snooping around and trying to catch others doing wrong, we start by asking someone to do this for us.  We say: “I need your help to keep going as a Christian.  I need your prayers.  I need you to ask me if I am praying.  I need you to remind me that our Heavenly Father loves us, even when I have mucked up and been angry in the office yet again.”

What are the practical issues?

  • This is for everyone. We must not just leave it to one or two.
  • It is for everyone, but it is not with everyone. You cannot know everyone well enough to care for them like this.  It is a good pattern for us to have these more personal conversations with just one or two other Christians.
  • For many of us, this is a very scary prospect. We are nervous of talking to others about our lives and matters concerning God.  We have been hurt by others.  It takes time to build trust.  But we need to start taking steps in a forward direction.

What are the steps?

  • Recognise that we are at risk, risk of being deceived and turning from God – so pray to God for others, to keep them from turning from him.
  • Be more involved – come to church regularly so you get to know other Christians, join a growth group. Don’t get in the habit of not meeting.
  • To do this well, will take more than the brief time we spend together on Sundays. It would be good to text, call or (best of all) meet during the week.
  • Start talking more about Jesus and about living his way with your close friends.
  • Invite someone to ‘intrude in your life’ – to protect you from slipping.

24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10)

Good Friday Video

A short film imaging world news reacting to the death of Jesus.

What if Jesus was born today? Such a big event would have been covered by all the media in the world. Today people live through their electronic devices. They can watch live what’s happening on the other side of the world, and they can comment saying what they think. This video imagines  what it might have been like if Jesus had been crucified in our days. We can see how people react and how the news and events might have spread on social media and on the internet.

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: WHAT HAPPENS IN CHURCH?

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: WHAT HAPPENS IN CHURCH?

God is concerned about his people gathering or meeting together rather than about the buildings we meet in. But what are those meetings meant to do? Church meetings are not a way for a Christian to affect God, to change him. Church meetings are a way for God to change us, to make us different (Ephesians 4:11-13).

Church is not for a Christian to come and go through the same words each week and think, ‘I’ve done what I ought to.’ We may be uncertain and fearful that we have not done enough. Or proud because we think we have done enough.

Church is not for a Christian to come and show God my feelings, to show him how much I love him. We may be uncertain and fearful that our expression is not good enough. Or proud because we think we have expressed such deep devotion.

We do express ourselves, our desires and hopes, in our prayers and in the songs that are to God. But that is not the main reason to come to the meeting. Church is one of the things God uses to change us. When we gather, God uses the teaching, the songs and the prayers to train us to love him and what he has done for us. He trains us to fit in with who he is and with his purposes. He trains us to no longer be fearful and uncertain, we know what he has done and is doing. He trains us to no longer be proud, we know he is the one at work, not us.

This may be a different way of thinking about church from what you thought it is about. You may need to read this sheet a couple of times and think it through.

When we think church is all about me expressing myself to God it creates problems. If we understand that God is using church to change us, we avoid these problems. For example:

1. If I think church is for me to express myself, I will be tempted to be a hypocrite, looking good and not admitting my sin.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we will find it easier to admit that we are not scrubbed up, impressive people but that we are weak and inclined to sin.

2. If I think church is for me to express myself, I won’t bother coming to church if I don’t feel like it. After all, what is the point if I am not in the right mood to express myself?

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we don’t have to ‘feel like coming to church’ for church to be good for us and for us to take part in. In fact, many of us don’t feel like coming on a Sunday morning. But after the church meeting, we are glad that we came. During church, we find that it is only once we start to sing that our feelings may catch up with the songs we are singing.

3. If I think church is for me to express myself, I easily become selfish. I complain about parts of church that don’t suit me.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we will join in. We do need to try to find out when we don’t understand parts of the service. Ask; What do these words mean? Why do we pray that prayer? Why do we always have the Bible read? And so on. But we join in, knowing God uses these to change me and others.

4. If I think church is for me to express myself, it is easy to think that what I do matters most, not what God is doing.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we see he is doing the main action, not us. He uses our meeting together to do that. We should join in because we trust that God will use our weekly meetings to change us and those around us.

5. If I think church is for me to express myself, I may make the mistake of thinking that words must be spontaneous and unplanned to be genuine and sincere. So using the same words in confession or creeds cannot be sincere.

When we see that church is something God uses to change us, we can find that carefully planned words help. We should take care we don’t use them thoughtlessly. But sometimes it is only by using words many times that the penny drops. We know that doing the same thing again and again is good in other parts of life: to keep teeth healthy by brushing, to learn piano.

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Church is not for us to come and show God our devotion. It is how God re-directs our hearts, trains us to desire the right things. Church isn’t something we do to God, it is where God does something to us.

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: WHAT IS CHURCH?

JESUS IS BUILDING HIS CHURCH: WHAT IS CHURCH?

People use the word ‘church’ for several different things: A building ‘he opened the door to the church’; a job ‘he went into the church’; a Christian meeting ‘they were late for church’; a denomination ‘I am in the Anglican Church’; a local congregation ‘the church were glad when the missionary visited.’

But what does the Bible mean by ‘church’? It is a gathering or people, a meeting. The word used for ‘church’ in the Bible is the normal, everyday word for a ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly’. (There is more information on this over the page.)

What makes us come together? You may sit together with very different people from you on the tube. You have come together on the tube because you all want to go the same way. Why do such different people meet together in Christian church? What connects us? It is our shared trust in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says he is building his church (Matthew 16:18).

What are some implications for us? Here are five:

1. So often what we call ‘church’ is a building made of wood or bricks or stone. That is not the church that Jesus is building. Jesus is making a gathering of people around him. We should look after our church building; keep it clean, maintain it. But our greater concern should not be for the building but for the people who meet. Some churches in hot countries meet in the shade of a tree. The Bible meaning of church is not a building, it is gathering of people.

2. So often what we call ‘church’ is not what the Bible means by it. Denominations (the Anglican Church or the Presbyterian Church) are not ‘churches’. They are organisations that help a number of churches. The real churches are the congregations or gatherings, where God’s people ‘assemble’. Denominations can be helpful, but they are not as important as the ‘church’ that Christ is drawing together.

3. We should try to keep the focus of church, of our meeting together, on what Jesus has done for his people and is doing to his people. In our songs and prayers and sermons and coffee time chat we should keep reminding each other of important things: The great work Jesus has done to rescue us; the way he wants us to get on with each other; that we must be looking forward and getting ready for the day he comes to judge all humans.

4. We can expect our local church to be a letdown. Why? Because it is a gathering of others with sin in their life just like me. Sin will show itself in selfishness, in laziness, in refusal to treat each other as God wants. All those things mean that church will be a letdown. We should not be surprised when it is a letdown. But we should be working to try to join in church in the way Jesus wants.

5. Jesus is building his church. What is he using? People who come to him. You may have been in church meetings for years, but you are not part of the church if you are not a Christian. Being a church-goer does not make you a Christian, but being a Christian should make you a church-goer, because you want to submit to Christ and meet with his people. You may be a person who should spend more effort on helping the church and not just ‘attend church’. How can you help out?

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The meaning of ‘church’ – not a religious word
In Acts 19:32 Luke, the writer, tells us the assembly, is in confusion – who is this about? Look at v28. This is the Ephesian crowds. In Ephesus silversmiths who made models of false gods are worried because of the Christian preachers. They start a commotion, the whole city gathers or assembles. The gathering is called ‘the church’. But it is not translated church ….because a religious meaning is given to church today. They are called the church again in v41. The same word is used in verse 39 – ‘a legal church’. The Bible word that is translated ‘church’ in other places is not a religious word for Christians meeting. It simply means ‘gathering’ or ‘assembly’.

Bible Readings in dates till April 2018

Date (2018) Passage
7th January, John 13 vv1-30
14th January, John 13 vv31-35
21st January, John 13 vv36- 14v14
28th January, John 14 vv15-31
4th February, John 15 vv1-18
11th February, John 15 vv19-25
18th February, John 16 vv1-15
25th February, John 16 vv8-33
4th March,
11th March, John 17 vv1-26
18th March,
25th March, John 18 vv1-27
29th March, John 18 vv28-19v16
30th March, John 19 vv17-42
1st April, John 20 vv1-31

Is Jerusalem the capital of Israel?

In the last days,  the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.     (Isaiah 2 verse 2, N.I.V. translation)

Last week, the President of the USA, Donal Trump, recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Many Christians in America think this is God’s plan. Their view has influenced American foreign policy and international relations. Many believe that it is a religious duty to help the state of Israel to fulfil God’s promise – that includes establishing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. On the other side, from the Muslim view, it seems like Christians have attacked them to support Jerusalem. It seems that seeking God’s promise may even bring conflict and war. Is this a step towards God keeping his promise? Should we rejoice?

What should we think? It is no good laughing off these views as fanaticism – when you laugh at people they often just dig their heels in. There is a better answer than laughing it off. That is to read the Bible carefully.

As followers of Christ, we want to read the Old Testament the way he read it. His teaching should be our guide. Jesus and his apostles who wrote the New Testament show that God often keeps his promises in an unexpected way. What does that mean for the promises about Jerusalem?

Isaiah’s language is picture language. In Isaiah’s time, people believed that mountains were the place that you meet with your God. That was where heaven and earth meets – it is a good place for altars and temples. God showed Isaiah that amongst all the mountains, all the different religions, one mountain will stand supreme – all other mountains will be insignificant. It will be unique – there are not many ways to God, there is only ONE mountain. That means it is exclusive – this way and no other. But it is also inclusive – it is for everyone who will come. Isaiah says in the next verses, all nations will learn to go that way.

To expect that the city of Jerusalem will somehow end up higher than any other point on earth is not what Isaiah was promising. That is misunderstanding. He was not teaching international relations but about the way to life with God.

Jesus said that he is the answer to the promise. When a woman asked him which is the mountain to worship God on, Jesus said, “Now I am here, God wants those who worship in truth, in the Spirit I will. give” (read his exact words in John 4:21- 24). He did not say, “Isaiah was right, you have to go to the Mountain of Jerusalem”. (Nor did he say, “All mountains lead to God, there are many ways to truth”), It is not by going to Jerusalem that we find God, but by going to Jesus. Jesus is the exclusive way to God. He said, “No-one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6). But Jesus is inclusive, whoever – whatever nationality – whoever believes in the Son, has life with God (John 3:36). In a surprising way, God keeps his promise through Jesus.

So Isaiah’s message is not an excuse for war or political claims. How tragic that it is used for that. When we read it like that, we miss the real message – the promise of God to make a way for all nations to know him. Let’s pray for Christians who influence political policy in America and elsewhere, to understand this real message.

As Christians, we must take care to follow Christ’s way of understanding the Old Testament promises – not ignoring the Old Testament; but seeing how the Father keeps his promises, through the work of Jesus, in surprising ways

www.dagenhamparishchurch.org                                                       Joel.dagenham@gmail.com

No weapon fashioned against you shall prosper (Isaiah 54 verse 17)

This is God’s word. This is God’s promise. So when a brother is killed by thieves with a weapon – what does it mean? Does it mean the man was not a brother after all? Or does it mean that God’s promise has failed?
God makes many promises in the Bible.

• Some he has already kept. He promised Abraham a son. Abraham’s wife gave birth to a son.
• Some promises He is keeping now. He promised Abraham to bless people of all nations. Today, people of all nations are being blessed through Jesus.
• Some promises God will keep in the future. He promises a future with no more death or mourning or crying or pain. We live in hope for that future.

How can we tell which kind a promise is? How can we tell if it is a promise for us now? Other parts of the Bible tell us. We read God’s promise of a son to Abraham in Genesis 17. We read the promise kept in Genesis 21. We read the promise of blessing to all nations in Genesis 12. Galatians 3 tells us that the promise is coming true for all who trust Jesus. The Bible interprets the Bible. That is why we need to read our Bibles and be taught by teachers who are careful to read it well.
Which kind of promise is Isaiah 54:17? Already kept, being kept now or to be kept in the future?

In Isaiah 54:11-17, God is speaking to the Old Testament people about the future for Jerusalem. It is described in beautiful, lavish terms. This is the situation when God’s people will enjoy safety and peace and no weapon will prevail against them. God repeats this promise about Jerusalem when he talks of the new creation at the end of Revelation 21. It is still in the future for us. In this life, we are not safe from weapons. In Acts, we read that Stephen is killed by stoning (chapter 7) and James executed with a sword (chapter 12). God’s promise about safety from weapons will only be kept in the new creation, with the New Jerusalem.

What do we do when God makes promises?
Promises ask us to trust the person making the promise and act on our trust. If you say you will meet me at church at 10 a.m., I show that I trust you by turning up at 10 a.m. If I say I trust you but just sit at home saying to myself, they said they would be there, do I really trust you? It is the same with God’s promises. God promises to forgive those who confess they are sinners. I show I trust him if I confess I am a sinner and ask for forgiveness. If I say I trust him but just say to myself, ‘he forgives’ but never confess and never ask forgiveness, do I really trust him?

God has not promised protection from physical enemies in this life. We should take sensible precautions, we lock our doors at night, as far as possible, we seek to live at peace with all people, but he does not promise we will always be safe.
But God has promised protection from spiritual enemies, from Satan. ‘Resist the devil and he will flee from you’ (James 4:7). This is a promise of God. But how do we resist? How do show we trust God’s way of protection? The Bible explains the Bible: ‘Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes’ (Ephesians 6:10). How do show we trust God? By using God’s defences. The devil’s language is lies. We stay safe by hearing and speaking the truth from God. The devil accuses. We stay safe by trusting that Jesus has dealt with our guilt. The devil sows discord and division. We stay safe by welcoming other sinners who are forgiven like us.

Response to terror attacks

Media comments on the terror attacks in Manchester and London have expressed right grief but also confusion and error.  How does the Bible help us to think about these things?

 

The media has said these are terrible actions.  The Bible agrees.  These attacks are shocking because unsuspecting people have been suddenly killed.  As those who love others, we are very sad.

 

The media has said that the terrorists are especially bad people.  The Bible teaches that the root of these actions is sin.  Sin is the attitude in all humans that we know better than the Living God and that we can decide the best way to live.  Sin separates us from God and lies behind the actions that hurt each other (Romans 1 verses 18-32).  These terrorists are like the rest of us in this regard.

 

The media has said seeking revenge is wrong because it will make us like the terrorists.  The Bible says seeking revenge is wrong because God has put governments in charge to keep order and punish wrong (Romans 13).  The Bible also tells us to trust God to punish on his judgement day (Romans 12 verse 19).  Like the terrorists, we will face judgement day too.  We can only be ready by trusting in Jesus.

The media have said the security services have let us down – they did not stop suspicious people who later did such harm.  The Bible says we wrongly trust in what we do and what we make to keep us safe (e.g. Isaiah 30 verses 1-5).  But no government, no policeman, no secret services can protect us against all danger.  We are glad for the work of government and police but when we realise again how vulnerable we are, we should remember again to trust the God and Father of Jesus.

 

The media has said that Islam is basically like Christianity.  Comparing the Bible and the Koran shows this is false.  At the most important point of our belief the Koran says we are wrong.   The Bible says that Jesus died on a cross for sin (1 Peter 3:18); the Koran says that he did not die and the Jews lied when they said they killed him (Koran 4:157).

 

The media tells us what matters is if a Muslim is peaceful or violent.  The Bible says that what matters is whether or not you know Jesus, the Prince of Peace.  The Koran says Jesus was a prophet (Koran 19:30) but ‘no more than’ that (Koran 5:75).  It denies that he died for our sins.  The Bible tells us Jesus is the only way to life with God (John 14 verse 6; Acts 4:12).  We should seek to be good neighbours and fellow-workers with Muslims we know, being friendly, learning their names, talking with them.  Most of all, we should pray that they would come to know the Prince of Peace, Jesus.  Do you know a Muslim?

Please pray for them now.