This Sunday, we are starting with a new series called “Why Church?”.
We have been meeting together for the last 7 years as a community. We started as a bible study group with just 6 to 8 people meeting at a home and then moved to a hall where we grew in numbers. For all these 7 years, it has been our joy to serve you.
In recent months, as Jane and I were travelling, meeting, and connecting with people from other countries, we had several occasions to talk about you all. And honestly, every time I think or talk about, you’ll it makes my heart glad.
I remember when my family joined the bible study group, I never thought of becoming or wanting to be a Pastor or an Elder, I simply wanted to serve. But there came to a point when the Lord was leading me to step into this new role, and so I obeyed His calling. Soon after, Jinson also stepped up and ever since God has been faithful in enabling us to lead and serve this community voluntarily while Jinson pursues his full-time job and I pursue my business.
Looking back, I can only see God’s faithfulness, in the way he has led us, protected us, increased us, and he continues to do so.
And right now, we are at a juncture where we need to bring some structure in the way we operate and continue to follow God’s calling in fulfilling his mission of “proclaiming His excellencies by making disciples”. Therefore, we are introducing the process of ‘Church Membership”.
But before we get into that, it’s important for us to have a healthy perspective on what the bible tells us about the church.
Because there is a varied understanding of the church and its functions among people today, which may or may not be rooted in scripture. And therefore, it is our responsibility to show you from the Word, the purpose of the church as intended and designed by God.
As far as possible, we want to get rid of all man-made ideas, assumptions & rules about the church and align ourselves to understand it from God’s perspective.
In the next couple of weeks, we will talk about
- What is the church & why does it exist according to the scripture?
- What does the scripture tell us about a healthy church?
- What does leadership look like in the church and how does it function?
And finally, on the basis of the above 3 topics, why is Church Membership important?
So, if you are genuinely interested and serious about your relationship with God and one another, I would request you not to miss any of these sermons, or else you will only end up with partial knowledge and incomplete understanding that won’t be helpful.
Today, my job is to show you from the scripture “What is the church and why does it exist?”
A church is not a building or a place, but it is people.
The bible was originally written in Greek, and the word ‘church’ used in the Greek language is the word ‘ekklesia’, and ‘ekklesia’ means ‘an assembly or ‘the called-out ones’.
And the meaning of ‘the called-out ones’ specifically refers to those who have heard, understood, and embraced the truth of the gospel.
What is the gospel truth that I am referring to?
The truth that answers the most important & vital questions about life and its purpose.
- Who am I?
- Why do I exist?
- What’s the purpose of life?
- Why is there sin & suffering in the world?
- How can we attain freedom from sin & suffering?
- How can we experience joy and peace in life?
Every human being on this earth seeks these answers, and we come up with our own philosophies and explanation. How do we know that our explanations and philosophies are true? We only know when it ultimately fulfils the deepest longings of our hearts and fills our life with joy, peace and contentment.
So, let me answer the above questions from the bible and see if it resonates with you?
Who am I? – We are God’s image-bearers
The bible tells us that it was God who made the universe, the stars, the galaxies, and the planets. And it is God who sustains them. So far, no man has an explanation for the existence of these massive objects that are floating around us.
But scientists can tell you this – that if a minutest disturbance or change occurs in the setting of these objects then the earth will be evaporated in a millisecond. Nobody on this earth can deny the existence of a super-power.
**Romans 1:20 – *“*For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
The bible then goes on to tell us that it was God who made the earth, the creatures, and everything in it. He then made man and woman in his image and likeness.
Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
So, to answer our question, who we are, unlike every other creature on earth, we have been uniquely designed because we are the image-bearers of God himself.
The reason we are creative is because God is a creative God. The reason we have emotions is because God has emotions. The reason we are wise and knowledgeable is because God is wise and all knowing. The reason we love and long for love is because our God is love.
Why do we exist? & what’s the purpose of life? – We exist to glorify the one who made us and by choice enjoy fellowship and friendship with him and to live in peace and harmony with him.
Colossians 1:16 – “All things were created by him and for him.”
He created us in his image so that we could share in his overflowing love, grace and goodness through our relationship with the Trinity – Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
God did not need the world or need people because God has no lack and no need. Instead, God is so full of all that is good, that it overflows and spills out of him. His very nature is to share his goodness, grace and love.
He created us out of love for the purpose of sharing love. We were created to love God and each other. Additionally, when God created us, he created us for good works so that we might experience His goodness and reflect his image in the way we care for the world and for each other. We were created without flaw or sin and God intended that we live this way eternally.
Then “Why are we suffering and not enjoying peace and harmony?” – Because we sinned against him.
The Bible tells us that the first man and women he created, instead of walking in obedience and harmony with God, misused their ‘will’ to choose sin and thereby, rebelled against him by disobeying his command. Therefore, they were cut off from their relationship with their creator God.
Romans 5:19 – ****Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners.
Because Adam disobeyed, we all became sinners in the eyes of God. And according to God’s law, the penalty for sin is death.
Therefore, it’s important to understand that our suffering, in general, is not a consequence of our present actions or circumstances but it is ultimately because of our broken relationship with God.
How can we then attain freedom and peace with God? & How can we attain freedom from sin and suffering? – – by repentance & faith in Jesus
The bible tells us that we can never attain freedom and peace with God with our efforts. None of our good works or our religious activities can bridge the broken relationship with God. Why? because his standard of holiness is far beyond our reach. And only He can draw us near to Him.
The bible tells us in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
The bible tells us that when we broke our friendship with him, he persisted in love. Yes, he was angry with us, but his love for us was even greater. Therefore, to set us free from the punishment of sin, he sent his son Jesus, as a human, to live the obedient and God-honouring life we were supposed to live and take the punishment of our sin on himself and die the most horrible death on the cross.
By doing so, the bible says, Jesus fulfilled what the law required from us, death. And in return gave us the promise of a new life. A life free from the bondage of sin and eternal suffering.
“Adam disobeyed God and caused many others to be sinners. But Jesus obeyed him and will make many people acceptable to God.
The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God’s gift of undeserved grace was even more powerful. 21 Sin ruled by means of death. But God’s gift of grace now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life.”
The term used in the bible for this good news is ‘Gospel’
So, how can we attain freedom?
Acts 3:19 – “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.”
We turn to God by believing in Jesus and his finished work for us on the cross.
That’s it, nothing else is expected from you and me. It is purely because of his grace and our faith in Jesus that we are accepted into his kingdom.
Repent of our sins and believe in Jesus with all our heart mind and soul – And we will be saved. This is what the bible tells us.
The salvation we receive by doing so is called ‘Justification’. And this salvation is not just valid on this earth but in eternity with God in heaven. Once our sin was leading us towards hell but now, because of God’s gracious provision of his son, we will spend eternity in heaven is what the bible tells us.
Now coming to our final question
“How can I experience joy and peace in life?” – by loving Jesus with all our heart, mind and soul.
We experience joy and peace by loving Jesus more than anything or anyone in life. Consider him as the most precious gift we have ever received. When we do that, his love will then compel us to walk in obedience and pursue righteousness all the days of our lives. And that is how we will continually experience joy and peace in life.
Daily reminding ourselves of the Gospel that saved us and changed our status from orphans to the children of the most high God and included into his family.
Now, I know many of you sitting here have already repented and put your faith in Jesus and experience the loving-kindness of God in their lives. You have heard, understood, and embraced the truth of the Gospel, and therefore you are part of God’s church.
Since we are talking about church membership, the first eligibility is that you accept and consider yourself a sinner saved by grace through the finished work of Christ on the cross.
If you have truly done that in the presence of God then God knows your heart and he has already affirmed it, but to men, who cant read your mind or see your heart, we declare in various ways –
#1 – By water baptism – Proclaiming and declaring yourself as a Christian in the presence of God and many witnesses, baptism means to be fully immersed in the water signifying that our old self is buried with Christ and coming out of it as a new self.
#2 – In regularly participating in the Lord’s supper – Participating in the breaking of bread and drinking the vine, remembering Christ’s body that was broken for us and his blood spilled for us so that we can be set free from sin and condemnation.
Now, Church membership is also a manner in which we show our commitment to the local body of Christ, in giving ourselves to be held accountable, to be instructed and discipled in the Lord, to participate in the kingdom work, and to walk with one another as a family united in Christ. Even though the word ‘church membership’ may not be explicitly mentioned in the bible, it is biblical. We will cover that in the last topic of this series.
At the end of this series, we will be handing over a church membership form to you and ask a couple of questions like –
- GOD: WHO MADE US, AND TO WHOM ARE WE ACCOUNTABLE?
- MAN: WHAT IS OUR PROBLEM? ARE WE IN TROUBLE AND WHY?
- CHRIST: WHAT IS GOD’S SOLUTION TO OUR PROBLEM? WHAT HAS HE DONE TO SAVE US FROM IT?
- RESPONSE: HOW DO I COME TO BE INCLUDED IN THE SALVATION OFFERED BY JESUS? WHAT MAKES THIS GOOD NEWS FOR ME?
- WHAT WAS YOUR LIFE LIKE BEFORE CHRIST?
- HOW DID YOU COME TO KNOW CHRIST?
- WHAT IS YOUR LIFE LIKE AFTER COMING TO KNOW CHRIST?
To those present here, if you have heard this gospel for the first time, and you’ve clearly understood it as it was explained today, then, all you have to do is repent before God and put your trust in Jesus.
You might want to do that in private or in the presence of another person, that’s your choice, but do come and meet us, if you have not clearly understood or have questions, we would love to help you, pray with you, encourage, and talk with you more about church membership.