Who Are the Church? (Matthew 18:15-20)December 12, 2021 | Brandon Cooper
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Good morning. Go ahead and grab your Bibles. Open up to Matthew chapter 18 we’ll be starting in verse 15. Matthew 18, verse 15, as you’re turning there, I was thinking to myself this week, what two words could describe every person in this room? And there weren’t a lot of them, actually, when you think about it, but not a lot that we all have in common for sure. We are not all Americans, for example, good citizens of other countries. Here we are not all Christians wouldn’t even all claim to be Christians always have at least a handful of people who are asking questions about the faith, which is great. And we’re so glad that you’re here. So one that I came up with, and maybe there are a few others that kind of go right along with it is we’re all human. So that’s something we’ve got in common, you know, which means things like well, we’re all living all made in the image of God kingdom, mana, Malia, all that kind of stuff. The other word that I came up with, it’s true, I know of every single one of us is that we’re all sinners. So we got that going for us. Whether you like it or not, are now that are not still true, shocking thought, but transparently true, then, that that means that sinners come to the church gathering. And only sinners come to the church gathering, that’s going to cause some problems, right? You’ve seen it if you’ve been in church for any length of time, they’ll be some interpersonal conflict, there’ll be some disunity, right clashes of theology, personality vision. In fact, I’m willing to bet that a good chunk of people in this room would say that they have been hurt by the church, by the people of God, I would count myself in that number. Very, very definitely not this church specifically. But a church raised this point for a few reasons, but primarily because today we’re answering the question, who are the church? Who are the church? Exactly the people who constitute the church? Well, it’s pretty easy answer, we are sinners. But we’re much more than that, as well. And we’re gonna see that as we tackle three words this morning. Three words, we’re gonna look at membership, discipline, and devotion. With each of those words, we’re gonna look at a gospel truth, and a gospel application as well. I’m gonna read our whole passage for us this morning, Matthew 1815, to 20, because I’m gonna work a little bit out of order. Rather than tackling the order the text, I’m gonna, I’m gonna go in chronological order. So you can’t remove somebody from membership until they become a member. So let’s do that first. So let me read Matthew 1815 to 20. And then we’ll walk through those three words. Here it is, if your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault just between the two of you. They listen to you, you’ve won them over, but they will not listen, take one or two others along so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. They still refuse to listen, tell it to the church, they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Truly, I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven. And whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, Truly I tell you that the two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for it will be done for them by my Father in heaven, For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them?
All right, word number one, membership, membership in verse 18. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth we bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven now cannot make sense of that verse, verse 18, apart from verses 15 to 17, because the context is excommunication. We’ve just booted somebody out of the church, you gotta treat them like a pagan or a tax collector. They’re no longer part of the church. And it’s right after that, that Jesus says, Whatever you bind will be bound, whatever you loose will be loosed. And so what does that mean? This whole idea of binding and loosing Jesus is talking about those that you recognize or affirm or welcome as believers as those who belong to the people of God and those that you do not. That’s not the only place Jesus uses this language. Let me read the other passage as well. Matthew 16, verses 18 to 19 says this, I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Interesting, right? almost the exact same language there who Jesus is talking to Peter the word Petrossian. means rock. So he’s saying your rock and on this rock, I’m gonna build my church. And as Peter is representative of the apostles, and church leadership that will come from them the elders, and really even the congregation, as we’ll see. And Jesus says, I’m gonna give you guys the keys to the kingdom of heaven. What an absolutely shocking statement mean, what does that mean? Exactly? You get the keys to the kingdom of heaven? Certainly it does not mean you get to decide who comes? And who doesn’t. Who gets to be saved. And who doesn’t. That’s God alone. We know that maybe if we only had these two verses, we wouldn’t come up with that. But we’ve got the rest of the book. It’s quite clear Salvation belongs to God alone, it is his choice and his choice alone. So what are we talking about there? Again, we’re talking about identifying and affirming those that God has saved. We mentioned way back in week one, you may or may not remember that the church is like a kingdom outpost an embassy of this future kingdom set in the present. Well, membership then is a little bit like the passport that the embassy hands out. You’re saying yes, this person really is a citizen of heaven. Never been to an embassy overseas, we have two of our girls were born overseas. And so at a certain point, we had to take them to the US Embassy there in Bogota, and say they’re not Colombians, they are Americans. Could we get a little piece of paper that confirms that for everybody so that they let them into the US when we want to go home for the summer and things like that. And they looked at Karis with her blond hair and blue eyes and said, Yep, sounds good. Doesn’t always go that easy, but worked for her at least. So that’s what membership is, there we go. Yep. I can see it. This is a citizen of heaven. So very similar to baptism. Then when we talk about much more recently, baptism is almost like the citizenship ceremony. And then this is the passport which you know, you got to kind of renew every couple of years or something like this. It’s an ongoing recognition. Yes, this person really does belong to Christ, because we could get baptism wrong. I said that a few weeks back and the logic of church discipline assumes that we may get baptism wrong, somebody who does not belong to Christ wrongly baptized. What I find so interesting, though, is Jesus only uses the word church two times that we have recorded. And it’s in these two passages, Matthew 18, and Matthew 16. Both times Jesus says, let’s talk about church, whatever you bind, whatever you loose, and talk about church, wherever you bind, whatever you loose, it’s as if Jesus is saying the church must know its members who belongs. Now why does membership matter so much, then, that Jesus would say this both times I can think of four key reasons at least, there probably are a lot more, but let’s go through for at least first, membership matters because it helps guard the peace and purity of the church is exactly what we see in our passage this morning. Because what happens verse 17, at a certain point in the discipline process, you have to tell it to the church. Why because the membership of the church as a whole participates in church discipline. If it gets to a certain point, at least hopefully it happens in much smaller groups. But you understand that in order for discipline to be effective, then we need to know each other. So that what is discipline actually stings, we feel the pain of separation? Because if you’re a haphazard attendee, only who cares if people separate from you? People I don’t know who don’t know me, they’re not going to hang out with me anymore. Boy, there’s a big loss.
And so that’s the issue you could you could just you could just go somewhere I’ve seen this happen been a part of church discipline processes just a few times where it’s gotten pretty significant at one point we’re at the we’re gonna need to chose for church and they took off, went to another church down the street and other church down the street did not care where they’re coming from, or why they were coming, just happy to have more numbers. And that was that discipline ended. I don’t really know what happened to that person. As a result, that’s bad for you. By the way, that’s not like bad for us. Well, we lost somebody again, now our numbers went down. It’s bad for you for reasons that we’ll see in the next section. So it helps guard the peace and purity of the church. Second, membership matters because it helps with effective shepherding. We saw just last week that the elders are to care for the flock that’s been entrusted to us. It’s really difficult for us to care for you if we don’t know that you’re there. Who you are, was on Hebrews 1317 It says obey your leaders because they keep watch over you will keep watch over whom do we know? Don’t know if you’re there, it’s really difficult to obey. I think we’ve seen this especially just in the last 20 months or so. We worked really hard to make sure people didn’t fall through the cracks during COVID. I’m sure we didn’t do a perfect job by any means but we tried to reach out periodically. But I know that none of our members fell through the cracks, because we had them on a list. And we could just go through the list and reach out periodically. The people who saw the cracks are the people who slip in and slip out in the back. And it’s kind of a hell, I don’t even know the name, I don’t know their contact information. They’re on their own. That’s a sad place to be, of course, third reason that helps guard the peace and period of the church helps with effective Jeopardy. Third, helps Express and strengthen commitment, which is something we need help with, helps Express and strengthen commitment to Christ and to his people to the bride of Christ, the church. So membership is again, a public declaration, again, much like baptism, to chance for you to say I belong to Christ, like I marked as one who belongs to Christ. I’m not ashamed of him, which matters, of course, because Jesus says, if you’re ashamed of me, then I will be ashamed of you at my coming. So there’s a public declaration there, that’s great, but I think it also helps us commit to one another. And that’s so important because we see the value of commitment in a low commitment culture. Honestly, we commit to the things that matter most to us. I’m always amazed I talk about this a lot. That’s because it’s just It shocks me every week, pretty much people who would never miss a kid’s sporting event. But who will miss church? Which one matters eternally? And yet there is while you’re saying that is more important, that is more valuable than miss if we got a tournament on Sunday morning. You know, where my treasure lies, at least. And so this helps us though to say okay, I’m gonna make that commitment. Maybe you had parents like this? I know I didn’t when I was growing up, where you signed up better team was like you don’t miss practice, you made a commitment. Okay, well, here now in membership, we’re saying I’m making a commitment. And that does actually help us the act of committing makes us more likely to be committed. You see this, by the way, the difference between marriage and dating or even cohabitation, I asked this question a lot. When we do our membership classes, what’s the difference between dating and marriage? It always comes down to one word, one word only commitment. That’s it, you’re not looking for a way out anymore. There’s no sense of let’s kind of see how this goes, see if I really like her or not. Because that’s what happens in dating. Nobody learns this better than Seinfeld. Right? So basically nine seasons of somebody who could not commit. That’s the whole show right there. And at one point, Jerry and George are having this conversation when we grow up. And we just need to commit to somebody finally. And so they’re make this decision. And George gets engaged, by the way at that point, and Jerry breaks up with the girl, you know why? She would eat her peas one at a time. Which is weird, maybe, but you know, that’s the point. Okay, because your church is gonna be weird. I’m not sure if we eat our peas one at a time, but we do something weird. That would make you think I could do better. Surely I could do better than this. Right? Because who are the church sinners,
lots of blemishes, lots of reasons to move on. Except that if you’ve been married for any length of time at all, you know, the move, moving on is not a good thing. That’s not what helps you know that that finding that perfect person. That’s not a real thing. Brett McCracken says it like this. He says, compatibility matters when it comes to finding a spouse as it does when finding a church. And that’s true. Like if you’re like, we’re just all I want to do is sing hymns with an organ. This is not a good church for you. And that’s fine. Okay, unless you’ve married us, in which case, you’re stuck now. All right, but so compatibly matters when it comes to finding a spouse as it does when finding a church. But it isn’t everything. Commitment matters more than compatibility. Dating is a good process of discernment. But it’s only about discerning the perfect fit for me, it will be an endless and ultimately disappointing search. At some point we just have to commit, recognizing that we aren’t perfectly compatible, but we are perfectly covered by the grace of God and perfectly empowered by the Holy Spirit to make it work. We don’t marry soulmates as pastor Alan, we marry suitable strangers. The same goes for marrying a church. The trouble is in our culture, we prefer to date the church. We’d like to keep her around for special occasions. We like that little bit of companionship she offers when we’re feeling lonely, but at a certain point we just need to commit. That takes us to the fourth reason, by the way, that membership matters because it helps us overcome our prideful independence, or prideful independence or individualism, which we talk a lot about here. The fact that that’s the culture we inhabit. There is no such thing as a lone ranger Christian, we need each other that’s been the burden of this series in so many ways is to show us how deeply we need each other. At some point you got to come to the place where you can say I cannot do this alone. I cannot Get to glory by myself. If God has given you the church for that reason, and let me say this to you to make sure you got those people before you need them. That’s one of the hardest things is when you go into season and you go, I sure wish I had community now, get community before the time comes that you need it. But here’s the thing, your your individualism and your your aversion to commitment. It might be keeping you from church, but just a word to those of you who are still questioning Christianity at this point, that commitment aversion, it may keep you from God as well. Here’s a certain point to where you’re not going to get every question answered before you say I surrendered to Christ? Because I certainly didn’t, I still don’t have all my questions answered. Only that’s what happened with a certain point you need to go. It’s true, I can see that it’s true. And that’s enough. And I’m going in, you know, feet first, all the way kind of thing. So that’s you, it’s something to think about even today. So for reasons there, that membership matters. Now, I will say churches handle membership really differently. And that’s fine. We drop our kids off for Awana at a church that does not practice membership. They just don’t think that category of membership is a biblical idea. That’s not us. We kind of gone the other way. Here, we practice what we call meaningful membership here, and it’s a fairly formal process. But the important thing is, whether you’re here or somewhere else, or if you’re here, and for whatever reason, you cannot become a member. Maybe it’s because you disagree with our approach to membership. Maybe it’s because there’s something in the statement of faith, you can affirm like baptism or something like that. Even if you’re not formally a member, it is important that we all see ourselves as members of one another, um, that we cannot disagree. Romans 12 Verse five, in Christ, we, though many, forming one body in each member belongs to all the others, like that part’s just in stone. So what have we learned? Alright, we got a problem. The church are sinners. But we are sinners, saved graciously, and saved graciously into a people to become a People First Peter to nine, but you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light. You know what you don’t see any of their individualism just didn’t make it your priesthood, your nation, your group? Do you see it? You’re a group. That’s the point. So what do we do in response under that glorious gospel truth? We pursue membership, pursue membership, whatever that looks like. Take it seriously. That’s what I mean by this. Take it seriously the fact that we are members of one another, don’t just attend.
But commit. Maybe that looks like formally pursuing membership in this church. I hope that’s the case for some of you will have a class early next year during our explore our times, if you’re interested, let me know. Right, sign up, take the step, let us know you’re there, and that you’re committed. Because to be the church, Jesus is quite clear about this, we must know who is inside and who is outside. First Corinthians 512. Paul says it like this, What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? We can talk about the judgment thing in a moment here. But if nothing else, you know there’s an inside and there is an outside their clearly defined borders. But of course, this takes us into that next section then, and the whole idea of discipline. And we’ll look at First Corinthians five again at that point. So here’s discipline, let me read verses 15 to 17. Again, if your brother or sister sins go and point out their fault, just between the two of you, they listen to you, you’ve won them over, but they will not listen take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. They still refuse to listen to to the church. They refuse to listen to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or tax collector. church discipline is rarely talked about. And even less rarely practice. I ask people regularly if they’ve ever seen church discipline done, and usually about 90% of the room will say nope, not a chance. And then I’ll ask if they’ve ever seen it done well, and that number goes down even farther at that point. And yet it’s so important shows up routinely in Scripture. Why is it so important? Because one of the quickest ways to see a church die, just wither slowly but surely is to leave sin unaddressed in the church. So what is church discipline? Let’s start there. church discipline is a part of discipleship. In fact, even discipline, although we tend to think of discipline negatively, it has a very positive connotation, doesn’t it? We want to be disciplined to soar To people doesn’t mean we want to be punished. Regular means we want to do what we’re supposed to do. So there’s a difference between formative discipline and re formative discipline. You do this in parenting all the time, don’t you? Formative discipline, you teach your kids how to do the dishes. And reformative discipline is when they start watching TV without having done the dishes. That’s the difference right there. So when we talk about church discipline, we’re usually talking about reformative discipline. That is, it’s the part of discipleship where we correct the person and point them to a better path. And it follows the patterns laid out in these verses, successive waves of pressure, as it were, the circle of those involved just gets bigger and bigger. Now, sometimes I’ll just say kind of parenthetically here. Sometimes the sin is so grievous, and the witness of the church is so damaged, that you skip straight to excommunication. You have somebody who is front page news at CNN, because they’ve been arrested in our church for the serial abuse of children,
we will have a membership meeting that night to excommunicate them, because they will no need to prove that they are a Christian, that they’ve lost that opportunity. At this point. Again, part of that is protecting the witness of the church. So that serial pedophile who’s destroyed the lives of hundreds, he’s a member of your church, still, there’ll be a fun conversation with your neighbor. So you get the idea. But ordinarily, it proceeds in this way. Now, church discipline is not something the leaders do. Leaders may need to process but it is something for all of us. There’s something the membership of the church does. That’s clear verses 1516 especially, it’s like an badly Miss apply a famous saying, if you see something, say something, that’s what this looks. So church discipline should be happening all the time, is just a quick word and journey group and community group or somewhere else. And hopefully, then the matter is done. Look, when you said that, like that had that had some issues with it. I think you need to repent. And the person goes, you are right. I’m glad you said something and they repent. And then hopefully, it’s done at that point. If it’s not, though, especially if we’re seeing a pattern or something like this is not the first time I’ve heard you gossip like this. Well, now we bring somebody else along two or three so that the matter can be established by witnesses. Who is this someone else that we’re bringing along? Maybe it’s somebody else who witnessed what transpired? No, I saw you take money from the offering plate when it went by. And by the way, everyone else in the pew did here are two other ones. We can all talk about it. More likely, though, you’re bringing along an elder or something like that to witness the process of church discipline. In essence, what you’re witness to then is whether or not there is repentance, or if there is still unrepentant at this point, because that’s what we’re dealing with. When we’re talking about church discipline. We’re not talking about whether or not you sin, you all sin. Okay? You probably have all sinned already today. And probably since you came into this room, so like, that’s fine. We got we’re talking about habitual or characteristic unrepentant sin. Take the most extreme example, maybe not the most extreme, but one of them of course, it’d be somebody who’s in an extramarital affair and they won’t give it up. There’s just no sense of I’m gonna leave that person and come back to my spouse, okay, clear, habitual unrepentant sin. But I don’t want us to think that church discipline is only for the serious sins either. This may look like somebody who is habitually unrepentantly of gossip at the church, and who’s just tearing down people’s reputations, stirring up conflict and division creating factions. So what happens? Two or three go to them still don’t repent? Well, now you toggle to the church? Probably not on a Sunday morning, because we got people who aren’t the church in this room on a Sunday morning, probably at a membership meeting? No, we would do that. Why? So that everyone is aware. So that everyone’s aware, so we just can’t pretend like it’s not a thing. It’s their colors, every conversation that happens from there on out and everyone is on guard, praying, especially, but encouraging, as well. And if after that, still unrepentant, the final step is excommunication. This means removal from membership, means you’re no longer welcome at the Lord’s table. Why? Because you don’t want to eat and drink judgment on yourself, as Kyle took us through a few weeks back. But it’s not just that you’re removed from membership, either. It’s that you’re no longer recognized as a Christian. Because of the sin in your life, we can no longer affirm that you belong to Christ. And so this is what happens when you take your passport back, again, is that idea where you’re saying? We are not convinced you are a citizen of heaven? Paul talks about this quite a bit in First Corinthians five or the whole chapter worth reading. Certainly I’m gonna read a few snippets from it, but he writes this he says, it is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate. So when you are a sum Vote. That’s important, isn’t it? The word assembly you’ll remember is Ecclesia. Church, right? So when you come together as the church, that’s all of us. It’s not just something the elders do. I said, when you were assembled and I am with you in spirit and the power of our Lord Jesus is present him this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that? A little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough. But now I’m writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister. But as sexually immoral or greedy. That’s important too. By the way, it doesn’t say don’t hang out with people who are sexually immoral, or greedy, or swindlers, because then you couldn’t hang out with non Christians. And you’re supposed to hang out with Where was Jesus? Jesus rarely hung out in church, he was usually hanging out in bars, right? Because he loved sinners. He wanted to minister to prostitutes and tax collectors. So it’s not saying don’t associate with people who say don’t associate with people who claim to be Christians, and do that. That’s something else
entirely. Do not even eat with such people. Jesus says. Now that last phrase is important, the whole idea of not eating with them, because that’s table fellowship is different for us. Right table fellowship is less important in our culture than it is in Middle Eastern culture. We’re not talking about shunning. But separation, we can no longer fellowship as if we are family because we are not family. And so everybody’s aware of the elephant in the room. And again, it colors every interaction as a result. But I liked this passage, too, because it also gives us the aim of church discipline. The aim of church discipline is not punishment. It sounds that way, doesn’t it? Hand this person over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Sounds punitive. So that so that his spirit may be saved. That’s the hope. All right, that the discipline, the pain of discipline, would be enough to lead them to repentance. You talk about a church discipline process, and inevitably, somebody will say, What about grace? What about grace? This is Grace. Grace, is discipline that leads to repentance. You want to refrain from showing mercy, let them continue in their sin, so that they’re lost eternally. That’s not grace. That’s not love. That’s hatred, of the very worst sort. That’s what Jesus and Paul says in Romans one, right? At a certain point, God says, Fine, live your life the way you want to live it. And that’s damnation. We don’t want to be a part of that we long for full restoration of the person involved. So either restoration to the church. And by the way, this may mean repentance from their sin. This may mean if they finally become a Christian, often in the process of church discipline, you go, you know, the reason why I wasn’t seeing victory over sin is because I didn’t belong to Jesus, not really. And so maybe that’s what happens. We want to see repentance that leads to godliness and reconciliation that leads to fellowship. And discipline is an act of love. And it is an act of love toward everyone. It is how we show our love for Christ because we want to protect his reputation. And his name is how we love the unrepentant individual, because we want to see them restored, and is how we love the rest of the church. Because we want to warn them against the dangers of sin. We don’t want that leaven to work its way yeast to work through the whole batch of dough. That’s what that’s talking about there. And his love for the world as well. Because it let them know about the reality of sin and judgment and grace. So you see it all there to protect the reputation of Christ in His Bride. Discipline exposes sin. It warns us it gives us a preview of the judgment to come and it protects others. So what’s the problem? Again, sinners come to the gathering. And sometimes people who get caught in sin, come to the gathering. But here’s the good news. God doesn’t leave us in our sin. And He has given us this church discipline as a mechanism for change. Why? Because he’s a loving father and loving parents discipline their children. It’s people who don’t love their kids that don’t say anything. So there’s the gospel truth. Who are the church, the church are sinners, saved graciously and disciplined, lovingly, not punished. By the way, the punishment fell on Christ. All your sins, past, present and future have already been punished in Christ. If you belong to Christ, not punished, but disciplined, lovingly. What’s the gospel application of that truth? Practice, practice church discipline, not attend a church where the elders practice churches when you practice church discipline, when you see sin, the brother or sister in this congregation with humility, because you know that you are a sinner with gentleness like Christ, you admonish, exhort, and rebuke. Before I press on the last section, I want to give a word again to those who are here today who are not a part of this church and not a part of Christianity and still checking it out and got questions and all that. What’s my word? Because it’s kind of a hard piece. I just feels like in house discussion here and whatnot. It’s not those was for you also. Why? Because I want you to be encouraged by what you just heard, that you are right now in a church that takes our sin seriously. As well, one of the biggest problems non believers have with Christians is that we’re hypocrites. Now, sometimes what that means is that we’re sinners. That’s not hypocrisy. I want to be really clear about that. If you know this book, well, you know that Christians continue to sin, less and less guess but we continue to sin. So if you’re like, he’s a hypocrite, he still sins nope, that’s just your you got bad theology, you
need to learn some more Christianity. But it’s true. There is real hypocrisy, as well. When, for example, we had all amped up about judging people outside the church, these people who don’t claim to follow Christ, they’re not following Christ. Can you believe it? Christians are dumb. Sometimes we just have to say it, okay. No, we deal with our sin inside the church, those who profess Christ live like they profess Christ, we take our issues seriously, we’re dealing with hypocrisy, and I do hope that that is an encouragement to you. Last Word, though, is devotion. Devotion, we read verses 19 and 20. Again, again, truly, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For two or three, gather in my name there am I with them? These are really easy versus to misunderstand, especially if you take him out of their context. To Greg cocoa. He’s got a great line. He says, never read a verse of Scripture. It’s another one of those ones where you go, No, you’re supposed to read the but you are supposed to read the Bible. Just don’t read one verse, okay, uh, you need context. We need to put this in its context. Why? Because this is not a prayer promise. This is about a judicial proceeding. This is coming out of that whole discussion of church discipline, who are the two or three that are agreed? Well, if you put this verse in its context, we already heard about the two or three, like those words already got used that helps you understand. So we are talking about those two or three witnesses who come together to do church discipline. In other words, what Jesus is saying is that heaven is on board with a church that walks through discipline biblically. But I think there’s a larger point to be made here as well, because really adds in discipline. So in everything that the church is called to do, it requires the church to come together. And take another example one that we talk a lot about in this series, we serve in the church, for our mutual edification. Church has to come together to do this, here’s Ephesians 416. From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work, very similar situation, Christ is present, there am I in your midst, he says in our passage in Ephesians, four from him from Christ, all of this happened. So Christ is present in the church, as we devote ourselves to being and doing what Jesus has called us to be and do. So what has Christ called the church to be? And do? What must a church member do to be the sort of church member that Christ calls us to be in the strength that he supplies may give you six things? Six, first, attend, attend and be a church member you got to attend. It’s just that simple. And maybe it’s so simple. I didn’t need to say it, except I think I need to say it. Hebrews 2010 25. You know, don’t give up meeting together is summer in the habit of doing that habit has not gotten better since the writer to Hebrews wrote this passage. I don’t think attendance at Avondale churches has dropped precipitously in the past few years. But what’s interesting is that it’s not that there are fewer people coming. It’s the same people are coming fewer times each month. That’s a problem. a systemic problem in our churches. Can you think of anything that might have happened in the last 20 months that would have made that worse? Because now we just got this excuse. And we’ve gotten out of the habit of just showing up and again, attended Not what you need to do. Like that’s just the bare minimum, you just can’t do any the other things you’re supposed to do if you’re not here. So you got to start by being here. And I gotta tell you, it’s time to come back. And it’s time to come back regularly. Is there still risk of COVID? Yes. There will always be risk, though. There will always be like, we don’t want to be stupid people. But at the same time, we don’t want to be overly anxious people to understand like, you cannot by worrying at an hour to your life, and some people hear that verse and they’re like, well, great, I’m gonna die when I’m going to die. So I’m gonna try skydiving without a parachute. Because if it was my time to die, I was gonna die anyway. And if not my time to die, then Jesus will save me as dumb, obviously, is a extreme example. So that part’s dumb.
But there’s another part to that just says, I’m going to do all I can to make sure that nothing ever happens to me or the people I love. And that’s just not real. Like you walk outside, bad things can happen. You can stay inside, when people learn this a few states south of us, just this weekend, there is always risk risk is never a reason not to do what God has called us to do. It’s time to come back. Second thing, where do you attend, first of all, second, encourage, encourage is right there in the verse I just read, by the way, so don’t give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but encouraging one another, encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day approaching, so that it’s not just instead of giving up meeting together, at least meet together, but it goes beyond that we meet together so that we can encourage one another. Which is why we need you here. It’s why we miss you if you haven’t been back yet. Because there’s an encouragement that only you can bring this verse though, it helps us so much to to shift from a consumer mindset to a Christian mindset. Because the question isn’t, Well, should I go to church today? And see if is the church going to meet my needs today? Or is it normal go to church, they because I know that I need to meet somebody else’s needs today, because God has sent me to be an encouragement. And I don’t even know what that’s gonna look like. And probably most of us don’t even know that, you know, you go home and you’re like, did you see so and so and just when they and it was such an encouragement, you probably didn’t tell that person. Like you have no idea, the encouragement that you are to other people. So attend encouraged third serve. That’s what we’re called to do certainly talked a lot about this already in the series, the body grows as each part does its work. I said last week, that God gave leaders to the church, gifts, leaders to the church, so that I can stand before you and say, quite literally, I am God’s gift to all of you. And I can say that, only because you are also God’s gift to me and to each other. Right? God gifts us to each other. God has gifted you to this community for its health and growth. And we will not grow to maturity apart from your work. So what would he have you do in this church? To build us up? The question you got to ask and answer, attend, encourage, serve fourth witness. Because of course, we’re called to serve not just in the church, but outside the church as well talk a lot about this, when we hit the mission of the church were to be a faithful presence where we live, work and play. Were to engage in bold and winsome outreach. Let me ask you this question. Can you be a faithful member of a church? If you are not safely carrying out the commission that God gave that church to do? I don’t think so. Are we clear on what Jesus has called us to do? make disciples of all nations baptizing them? So we got to witness then as well attend encourage serve witness fifth give, give? Financially, I mean, here I’m not even like using this euphemistically, we did time and talent already give money support the ongoing work and mission of the church. A lot of that money goes to salaries for which I’m very grateful. I said last week that there’s no difference between a pastor and an elder. The difference between me and Kyle and Don and Pat and Joe is just a Kyle and I can devote more time to this. That’s it because of your generosity, we’re able to do this full time which just means a lot more gets done. That’s it so that’s a good thing. salaries of course, but missions as well. The operations the church y’all glad to heat’s on today. Especially next week, today’s actually kind of nice outside we’d be heat off last week in the offices. I am glad the heat is on most of the operations of the church, and then outreach as well. Your second Corinthians nine seven and eight. Paul just talks about our getting each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly so that in all things all times having all that you need, you will abound in every good work, the expectation is clear that we would be giving and giving generously. And by the way, this is a really easy one for me to preach, because we just saw in city knew this is happening here, we have seen generous giving, and it’s so encouraging, I’m sure we’re now all giving uniformly, and maybe somebody needs to hear this today. But overall, as a congregation, I feel like we’re doing well in this one, attend, encourage serve, witness give, and then six, it’ll have a sixth finger. So six, connect, connect with the Triune God, first and foremost,
I am the vine, you are the branches, Jesus said, apart from me, you can do nothing. Which means all that rest of the stuff that I just mentioned about being an encouragement about serving all that comes as you draw life from the vine. And it’s his life that produces fruit in you and other people separate yourself from the vine. None of that happens anymore, the branch just wither certainly not going to produce fruit. And so this looks like prayer and study, especially just knowing Christ intimately. But when I say connect, I’m not just talking vertically, but horizontally as well, we need to connect with each other too, because you will get all the one another’s in the New Testament confessed when a loved one or forgive one another serve one another encourage one another, they all assume community. They’ll assume that we can do this, like you don’t confess your sins to the person who slips in 10 minutes after the service starts and leaves during the last chorus of the last song. That doesn’t happen. Which means if you’re sitting in the back slipping out before you got a chance to connect with anyone, you’re not actually being the church. And that’s a bad thing. Attend, encourage, serve, witness give and connect. This is God’s expectation. And I said in the last section, we should be doing church discipline all the time. Which means if one of those six things isn’t happening in somebody that you know that you see, you need to step in. You need to speak of notice you’ve missed what’s going on what’s happening here, and maybe there’s a really good reason. But at least we’ve asked the question, it’s fine. By the way, church discipline should always start with questions. You don’t ever need to jump right to your view, get some understanding first, what’s going on. I talked about elders last week and mentioned that is elders, we will give an account for how we’ve shepherded you, which is a terrifying thought. But it does mean that we are zealous to do all that we can for you. But here’s the thing, not just because we’re going to give an account for how we shepherded. But because one day you will give an account as well, for how you live your life. I don’t want the first time that someone asks you why you aren’t given to the church. And while you’re not serving in the church, we when you stand before Christ. It’s too late then, to answer that question. This is one of the reasons why we have a covenant, a membership covenant here at Cityview. And why we review it COVID heard us we got out of a habit that we’d gotten into about meeting with our members regularly to talk us through this. But why? Because it’s a chance to ask our members, these things that we’ve been called to do. Are you doing them? If you want to become a member here at Cityview, we’re going to ask you these questions are you given? Where are you serving? What’s that? What’s that like? But then what you’ve been coming here for 10 years, we don’t care anymore? If that’s happening. That’s ridiculous. That’s why we got to meet for this ongoing encouragement. That’s what shepherding looks like WHO ARE THE CHURCH sinners. Yes. But sinners saved graciously discipline, lovingly, and connected devotedly. Pay attention to the adverb on that one, though. Because who is it that saves graciously God saves us gracious in his grapes, who is it that lovingly disciplines that’s his love, although hopefully the churches love as well. So we’re starting to branch out who connects us That’s God. God connects us to one another, but the devotion is ours. We’re gonna connect devotedly that’s on us. God’s saves us into His people that we might devote ourselves to the community in which he has placed us. And so what’s the gospel application to that glorious Gospel, truth, participate, participate fully in the life of church, get involved, do what God calls you to do be what he calls you to be.
If you look at those three P’s, by the way, that fill in the blanks for us pursue practice, participate, no kind of saying the same thing, aren’t they? Like, you didn’t mess these up and would work, participate in church membership, pursue church, they work whatever one you’re talking about. That’s because they’re all saying the same thing because that’s just what we need to do. The takeaway is get off the sidelines and into the game. Be what God has called you. Maybe that means coming to Christ. Maybe that means becoming a member of the church, if it means living like a member of the church, you do so for your benefit. But for ours as well for our mutual edification, we just pause for a moment to and see what incredible news this is. We live in an age of individualism, isolation, division, polarization. And God saves us to be a church and assembly, a group of people, God who is himself three, and one, as we already saying this morning, he is the perfect example of unity in diversity. And that Triune God makes us one with him and one with one another. Which means what the world seeks we have in communion with Christ, as he tells us in the passage, even today, there am I with them, in communion with Christ and members of one another. That oneness that we seek gather with us, and you will gather with sinners, people who got problems, and we’re going to hurt each other, and possibly hurt you. Gather with sinners, yes, but sinners saved, graciously disciplined, lovingly, connected devotedly. And you are welcome to join. Let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for the good news. Not just that we belong to you, but that we belong to one another. And it is good news. Because you made us for you, but you made us for each other. Also, we were not meant to do this by ourselves. We were meant to do this in community, you gave us fellow pilgrims on this journey. And in your grace, Lord, you not only have put us in a group of people, but you’ve given us the gospel that allows us to become one with those people in practice, to live that unity in diversity that has so befuddled the world. So we can have people here with really different experiences and cultures and backgrounds and all the rest gifts and theology and personality, all coming together, knowing that what unites us is so much greater than what could ever possibly divide us. May that witness to a divided world, Lord. But for it to witness truly, we need to be what you’ve called us to be truly and so help every one of us here today to take even just one more step forward. In participating fully in the life of this church, those things you’ve called us to do, and be for one another. We pray this Lord for your sake that your name would be glorified and we pray this for our sake too, that we would grow into maturity that you are working in us. And we pray this in Christ’s name,