Monday, December 15, 2014

Jesus Loves His Church

Here is a helpful message from Pastor Mark Driscoll on how Jesus Loves His Church.  Here

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her," (Eph 5:25). 
                The supreme human love relationship, marriage, is supposed to be modeled after Christ's love for His people.  Who are Christ's people?  What is the ultimate love relationship in existence apart from God's inner-Trinitarian love for Himself?  It is Christ's relationship to the church.  The church is far from perfect.  It is a group of sinful human beings doing life together.  But, it is a group of imperfect people affected by the perfect love of Christ.  It is imperfect people being slowly made perfect by God.  Much pain has occurred through the church, sadly.  But, God has not given up on it.  Instead, Jesus loves the church and is purifying it so that it glorifies God.  Because Jesus loves the church, Christians must love the church.  Christians must love the organized body of believers both globally and locally.  Christians must pray for the success of the church around the world.  Christians also must actively join and serve in a local body of believers, even when it is painful to do so.  The church is the family of God on earth, and though we are not yet sinless (hence the ongoing pain in earthly churches), we work through the power of the Holy Spirit to serve God and one another better.


The church was appointed to the difficult task of disciplining those living in rebellion in order to warn them away from leaving Christ and to preserve the purity of Jesus' church
"If they [the sinning brother or sister] will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.'  If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church, and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector," (Matt 18:16-17).
                Jesus teaches that the church is the last line of defense in warning and discipline against someone turning his or her back on the faith.  He chooses the church for the most important task of sharing the Gospel, of discipling followers, and of encouraging sometimes harshly true followers from not falling away.   True followers will respond to church discipline.  False followers will ignore it.

Despite persecution, the church of Jesus endures and will endure to the end
"Saul began to destroy the church.  Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison...He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?'...Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened," (Acts 8:3, 9:4, 9:31).
"And I tell you that you are Peter [pastor of the first church], and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it," (Matt 16:18).
                God appeared directly to Saul who was rounding up and killing Christians and dynamically transformed his life to serve the church instead of destroying it.  Jesus so loved and identified with his church that he said Saul was persecuting himself by persecuting his church.  Through Jesus' intervention the church grew and prospered in spite of persecution.  Further, Jesus promised that the fledgling church, begun as the Holy Spirit empowered the disciples with Peter as the lead pastor, would not be overcome for all time.  Instead, the church would grow and spread to the ends of the earth until Jesus returned to call His followers home.

The church prays for one another both for protection, and for success in ministry
"Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him," (Acts 12:5).  "Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust," (Acts 14:23).
                The strength of the movement of Jesus followers is the Holy Spirit empowering Jesus' church to support one another and band together to take His Good News into all the world.  Namely, the mission of Jesus to save the world hinges on the success of the church.  There simply is no alternative plan.

Christians are known partially by their love and devotion to Jesus' Church
"Dear Children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.  This is how we know it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.  For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us," (1 John 2:18-19).
                John powerfully teaches that a mark of true Christian spirituality is dedication to Jesus' church, to meeting together, to encouraging one another in spite of our differences and sinful behaviors towards one another.

True Christians are strongly warned not to leave the church and they won't.  False Christians are partially known by their tendency to leave the church.
"Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 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.  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God," (Hebrews 10:24-27).
                The church was created and appointed to endure and to help individual Christians endure and prosper to the glory of God forever.  Thus, despite its human flaws, Christians are called to be in church regularly and worshipfully.  Those who leave the church, and turn their back on it may do so from seemingly good motives, but ultimately they are counted as enemies of God because Jesus loves His church. 

               The conclusion is that though the church is not perfect it is Jesus' precious bride for which he died.  The church is the local and global body of justified and sanctified believers.  The church is not what it will be but it is ultimately the closest we will glimpse of the love and caring relationships we ought to have until the heavenly kingdom comes in full at Jesus' return.  Sadly, there are many in churches today who are not truly part of the Church.  Further, everyone still struggles with sinful tendencies.  The church is a hospital in which the Holy Spirit not only enlivens our hearts to receive God's forgiveness through the substitutionary death of Christ, but in which He reshapes our hearts to love and serve God.  We sin less in part by loving each other in the church more.  There simply is no way to obey the commands of Christ as a Christian without faithfully and regularly serving in church.  Sadly, many have responded to the brokenness in the church with rejection, but in so doing they are rejecting Christ who loves the church and died for the church.  Instead of rejecting the church, pray for it, plug into it, and work to better it.  If you love Jesus, you will love His church, and have compassion on the many flawed humans who make up His church.  You will remember that you, like everyone else, are a work in progress. You will pray that God will have his way in your heart and in others and will work to serve God's people in His church.  If you cannot stand the church, you would hate heaven in which the eternal society is the redeemed church loving God and one another for all eternity.

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