John 10:11-16 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
What’s your favorite metaphor that the Bible uses for the Church? Mine is a flock. The beautiful imagery of Jesus Christ as our Shepherd is hard not to love.
Just as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his flock, our Good Shepherd looks after us with affection and with the dedication of one who cares for His own. Some look at God as a distant deity, someone who just created things and then stepped back and doesn’t care what happens. On the contrary, though, the Father cares very much for His people.
He cares so much, in fact, that He appointed the Son over His flock, that we might be cared for in the very best manner possible. He’s even given Him the task of calling those who don’t belong to His flock to become part of it, that there might be just one flock, one united Church, under the headship of our loving Shepherd.
Do you know the Shepherd? Are you His?
Ephesians 2:18-22 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
If the local church is a family, then the worldwide church is one great big family. All who put their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation have been adopted into the family of God. That means that it doesn’t matter where you live on planet earth, we’re all one in Him.
This whole notion of a global Church is built on the foundation laid by Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. It’s in Him and through Him that the Church exists. If we’re in Him, we’re united as one. Regardless of language, worship style, Bible translation, or type of building, we share one thing in common: our Lord, Jesus.
This beautiful depiction of the church given in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians tells us all we need to know about the Church. Through Jesus we’re given access to the Father. We’re in one Spirit. We’re all citizens in the household of God, Jesus being the Head over us all.
If, instead of the Church being so divided, we’d come together, we’d see miraculous results. We’ll discuss further the idea of God’s people being built together into a dwelling place (living stones), but in the meantime take a few moments to re-read Ephesians 2:18-22 and really savor what it says. The global Church united under Christ is a thing of beauty.
Hebrews 10:24-25 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
What is your immediate thought when the word “church” is used? Do you think of a building? If we’re not careful, we’ll fall into the state of mind that a local church is the gathering place where believers meet together. The church, though, was never meant to be known as a place.
There are various commands given in the New Testament that apply to how Christ followers should treat one another. The thing is, we can’t fulfill those commands if we don’t interact with one another. If we think that we can manage to live the lives God has called us to on our own, we’re mistaken. There are very good reasons to gather together as one.
As previously mentioned, the church is a family, and in a family there are relationships, expectations, and communication that take place. In order for that to be the case, people in the family of God need to gather. We need to learn and we need to worship, we need to encourage each other, and we need to help each other grow.
The local church is necessary for all of us who belong in the family of God. We can’t go at this life alone. We need each other, and we need a time and a place to congregate. The local church isn’t a building, it’s a people. If you’re not part of a local church family, you’re missing out on what the Father has in store for you.
Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
The church has been called many things. We use descriptive words to portray something that has various layers to it. When we think of the local church, many times the illustration that comes to mind is that of a family. The thing is, the church is not like a family, the church is a family.
Just as a family household has multiple people of different relations that all function in their own role, the church has lots of different people that are all related in Christ, each with his or her own specific place in the family.
That doesn’t just mean that we each have our own special talents to use in the church, which we do. It means, deeper than that, that we are called to be different things to different people within the church family. To some you might find yourself a counselor, to others an encourager, while someone else may need a mentor.
As followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to show love to everyone, but none more so than our own brothers and sister in the family of God. There’s no better place to find other people who will love us and support us, no better way to live out the calling in each of our lives.
The church is not like a family, the church is a family. It’s God’s family.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours
It’s one of the fundamental questions that every Christian must ask. What is the Church? Is it a building? A group of people? A movement?
The Bible is rich with descriptions of and metaphors for the Church. There’s no limit to wide array of illustrations given. The Church begins with the children of Israel in the Old Testament, carries on into the New Testament, and is ultimately commissioned by Jesus in the flesh.
This thing, this “Church,” is worldwide, local, immediate, and imminent. One thing is for sure, the tie that binds those who are called the Church is Jesus Christ, the cornerstone. Those who call on His name are His people. He is theirs and they are His. The Church is His.
In the following weeks we’ll be looking deeper into what God’s Word has to say about the Church. What do you say that it is?
Ephesians 5:19-21 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
When God’s family comes together there’s a celebration. Because of all that the Father has done for us in Jesus Christ, there’s a lot to be thankful for, a lot of reasons to sing, so much to be thankful for.
How do you approach the weekly gathering of believers? Do you look at Sunday morning as a time to be solemn and quiet? Do you view it as a personal time of reflection? Those things have their place, but truly the gathering of the saints is a family reunion every time it happens.
The purpose of getting together with others who follow the Lord is to encourage each other, to build each other up, and to praise God in community with one another. We use our gifts to serve each other, put each other first, and honor Christ by doing so. Don’t be afraid to sing, don’t keep to yourself, don’t make it all about you. Sing, serve, encourage, and enjoy.
Ephesians 4:15-16 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
It’s clear throughout the New Testament that God expects us to grow spiritually once we’re His. It’s not acceptable for a professing follower of Christ to just remain a spiritual infant. He must grow into maturity, and we must then help others to do the same.
The Church is called the “body of Christ” many times and this is not to be overlooked. There are very interesting parallels between a physical human body and a church of believers. Every member must do their part in order for the body to function and the body must grow in order to become mature. A physical body that does not grow is not normal and something is wrong which must be corrected. It is also true that without a head the body does nothing. Without a head the body cannot properly grow either.
Look at this in regards to the Church. We can’t grow individually or corporately as a body without our Head, who is Jesus. We can’t expect to become mature if we do it in our own power, apart from His giving of life. Though every member has his or her own function, talent, and calling, we’re all subject to the Head. In Him we grow, in Him we function, in Him we find unity, and in Him we find life.
If His love flows throughout the Church, there is growth. If there is a lack of love, there is no growth. There is turmoil, not unity. There is disfunction, not a living out of calling. But with His love, all things are in order, all things are functional. The body grows in love.
The First Letter of John
1 John 2: 18-27 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.t21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he made to ust—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
It will never be my intention to scare you, but there are certain warnings in God’s Word that need to be looked at. John thought it was important enough to point out the existence of antichrists that he spent a good portion of his first letter warning about them.
There are those who oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ and seek to lead His followers astray. Though we’d like them to be easily identifiable through something like their black cowboy hat, it isn’t that simple. Though we’d like to be able to tell who they are based on the fact that they’re “out there” saying hateful things about Jesus, it’s not true. They are among us, posing as our brothers and sisters. They say things much like what we say. They call themselves Christians but their intentions are not to follow Christ. Their intentions are rather to keep others from following Him.
So how can we spot someone who is an antichrist if they look just like a Christian in some cases? There is one test given by John to his readers. They deny that Jesus is the Christ. The simple fact is that they are called antichrists because they are against Christ. If someone is opposed to believing that Jesus is the Son of God, sent into the world to redeem God’s people, then he is an antichrist. Don’t get this mixed up with The Antichrist who will come as the embodiment of all that is evil. These are individuals who reject the gospel yet try to look like they belong with Christians as they work to destroy. It was true in John’s time and it’s true in ours. Be prepared for lies by knowing what the Truth is.
Romans 12:10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Have you ever been part of a church that just didn’t feel like it was really living out the purposes of God? When that happens it often starts with a lack in the love department. If Christians can’t love each other, the fellow members of the body of Christ, then there will be no effective ministry.
Paul’s marks of a true Christian reflect not just how a Christian should act, but how Christians should treat each other. These were not instructions on how to treat people “out there”, but how to treat people “in here” first. Practicing the love of God and doing good works starts among family and then it spills out into the rest of our relationships. We must first love and serve our fellow believers.
This is one of the key reasons to belong to a local church fellowship. A church provides the opportunity to love and serve those who share a faith in Christ before going out and doing it among the people of the world. A church is a place to be equipped for ministry, and that starts with love and service from and toward your fellow Christians. Besides that, Christian unity is best perfected within the context of a gathering of believers who make up a family.
Love what is good, hate what is evil, love and serve your Christian brothers and sisters.