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The Church: a temple

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

The Church is not a building. God’s people, however, are a temple for the living God. Did I lose you?

In Ephesians 2:18-22, we’re told that Jesus Christ is the cornerstone for the Church and that the foundation was laid by the Apostles. That’s construction talk, but it’s not literally talking about a church building. We, together, are the temple of the Lord. You’re not the temple, I’m not the temple. WE are the temple.

How can God’s temple be holy (v.17) if we’re each so sinful? How can we be the dwelling place of our Lord if we’re stained and tainted? We’re unworthy to be called His people, let alone His dwelling. The Spirit dwells in us collectively, though. It’s because of His presence, because of the righteousness instilled by Christ, that we’re given the privilege of being a home for God.

The holiness of Jesus is the starting point of this Church, laid upon the foundation which came with God’s commission to His people. And I’ll let Paul finish by saying, “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Find comfort in the fact that all together we make up the temple of God, which He swears to protect.

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The Church: a flock

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?

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The global Church

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.

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The local church

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.

 

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The Church: a family

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.

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What is the Church?

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?

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Incorruptible love

Ephesians 6:23-24 Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

There are few things as awe-inspiring as the love of God that He showed in Jesus Christ. When God put on flesh and dwelled on the earth, He professed His love in a way that is hard to understand, but powerful to feel.

His love is incorruptible, and since we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), ours ought to be incorruptible as well. If it’s real, and it’s true, then there is nothing that can stop it. We know that there’s nothing that can stand between us and the love of God (Romans 8:38-39).

God’s love comes with some things, like peace and grace. You want to really know peace? Experience God’s love for you. You want to really know what grace is? Turn to the Father in your lowest moments. He’s real and He loves you. Don’t take it for granted, bask in it. Breathe it in and let it fill you with awe.

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Be encouraged

Ephesians 6:21-22 So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

We all need people in our lives who we can talk to and who we can expect to encourage us. Without people like this, times can get very tough. We start to believe lies about ourselves and we need someone to pull us out of that funk.

With all this talk of spiritual warfare in Ephesians, it’s important to note that not everything that feels like attack is actually opposition from the enemy. I’m quick to blame spiritual attack when sometimes I’m being disciplined by God. He disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6, Proverbs 3:12, Revelation 3:19). Sometimes it’s discipline that comes as a result of our sin, and sometimes He’s just conforming us into who He wants us to be.

I’m thankful for the brothers in Christ that I can turn to that help me to realize when I’m in a season of discipline and pruning and when I really need prayer against spiritual opposition. It’s encouraging to hear from someone that he has the same struggles and I’m not alone. It’s also highly encouraging to hear an uplifting and wise correction when I’m thinking about giving up.

Do you have people like this around you? If not, it’s highly recommended that you find someone from among the body of believers who can speak into your life. Be encouraged.

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Pray for your pastor

Ephesians 6:19-20 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Do you pray for your pastor and leaders in the church? What about missionaries and charity workers?  We ought to be in prayer for anyone and everyone who proclaims the gospel.

The Apostle Paul closes out his section in Ephesians on spiritual warfare by asking the people to pray for him as he proclaims the gospel. It was taking the gospel public that had him in prison, and the last thing he was going to do was give up preaching it. It’s safe to assume that the Ephesians and many other Christians did pray for Paul and that his effectiveness was in large part a result of that.

Your pastor needs prayer as well. It’s not easy to get up before people and preach on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It comes with a lot of spiritual warfare, as does the work of missionaries in the field. They desperately need the support of other believers.

Take time each day to pray for the people that are bringing the Good News to those who have not heard. Pray that God would direct them, protect them, and work through them to reconcile people to Himself.

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To persevere, pray

Ephesians 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

It may sound like an easy answer, but when facing spiritual warfare, one of the best tools we have is prayer. Though many of us would say that this is obvious, we still neglect to take advantage of the ability to speak to our Creator.

Most of the time, when we’re in dire circumstances, we turn to just about everything before we resort to praying to our Father who is able to provide all things. The truth is that when we’re depressed, He brings comfort, when we’re worried, He provides peace, when we’re being attacked, He gives protection. There’s no reason to look anywhere else before seeking Him.

Prayer isn’t just a defensive tactic though. In fact, prayer is one of the primary ways to be proactive in spiritual warfare. When we keep alert in prayer, we’re ready and equipped for what comes at us. When we’re aware of God’s direction and we follow Him, we’re sensitive to what He wants us to see.

Keep in contact with the Father and you’ll find yourself where you need to be. Pray at all times.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known