So glad you have joined us for what I believe will be a great series on ‘The Church’.
We will cover some ground that will challenge us, remind us, re-fire us, refocus us and give understanding of what the Scripture says about the incredible plan of God which is the Church – rather than some of the assumption, guesswork, popular opinion or our culture that seems to be around.
The last few weeks as things have been slowly coming out of a crazy time, I have been in a bunch of conversations that have impacted me.
They have centred on:
- How different everything is
- How much things won’t be the same
- Things that can’t be wound back now that they have happened
- Some of the possibilities of future challenges and fears
But what I noticed was the visible air of concern or uncertainty, almost alarmist and people are not sure how to respond.
I think there is validity in realising things have changed. To bury your head in the sand and imagine nothing has changed would be foolish.
But today I want to talk to you about what hasn’t changed! In the midst of natural and earthly confusion, there are some eternal things that bring stability, hope, life, encouragement and banish doubt and fear.
I feel like perhaps some people are stuck today because they are lost in what is muddy, moving, shifting and changing. There is nothing certain that they can hang onto.
But I want to talk on the Church and some of the things you can hang on to, get some traction with and then you can keep pressing on into your future.
Here are three things about the Church that hasn’t changed!
1. The Church – as God’s eternal plan hasn’t changed!
The way it looks, the methods, the flavour, the styles may change – but no matter what, it is the Church that is God’s plan for the salvation of humankind on the planet.
Before time began God put together a brilliant plan for revealing Him on this planet, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.
In fact, God’s intent is that it is so important and the centre of our lives, that He wrote the following in His Word:
Ephesians 1:22-23 (NIV)
22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Ephesians 1:20-23 (The Message Version)
20-23 All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the centre of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.
The world is peripheral to the church, not the other way around!
I love the way the Message reminds us that whatever our:
- Position, or lack of it
- Financial status
- Age, Gender, Demographic
- The possible uncertainties we find ourselves facing
The thing that He has called us to, and is central to His plan, is the Church and His plans for it haven’t changed.
God’s desire is that none should perish, but everyone would come to eternal life and His plan to achieve it is in us through Jesus!
- The Church
- The Ecclesia
- His Body
- His Bride
- The Glorious Mystery
- The Head over all things
Given all the names God uses to describe it, I get the feeling God is pretty serious about, and seriously loves, His Church.
So, this is where I see believers as being able to provide:
God provides to the world around us, because while it may be shaken with whatever is happening around us, God’s Eternal Plan – the Church continues to be His unshakable eternal plan that we can count on to bring life and hope and blessing to this world.
There is a bit more for us to understand first! We don’t have to let this situation we find ourselves in at the moment, impact us.
2. The Church’s mission – helping people find life and live it hasn’t changed!
If the Church as God’s plan hasn’t changed, what about the Mission? Has it changed?
John 10:10 (NIV)
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.
John 3:16 (NIV)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)
18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
To help people find life in Christ and live it and to disciple them!
So, if we stick to this command of Jesus, the shifting in this earthly and now realm, what is happening now only changes the how, but doesn’t change the Mission at all.
While ever we are blessed with the gift of life, we need to use it to serve God in His Mission of rescuing:
- People who are lost
- The un-loveable
- The rich and poor
- The blind
Whoever we come across we have the ability to minister to them life and hope.
Listen to how Jesus put it in Luke.
Luke 4:18 (NIV)
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19 and that the time of the Lord’s favour has come.”
He has not come for us to:
- Live in fear, doubt, anxiety, shame or brokenness
- Have nice, comfortable social gatherings
- Sit around and listen to good sermons
- Pat each other on the back
- Add to the stupidity on social media
He has come to help people of all situations find eternal life and help them live life free from the bondage and brokenness of this world.
What I love is how the method might change, but the Mission never does!
The Church at times:
- Looks different
- Sounds different
- Sees change and innovation
- Finds creative new ways of doing things
But the Mission is set like concrete!
Do whatever you have to in order to help people find life and live it.
- Jesus did it at what cost?
- It cost His death on a cross!
3. The Church’s Victory – we win. That hasn’t changed!
This should be the confidence we as the Church ought to have.
Ephesians 1:23 (The Message)
This world and its trends and patterns are peripheral to the church and the eternal purposes of God and we must remember that.
If we focus on God and His plans it puts everything else in perspective.
Matthew 16:18 (NLT)
18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.
When Jesus made this statement, He looked through time and He knew of every:
- Type of sickness
- Political structures and governments – good, evil and in-between
- Social upheaval
- Wars civil and global
- The shifting of world empires
- Poverty and wealth
- Great powers
- Every group of people
- Right through to the innumerable cultures and ways of doing and seeing life
Yet His emphatic statement is: “I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it…”
In a world filled with change and upheaval and shifting:
- Social ideas
- World powers
- Freedoms and tyrants
We must realise the victory that Jesus won has not changed and neither has:
- The message
- His promises
- His return, or
- His Word
God’s plan was in play well before anything we have ever seen and has outlasted the best of challenges for the last 2000 years!
Yet it continues to move forward because it exists far above and beyond the realm of this temporary planet
The Church isn’t rocked, it’s not shaken and it’s not under threat. The only thing under threat today is the kingdom of darkness as it’s gates cannot stand against the onslaught of the army of the Lord!
The mission remains the same as what Jesus set out to do 2000 years ago. Even before that when it was decided in heaven before time that God would be revealed through His people and the Church.
In conclusion, if we make God’s Eternal plan the centre of our lives, if we make His mission our mission, if we trust in His eternal victory, then we can be bold as lions, filled with faith and confidence.
We can refuse to be gripped with what shakes the world and instead be providers of:
- Personal fulfilment, purpose and peace
We can help people find Christ’s life and help them to live it!
The word of God will never fail.
Suggestions for discussion
- Have you noticed a visible air of concern or uncertainty, almost alarmist and people are not sure how to respond? Discuss how you think is a good way to counteract this.
- God put together a brilliant plan for revealing Himself on this planet. How does it make you feel that the Church of Jesus Christ is God’s ultimate plan for His people?
- We have the ability to minister life and hope to whoever we come in contact with. How can we do this?