Friday, July 27, 2007

Church: Where Forgiven Saints Live Out the Gospel

Last Sunday I preached a message about how the church should be a "safe place" to confess and correct our sins. I gave a definition of the church that I had found in the book "Making Peace" by Jim Van Yperen. Here is a summary of my remarks:

The Church is the Realm where Forgiven Saints Live out the Gospel.

Realm – not a building or a place but a spiritual space where Jesus Christ is Lord or King. Often this space is also referred to as the “kingdom of God”.

Forgiven – the basis of our unity or coming together is that we are all sinners. The one and only thing that we all have in common is that we understand that we have all done wrong and believe that Christ’s death, not our good works, is that which will justify us before God.

Saints – we are not only sinners who are being saved by Jesus Christ but we are also being sanctified, made holy, by the Holy Spirit. As we submit to King Jesus, His Holy Spirit transforms us, changes us, and makes us to be like our King. We may each be at different points in the process but we are all surrendered to God’s work in our lives.

Live Out – Faith in Christ not only changes how we think and what we believe; it changes how we behave. Being a part of the church means that we share life together. We experience life in community (with one another) as we share this new life with our community.

Gospel – Showing and sharing the good news that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord to all who will believe.

I also identified four congregational sins that our church needs to address. They are:

1) Self-Centeredness – We live in a culture where we are taught that everything is about “me”. Society has a consumer mentality and we have brought that mentality into the church. If I come to church thinking that all the services and ministries are suppose to cater to me and meet my needs it becomes impossible for me to obey the Scriptures that tell me to submit to one another and to serve one another.

2) Uncontrolled Tongues – James says that “no one can tame the tongue” and we have proven him to be right. There is gossip, grumbling, complaining, backbiting, slander, and reckless talk in our congregation. Just because the same is true in other churches does not excuse us of this sinful behavior. We need to think better of one another and speak better of and to one another.

3) Spiritual Pride – Having the status as the largest church in Bessemer City and one of the largest in the district has caused us to yield to the temptation of thinking that we “have arrived” and are “big stuff”. Pride is the root of all others sins so it is especially dangerous to us. We need to humble ourselves before the One who has enabled us to have all that we have.

4) Bitterness – For most members, the church is an integral part of their lives. So when we or someone close to us is hurt or offended in the church it is easy to become bitter. We so quickly carry an offense when we perceive that we are wronged and pick up offenses when we see our loved ones hurt or harmed. But the Bible repeatedly tells us that when we experience God’s forgiveness for our offenses that we will be forgiving of others who have offended us. It is not easy, but God can help us to forgive those who have trespassed against us.

Our Unified Service is fast approaching. We are praying that God will help us to release and repent of our past so that we can move forward into the future He has planned for us.

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