Definition: Church – the people of God, this local community. It does not refer to the building or where we meet unless it is obvious that is what we are referring to. The default is the community.
The place where God dwells – Ephesians 2:19-22
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God.”
How do we know God exists? You can take any history book and read about people and events that are dead and gone. How do we know they are true? When you look at WW II for example, you can read one set of histories written by the Allies, but you will find a different version written by the Axis powers. They say history is written by the victors. For followers of Jesus, though, we don’t just rely on the words written in a book, words that are thousands of years old. We rely on an experience with the Living God, with Someone who is in the here and now, Someone who walks with us and talks with us along the way.
What does the church look like if God dwells here? If God dwells here it would be a place of peace, love, and acceptance. If God dwells here it makes a difference in who we are, in our relationships. God’s character would be seen in our lives.
The place of unity – Ephesians 4:1-6
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
There are all kinds of way to do church, to do community. The Catholics have one way, Orthodox another, Nazarenes another. Even from one Nazarene church to another there are differences. The opportunity here is not what makes us different, but what we have in common. This is about living in your strengths, our strengths as followers of Christ. When Jesus looks at Saskatoon, he doesn’t see three hundred Protestant churches, 30 or forty Catholic churches; God sees one church, His church. And so we work together, with the Spirit’s help. We need to find ways to work together – the city needs to see one church.
The Place of Gifts – Ephesians 4:7, 11-13
“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
Listen to this passage from Bonnie’s book, Your Best You, it describes how God sees us, how He created us.
The Place of Growth – Ephesians 4:14-16
“We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.”
There is this thing called extended adolescence. It refers to young men who don’t grow up. They are in 30 year old bodies, but they still have the same priorities as when they were teenagers. In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul says that when he was a child, he did childish things, but when he became a man, he put those things away. In the context of 1 Corinthians 13 he is talking about attitudes, about selfishness.
The place of transformation – Ephesians 4:17-24
“Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. That is not the way you learned Christ! For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
I am a practical person. If something doesn’t work, why use it. They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing again and again, expecting a different result. If I did not believe that God was able to bring change in me, I wouldn’t be a Christian. If I didn’t think that my faith could help me change, what good would it be? How powerful would my God be?
The wondrous thing is not that God can and does change us, but that He invites us into that process – that is why He created free will. Too often, though, we use that free will, the ability to choose God or reject Him, to do our own thing, to claim that we control our destiny, to think that if only we try hard enough, we can do whatever we want – but it just isn’t true. Yes, we can learn a new skill or talent, a new language or sport if we put the time and energy to it. But who can add one minute to their life by the force of sheer will? Who can get someone to change their attitude just by arguing them into right thinking? Who can control their son or daughter through life so they escape all the things we think bad and always do the safe thing? For the stuff that counts, we are pretty helpless. But God invites us to a journey, an adventure. He says that He will give us a Comforter and the Spirit to guide our words and paths. He will give us a peace that that doesn’t make sense, a joy unspeakable, a hope eternal. When all the world around us is crumbling, God says that we can stand firm in Him. He is not just our refuge and fortress, but also our Commander, the Lord of Hosts. And this journey starts and ends within this church.