Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 28, 2015
Open your Bibles to Acts 2:42-47. Today we will be examining the life of the Church. The reason for this message is because of our upcoming membership class that begins next Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. Like I often say, I have no desire to hide the ball in regards to my purpose when I preach. My purpose today is to persuade you, through God’s Word, that Church membership is Biblical and crucial. With that said, let us read our text, pray, and see what God wants to tell us today.
One of the many reasons that I love God and His Word is because there is simplicity in following Christ. God does not operate in shades of gray, but in black and white. For example, when we read the Bible we see comparisons of life and death, heaven and hell, good and evil, light and darkness, truth and lies. God is a God of definitiveness. This is also true when it comes to his people. We see this very clearly in the Old Testament. God had a chosen people, the nation of Israel, and God went to great lengths to distinguish his people from the other nations. For Israel, God ordained their difference through location, circumcision, eating, washings, and sacrifices. God wanted it to be clear who were his people and who were not. God's desire for distinction has not changed. God still want's a clear display of who are his and who are not.
The first time the word Church is used in the Bible is by Jesus in Matthew 16:18 when he says, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The second time the word Church is used is also by Jesus and he says, “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
So what does Church mean? The Greek word for Church is “ekklésia.” This word is a combination of two words, “ek” which means “out from” and “kaleo” which means “to call.” So the word means to call out from. The context that this word would have been used is to describe someone calling people out so as to assemble. For those who are object oriented, picture my kids, Julian, Ezra, and Alexandra out playing in my backyard with the neighborhood kids. I stick my head out the door and says “Parsons kids, it is time to eat. Come inside.” My three children hear my voice, turn their heads, and come inside and my family gathers around the table and we eat. This is the word Church. It is a “called out assembly.”
So the word Church lines up with what we talked about already. God desires there to be a distinction between his people and those who are not his people. He is calling his people out of the world so that they assemble. And we see this word, Church, the called out assembly, used time and time again to describe the people who gather together. In fact, we looked at it last week in 1 Corinthians 1:2.
However, here is the problem, in America there is this belief that you can be a Christian and never commit yourself to other Christians. Christians everywhere claim to be followers of Christ, but they never display being a called out assembly. Instead they look just like the rest of the world and rarely, if ever, connect with other Christians. However, to be fair, this is not a new problem that is specific to America.
However, is being at Church every Sunday the end goal? Is this what Christ meant when he said, “I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail?” Is Jesus just a glorified Principal handing out perfect attendance badges? Of course He is not. However, many of you act that way.
Week in and week out, you come in these doors as if you are attending a dentist appointment. You don't want to be here, but you see it is a necessary evil. You sit, you listen, you leave. Next Sunday, you do the same thing, you sit, you listen, you leave. Is this what Jesus called you into, a waiting room full of casual acquaintances waiting for your number to be called? Once again, of course not. So what should the called out assembly look like? We find the answer in our text for today.
Our text this morning is a picture of the first Church, the first “called out assembly”. These were the followers of Christ right after Pentecost, so there were about 3,000 plus followers of Jesus, and what do we see them doing? Neglecting each other? No. We see them assembling. In fact, we see radical assembling. Verse 4 says, “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes.” It was just about Sunday's for these 3,000 people, every single day they they committed themselves to being together.
I want you to take a second and think about this. These people are not fictional characters. They are real people, with real lives. They had families, they had jobs, they had responsibilities just like you and I. However, when Christ called them out of the world and into his Church, they re-oriented their life around their new family. They made sacrifices, changed schedules, they did what it took to be a people.
How rare is this? So often, gathering with your spiritual family is the first thing to go. It takes a back seat to sports, vacations, work, and even sleeping in. Any nominal excuse is enough for us to avoid being with the ones we claim to love.
This was not the case for the early Church. They took commitment seriously. And think about how this daily commitment would have effected those watching from the outside. I am sure that people took notice of the day after day togetherness of the early Church. I can almost imagine the comments, “Your going to their house again? Weren't you just there last night? What is so great about them that you have to always be with them?” And you know what? This is exactly what Christ wants. Listen to Jesus' prayer in John 17:20 the night that he is arrested before his crucifixion.
So what does this commitment of being together look like? In our text we do not just see a togetherness, we see a devotion to fellowship. The world fellowship is koinónia (koi-nō-nē'-ä ) which means a partnership, a participation, a communion, and sharing with each other. Which fits perfectly to the actions we see described in out text.
Once again, is this you? Do you hold on to your things, your money, your home tightly or loosely? Perhaps the most stinging text for Churches today is found in Matthew 25:31-46 where Jesus is talking about the final judgment.
And if that is not enough, the early Church didn't just have a commitment to be together and they didn't just have fellowship, they were devoted. The Greek word for devoted is proskartereó (pros-kär-te-re'-ō ). This means to be continual, to persevere, to prevail, to endure, to stay in a fixed direction. The first Church to ever exist was intentional about their relationship with their brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn't something that came and went, they were steadfast in their community of believers. It was not as if they were their today and gone tomorrow, they could be relied and counted on.
Which leads me to Church Membership. Church membership is an intentional, steadfast commitment to a specific group of people. It is a declaration to your spiritual family and to yourself that you are committing your life to your brothers and sisters in Christ. That you are willing to jump in the trenches with others to learn, break bread, pray, and praise God. Church membership is about saying, that you will orient your life around others, changing schedules, giving financially, sharing resources, sacrificing for those whom you love. You ware chosing to participate, partner, commune with the people sitting next to you week in and week out.
However, it is not only about giving. It is also about receiving. Church membership is about a mutual commitment. Not only are you saying you will pour yourself out for others, but you are saying you need people to pour themselves out for you. Church membership is a humbling experience, for you are admitting that you can't do it on your own. You are saying you can't afford to be causal about your walk with Christ. You are admitting that you need your family and you are giving them permission to love you, day in a day out.
In light of what is going on in America right now, there may not be a more important time then now for brothers and sisters in Christ to band together in a deeper level then just showing up at the same time in the same building. Persecution may be right around the corner. The enemy has been emboldened, and it is moments like this that we need a family to be committed to watching our backs as Satan prowls. Therefore, I hope that if you are an attender of Cornerstone, you will consider making the next step to partner with those sitting next to you, to fight this fight of faith together.
And imagine if we actually did it. Imagine if we at Cornerstone Church were all in when it came to following Christ together. Imagine if we partnered side by side in our brothers and sisters lives. What would happen? Perhaps the headlines in America this week would have read a little differently.